My Secrets to Staying on Top of the Chaos.
I used to think my mornings were hella-busy when I had to get to the gym before work. Then I had two kids.
Now, mornings can make or break my day depending on how smoothly they run. If everything gets out of whack, I wind up stressed, frustrated and negative all before 8 o’clock when I start work! If my morning routine ticks all the boxes, however, I am sailing into work oozing the feeling that I got this.
I’m sure you know, having a defined set of actions in a rough order each morning helps you remember what needs to get done before you leave the house. If you don’t have any kind of morning routine in place, write one down. Make it BASIC. I’m talking:
- Get dressed
- Get kids dressed
- All eat breakfast
- Pack lunch into bags
- Get in car
Of course, your routine will have aspects that are specific to you, so make it yours. Having something written down means you can refer to it when you’re still in that pre-coffee state, wondering “What now?”.
As a busy, working mom, I’ve put together a morning routine over the years that (when executed to perfection) gets everyone where they need to go with minimal fuss. Now and then, one child decides they don’t want breakfast or chucks a tantrum about the clothes they need to wear that day, and I have to make it up a little bit. No worries – the routine means I know what needs to happen, and it’s flexible enough to accommodate toddlers.
The Night Before – 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Yep, I’m sure you saw this coming. Every good morning routine begins with the prep work happening the night before. This is my ultimate secret to having my sh*t together. 7:00 PM is the kid’s bedtime, so as long as there are no rogue wake-ups, I use this hour to crack on to the following jobs:
- Clean up the kitchen/dining room/lounge room after dinner
Washing up, wiping surfaces, general tidying, vacuuming floors, etc. This usually takes about 30 minutes and the house is MUCH nicer when it isn’t messy or drowning in toys.
- Pack my Lunch and Snacks for work the next day
I usually take leftovers from dinner for my lunch, so those go in a container and into the fridge. I also pack snacks in my snack cube because I’m a fiend and require feeding almost constantly through the workday. Throw them both in the fridge and I don’t have to worry about going hungry at work!
- Pack my Bag
I use a separate bag for work, so I need to move all my bits and pieces over before heading out the door. Doing this the night before means I’m not tearing through the house the next morning trying to remember the last time I saw my wallet.
- Pack the Kids’ Bags
Is there anything more embarrassing than rocking up at daycare and realizing you don’t have a hat for your kid? Or shoes? Or a water bottle? Look, I’m sure there are more embarrassing things but it certainly doesn’t feel like it in the moment. I pack their little bags so I’m not scrambling to find a hat as we’re running out the door.
- Choose my Outfit
I actually do this at the start of each week. I order the clothes on hangers in my wardrobe in the sequence I’ll be wearing them (e.g. this top, this skirt one day; then this top and this skirt the next day). Super quick, and I’m not surprised by an un-ironed shirt at 6:00 AM.
It seems like a lot, but an hour to get me, the kids and the house ready for the following day is worth it in my books. Even when I’m exhausted after a long day, I remind myself how much easier it is for future me and get at least a few things done.
4:55 AM – My alarm goes off.
What a weird time to wake up, right? I know, but it’s been working for me so far. I listened to an audiobook by Craig Ballantyne who quotes his strange wake-up time (3:57 AM!!) as one of the keys to getting ahead. I’m not quite there yet. But I have disabled the snooze function on my phone, which sleeps on the other side of the room from my bed. So up I get to stumble straight to the bathroom to:
- Wash face and apply make-up – easier to get it done now than fight my husband and kids for the bathroom.
- Make coffee. COFFEE IS NECESSARY.
- Start work, referring to my blog planner for guidance on what needs doing. Another Ballantyne tip – do what you’re most passionate about first thing in the morning.
- 6:00 AM – prep kids’ breakfasts and pack their water bottles in their daycare bags. I’ll brush my teeth and do my hair here too. The kids wake up and eat, then get dressed.
- 6:40 AM – I get dressed, tidy up after breakfast, throw some TV on to keep my toddler busy for 20 minutes while I get ready to leave. I make another coffee and put it in my Frank Green cup **LINK** for when I get to work.
- 7:00 AM – We walk out the door, spend 10 minutes stuffing around getting two wriggling children into the car, and roll out (usually) on time.
Out the Door
The next hour is taken up with ferrying my offspring to daycare, heading into the city, finding a parking space and walking the two blocks to my office. Generally, I use the drive and my stroll to listen to my current favorite podcast.
No gratitude journaling, meditating or sunrise yoga here, folks. Sorry! Although it’s not ideal, my morning routine is functional and efficient and lets me spend time with my kids before work.
My morning routine is also frequently changing to adapt to changes in our needs: one morning a week I start work an hour earlier, or it’s a day the kids stay at home with my husband instead of going to daycare. On these days the routine stays pretty similar, just more streamlined.
The main point I want to leave you with is that the bulk of my morning routine happens the night before. When I roll out of bed, stumble to the kitchen, and know all the bits and pieces I will need for the day are waiting for me, I’m able to sit straight down at my laptop and crunch out 45 minutes of uninterrupted work.
What is your secret for the mornings? Do you have a tip for getting the day started without losing your mind? Let me know in the comments!