We imagine running a triathlon feels much like our morning routines with the kids. There’s the initial struggle to coax the sleepyheads out of bed, followed by the marathon attempt to get everyone dressed, prepped, fed and out the door. Then comes the final sprint, as we maneuver through traffic and hopefully beat the class bell. Mornings are quite eventful, to say the least. At every juncture there’s a plethora of obstacles that could set us back—faulty alarms, catatonic sleep states, forgotten homework, spilled juice, misplaced keys, you name it. And yet, there are still those days when we speed through our a.m. routines with the efficiency of a well-oiled machine. Now, how to make that the norm?
Even on those hazy days when you laze in bed until well past the point of no return, if you play your cards right, you can still get the kids out the door on time.
1. Make a plan with the whole family. Come up with a list of morning tasks and an approximate time by which each should be done. Set hard deadlines: Everyone should be dressed before breakfast, no exceptions. Capitalize on your kids’ sense of friendly competition. Inspire them to get their tushes out of bed by making it a contest. Let them know what the prize will be ahead of time: choosing the music on the ride to school, dictating the next day’s lunch menu—something small but motivating.
2. Don’t over-budget your time. Figure out exactly how long you need to get ready and set your alarm accordingly. If you subconsciously know you have minutes to spare, in your weakened, sleep-deprived state you run the risk of losing your willpower and hitting snooze. If you don’t get yourself out of bed, the kids certainly won’t budge from theirs, and the whole machine falls apart. Set multiple alarms if you have to, both in your bedroom and the kiddos’. The more annoying the alert, the better. You can even be really clever and set the kids’ clock a few minutes ahead if they’re known to sleep in.
3. Again, your state of awareness is critical when it comes to getting the kids out the door on time. Drink a glass of iced water in the morning to wake yourself up. If you desperately need “me” time before you start your day, wake up 10 minutes early and meditate to get centered.
4. Make your devices work for you. Caffeine addict? Buy a coffee maker with a timer so you have your morning cup of Joe waiting for you the second your feet hit the floor. Forgot to charge your phone the night before? Setting your iPhone to airplane mode before plugging it in allows it to charge at a much faster rate. Don’t waste time rummaging for keys—invest in a key ring and holder so you know exactly where they’re parked.
5. Keep chores to a minimum. Feeding and walking pets and possibly having the kids make their beds are about the only household tasks that should be delegated for the a.m. Non-essentials can wait till the kids get home at night, or get done on weekends.
6. Do everything you possibly can the night before. This is kind of a no-brainer, but sometimes non-immediate tasks fall to the wayside after we’ve had a long, exhausting day. In the evenings, pick out your outfit (all the way down to shoes and underwear), pack your purse and gym bag, and have the kids do the same. Make sure all assignments are in their respective book bags, permission slips are signed, etc.
8. Make sure the kids get to bed at a decent hour the night before so they aren’t grouchy and difficult in the morning. Easier said than done, we know.
9. Not morning people? Try playing upbeat music while you’re getting dressed and eating breakfast—according to some it boosts your mood and energy levels.
10. Keep breakfast fast. While you should occasionally try to rise early and treat the kids to some warm oatmeal or eggs and waffles, in a pinch some healthy cereal and they’re favorite fruit gets the job done in no time. And if you really want to make sure they get their protein fix, boil some eggs the night before and serve them with some salt, pepper and toast in the morning.
11. Once in awhile, it’s going to happen. Someone’s going to oversleep, spill milk all over their outfit, or forget they volunteered for show-and-tell. In times like these, when we’re forced to speed through our routine in 15 minutes, it’s essential we still get out the door in time to beat the bell. Anything and everything that can be done in the car or on the bus, do it. Grab some toast and a comb and finish getting ready en route.
12. …Which brings us to our final tip. Always have an emergency pack on hand. Store it in your purse or your car’s glove box, depending on your morning means of transport. Recommended contents: a couple of granola bars (breakfast), sugarless gum (toothbrush), mini hairbrush and ties, a few dollars each for school lunch, and, if you want to be fancy, some face-cleansing toilettes and dry shampoo.
Reprinted with permission from Elizabeth Street. Want more?