Most of us just accept the morning rush — we’re resigned to the idea that the time between waking up and getting to work is going to be hectic and harried. But it doesn't need to be that way, and you can save yourself stress with some simple tricks. Beyond resisting the urge to press the snooze button, here’s how to shave time off your morning routine.
Prepare the Night Before
"The fewer choices you make in the morning, the more time you will save," says career and business coach Rachel Ritlop.
Consider assembling your necessities in advance, advises Nancy Haworth of On Task Organizing in Raleigh, NC. Set breakfast dishes, make lunch for yourself (and the kids, if you’ve got ’em), stick your purse by the door, and place your packed gym bag in the car. Doing this can help you manage any unexpected time drains — like searching for your wallet — and keep you from forgetting key items for the next day.
And if you want to go a step further, try planning out a whole week of outfits at once, says stylist Elysha Lenkin. She says to give yourself about 45 minutes each Sunday night to sort through your closet and select your clothes for the week, checking the weather report as needed. "The beauty of picking your clothes ahead of time [is that it] makes the process more relaxing — and fun," she says.
Organize Your House in Stations
When you don't have to run around from area to area, you'll automatically reduce the time it takes to get ready. For example, professional organizer Darla DeMorrow suggests arranging your dresser, hamper, and closet to be as close to each other as possible to “create an assembly line flow.” (No more running back and forth between the closet and the full-length mirror.)
You can do the same thing in the kitchen by setting up a breakfast station: Create a space for your coffee maker and mugs; place cereal boxes, bowls and spoons together; or keep your blender near smoothie cups and straws.
Bogged down with hair and makeup? Rethink the layout of your medicine cabinet and vanity. Jamie Novak, author of 1,000 Best Quick and Easy Time-Saving Strategies, suggests separating your everyday makeup and products from the items you use less frequently and putting them into a single case or section of a drawer. If you can’t get enough organizing, you can lay out your makeup products in the order you’ll use them, like YouTube beauty vlogger Tesia Kuh. Her assembly line method saves her from digging through her makeup bag each morning.
Finally, you can turn the most high-traffic area of your home into a designated space where you can place — and retrieve — phones, chargers, keys, wallets, your purse, a laptop bag, and anything else you need for the day, Haworth says. That way, everything is ready for you on the way out.
Schedule Your Mornings
It can be easy to lose time munching on breakfast and scrolling through Facebook, so why not schedule the morning into chunks? Along with your wake-up alarm, Haworth suggests setting one for each morning task, such as showering, applying makeup, and eating breakfast. This will keep you from taking too long on any one activity and motivate you to keep moving before the alarm sounds.
If this feels too regimented, Novak suggests at the very least putting a clock in your bathroom so you can keep track of the time, or setting a timer to sound 10 minutes before you need to be out the door as a gentle reminder that it's time to get going.
If you find that you’re unable to tear yourself away from your phone or TV to stick to your schedule, try staying standing while you read/watch TV/scroll Twitter, says Rashelle Isip, an organization, time management, and productivity consultant and author of The Order Expert's Guide to Time Management. "The idea here is to spend the least amount of time getting the information you need," she says, so don’t get too comfortable. Stay on your feet and you’ll be less likely to get stuck in a timesuck.
Find a Faster Route to Work
After prepping the night before, sticking to your stations, and keeping a tight schedule, your improved mornings can be totally bogged down by an awful commute. If this is the case, Isip suggests finding a different travel route — or even a different method of transportation. While it may take a day or two of experimentation to see what works in your city or town, it's worth finding out if you can save some precious minutes.
"Simply traveling down a different street, or taking the express train instead of the local and walking a couple of blocks to the office, might save you several minutes in the morning," she says. Try Google Maps, Waze, TransitApp, or MapMyWalk to help plan a new route. Or consider taking the bus or a train instead of driving so you can save those minutes you spend answering emails until you’re en route, making your commute more productive.