Ah, morning. Whatever time of year we are in, whether the sun rises early or later, morning is supposed to be a great time to get ahead of the day and be productive before the kids get up!
For the longest time, especially when I had really little babies, I struggled to make the most of my mornings. However, I’d end up feeling out of whack all day and like I was never getting anything done.
In my quest to figure out why I could never seem to get anything accomplished (other than keeping everyone fed, changed and relatively clothed), I recalled a conversation with my grandma (who has since passed away) and asking her how she managed to take care of farm animals, make three big meals a day, can and preserve a humongous garden each year and manage a household of 10 kids!
Two of the things she shared that stuck out to me were:
- I taught my children to help with chores and work hard (“you know, all 10 kids didn’t come along at once!” she would always say), and
- I got up early in the morning
There it is, the key to productivity, even when life is crazy: getting up early.
Lest you think that I rise at 4:30 am, exercise for an hour, and then have coffee and muffins in quiet peace as I blissfully gaze out the window at the rising sun….well, let’s just say that is not a realistic picture of how my mornings go. I’m definitely not as motivated as my grandmother, who was often up far before dawn ;)
Getting up earlier than my kids is a discipline I have been working on over the past few years and will probably ALWAYS need to work on as stages of life change. Admittedly it’s easier now that my current youngest is 2 1/2, but I wish I’d implemented an early morning rising back when I had babies because it likely would have made my days much smoother!
These seven tips to streamline your mornings that I’m going to share have been instrumental in helping me actually get up and get going at least a few minutes before my kids are raring to go so that I can start each day with a clearer focus and settled mind. I know at least one of these tips can be helpful to you, no matter what stage you are at in life!
7 Tips to Streamline Your Mornings
Get Ready the Night Before
Especially on Sunday mornings, the concept of getting ready the night before is incredibly helpful. A few things that you can do the night before to keep from being frazzled in the morning include:
- Set out your kids’ clothes. I have a hanging organizer for my children where I put in an outfit for the day.
- Set out your own clothes or at least have in mind what you’re going to wear (including exercise clothing if you’re trying to develop that discipline!).
- Get as many breakfast items on the counter as possible. This is great because your older kids can help themselves to a bowl of cereal or make toast to give you a few extra minutes to finish getting ready for the day.
- Put out your children’s backpacks and school supplies or homeschool materials so that you’re ready to go without rushing around looking for missing items!
- If you are going outside in the winter, make sure their outdoor items are clean and dry and ready to go. Wet boots=no fun.
- Get the diaper bag filled and ready with snacks, diapers, wipes, an extra outfit and cups/water bottles so that when it’s time to go to the park it doesn’t take 45 minutes to get out the door. Not that I’d know what that’s like–ha!
Get Up 10 Minutes (at Least) Before Your Kids
Much like Dr. Leo Marvin from What About Bob, I believe in baby steps. When people would suggest I get up an hour before my kids, I’d just roll my eyes and know that would mean getting out of bed at 4:30 or 5 in the morning! That just doesn’t work for me, or for many moms with little kids.
So instead, I started by setting the alarm for 10 minutes before the kids’ usual rising time. This is a manageable option for most moms! Then, once you adjust, try getting up 15 minutes, 20 minutes and so-on. Put your alarm away from your bed so you aren’t tempted to hit snooze!
If it seems like your kids can hear you when you get up, try a white noise machine or fan in their room!
I’m thankful that because we’ve done sleep training with our kids from a fairly early age, they usually stay asleep until at least 6:30 am, sometimes later. (Often when I had a baby, he or she would sleep in until 9 after having been up late the night before so I’d sleep in too!).
We have a rule that our kids can’t come out of their rooms until 6:45. We’ve had to work on enforcing it, but it has helped my husband and I gain time to ourselves in the early hours.
Do the First Thing: AKA Eat the Frog
In Eat That Frog: 21 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done by Brian Tracy, he says
“The hardest part of any important task is getting started on it in the first place. Once you actually begin work on a valuable task, you seem to be naturally motivated to continue.”
Whether it’s showering, exercising, devotions or something else that will help your day run more smoothly, do it before you do anything else! This can also apply to your daily to-do list: pick one thing that you know will add value to your day once completed. Which brings me to my next tip….
Keep It Simple, Sister
If you want to be productive, it’s important to find a planning/daily docket system that works for YOU.
Three things this planner/planning system should be is simple, straightforward, and visible.
Sometimes simple is better. I love pen and paper planning and this year I’m using the Homemaker’s Friend Planner, which is dated for all of 2018 as my “carry-along” planner.
Check out my little video for a peek at the Homemaker’s Friend Planner! (I made this a couple of years ago, so it’s the 2016 version but it’s very similar to 2018).
I also like to have a full-size planner that I keep at home that can be right in front of me. Being a mom whose older 3 children are in school and who also works from home and a few hours a week outside the home, I needed a planner that allowed me to keep track of the various areas of my life!!
My friend Kayse Pratt created The Organized Life Planner, which has all that I need! I’ve pictured a few pages above. She has a dated planner for 2018 (pictured above) and if you want a non-dated layout, she has that too! There are also add-on packs (for blogging, homeschooling, working, exercise, etc) that can be purchased. And though I printed mine off myself, she also offers a printed version that you can purchase, shipped right to your door.
Some of the Working Mom Planner Pages above, check out the Organized Life Planner!
Other planners to check out:
- The Sweet Life Planner, which comes in full or half size.
- List Plan It, where you can create customized planning sheets
- Erin Condren Planners and Accessories (I droll over these–and you can personalize them!)
- Dayspring Agenda Planners
Pick Three Things
Once you’ve made a simple daily “docket”, look at your to-do list or calendar each morning and choose three things that can be done for sure and do them as soon as possible!
In Crystal Paine’s eCourse Make Over Your Calendar, she advocates putting your to-do list in a place where you can always see it. Maybe you want it up on a chalkboard, perhaps in a three-ring binder like I use or maybe just a simple to-do list you keep on your fridge in a page protector that you can write on with a dry-erase marker every day.
Extra tip: When you are getting ready the night before, cross of things you accomplished and re-do your to-do list for the next day. Keep it simple and brief, because you know distractions will come!
Put Off Electronics Until Later
The biggest time-suck for me is getting onto the computer or my phone too early in the morning. Why is it that time flies by so fast when I’m scrolling through Facebook but when I have a tired cranky two year old, the minutes drag on? Ha!
It really has transformed my mornings to stay off the internet as long as possible, knocking a few things off my to-do list and engaging with my family before I jump on Pinterest or start blog work.
If this is hard for you (which I completely understand) or you don’t think it will make a difference, try going a week without checking your phone/email before 11 am. You’ll probably be surprised what you get accomplished in the morning as a result! :)
Start Each Day with a Smile, a Prayer and Hug for Your Loved Ones!
After I’ve had my time to myself in the mornings, it’s been so helpful for me to go and either get my kids out of their rooms or call them up from watching PBS Kids (we allow one show in the morning because they don’t watch much TV the rest of the day) and give them a hug and a smile!
We’ll also pray together before we start the day. Wow has that ever made a difference in both our attitudes and the attitudes of our kids! (Above, my husband and I with our youngest–gotta love those chubby cheeks!)
I hope this post has been helpful to you in giving you an actionable plan to streamline your mornings!