Whether you’re a busy professional, a multi-tasking stay-at-home mom, an overloaded student or anything in between, we could all use a little extra time in our morning routine. Luckily for all types of harried humans, most principles of organization and time management apply to any situation, says personal productivity expert Peggy Duncan, author of “Put Time Management to Work and Live the Life You Want” (PSC Press, 2005). The trick is to use tonight to make tomorrow a little less stressful.
Here are five simple ways to add minutes to your morning routine.
Make a daily to-do list
“Make a list of everything you need to do the next day,” says Donna Smallin, author of multiple books on time-saving, cleaning and organization, including “The One-Minute Organizer” (Storey Publishing, 2004). “Perhaps you need to return videos, get gas, go to a doctor’s appointment or maybe even drop things off at the Goodwill. Making a list at night ensures a reminder for everything you have to get done.” You probably won’t be thinking as clearly in the morning, she says, because you’re not quite awake yet.
You can even make standard checklists for your regularly scheduled activities, such as work, school or the gym, that include items such as your PalmPilot, permission slips or gym shoes and a towel.
Have everything ready to launch
“When you’re busy, every second has to count in the morning,” Peggy says. “The only things you should have to do are quickly get dressed and eat breakfast.”
Make sure that your briefcase is packed with everything you need for work that day. Kids’ backpacks should include homework, permission slips, clothes or objects for after-school activities. Gym bags should contain all necessary workout clothes and gear as well as toiletries if you will be showering. Put all of these bags in the same place every night, next to the door you leave from.
You can even go so far as to put stuff out in your car the night before, Donna says. “Getting your packing done early allows you to focus on bigger issues that may arise in the morning,” she says. “The phone rings, the car won’t start, etc.”
Make getting dressed easier
Donna’s tip is to lay out what you’re going to wear, from top to bottom, including shoes, belts, ties and accessories. “I like to put it all on a hanger,” she says, “so that I know I have the complete outfit all together.”
“Everything should be pressed and ready to wear,” adds Peggy. “This alone could save you 20 minutes!” If your closet is currently disorganized, it is especially important to pre-select and gather your outfits as you won’t be able to find everything quickly.
Take care of breakfast needs at night
Setting the breakfast table the night before is an especially helpful trick for families. Obviously you don’t want to leave out the milk, but you can lay out bowls, plates, spoons, forks, napkins, etc.
“Put out a box of cereal or a loaf bread,” Smallin says, “so that when the kids come down, all you have to do is pour the cereal and milk in the bowl and you’re ready to go.”
It is even possible to make having a hot meal much easier. Have all the dry ingredients for oatmeal waiting in a pot, get out the pans, bowls and utensils for scrambling eggs or you can even whip up a batch of pancakes at night and then store them in the refrigerator and microwave them in the morning.
“That way you’ve taken care of all the prep time,” Donna says, “as well as most of the cook-time and mess.”
Give yourself enough time
As much as you may want to hit the snooze button another five times, waking up early enough is key to leaving the house less frazzled and ready to take on the day.
“Find out how early you need to get up by timing everything you do,” Peggy says. “Start with the time you need to be at your destination and count backwards.”
When you do the math, you may find that taking just 10 or 20 minutes to prepare the night before – time you might have spent simply watching a sitcom or surfing the net – will give you more time to sleep than you expected.
“In the beginning, organization takes a little extra effort,” Smallin says, “but after a while it becomes a time-saving habit.”