Streamlining your morning routines

To know me is to know my love of coffee. My entire morning routine is structured around brewing the perfect cup and drinking it before the busy-ness of the day begins. Hanging on the bulletin board above my computer screen is my mantra: “When in doubt, drink more coffee.”

I’m not really addicted to caffeine, I’m more addicted to the routine of crafting an ideal cup of joe. If there were a caffeine-free drink I savored more, I would be consumed with making it. However, except for a glass of whole milk minutes after coming out of the cow or a Batida from Ceiba restaurant in downtown, D.C., there aren’t any other drinks that capture my attention so strongly.

Why am I telling you all of this? First, it’s a way for me to talk about another of my passions. Second, and this is more applicable to you, I want to share with you my strategies for organizing morning routines.

When we wake up after a night’s sleep (or day’s sleep if you work the night shift), we go through the same steps every time. For most of us, these steps include showering, getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and possibly helping a small human go through similar steps. Your routine might vary a little bit, but for the majority of days you do the same things over and over and over again.

How many of the things you use during your morning routine, though, aren’t convenient to access? Are your breakfast items strewn in multiple cabinets across the kitchen, bathroom supplies in five different drawers and cabinets, and clothing kept in three different places across a bedroom?

Think about all of the things you access each and every morning, and reorganize these things to better meet your needs and make your routines more efficient. For example, if your family eats breakfast cereal, put all of your cereal boxes into a basket so that putting the boxes on the table each morning is one simple movement. If you have a shaving routine, store all of your supplies in one container that you can pull out of the drawer, set on the counter, and then return to the drawer all at once. In your bedroom, consider arranging your furniture so that your dresser is next to your closet. Store all of your coffee-making supplies together with your coffee cups, above or next to where you prepare your coffee.

Keep the things you use together, in containers that you can pull out and use in the most convenient location, and store them in the easiest place to access.

It’s also a good idea to time yourself to see how long it actually takes you to get ready in the morning. Many of us are under the delusion that we’re faster at getting ready for the day than we actually are — especially families with children. If you have difficulty getting out the door in the morning, I recommend that parents get completely ready before children (especially young children) wake up and always padding your get-ready time by 15 minutes.

The more streamlined your morning routine, the more likely you are to have a smooth, stress-free morning. And, the more time you’ll have to enjoy that beautiful, rich, amazing cup of coffee.

35 Comments for “Streamlining your morning routines”

  1. posted by infmom on

    Hmm. The component parts to my Aeropress are in three different places. Hmmmmmm.

  2. posted by Orual on

    See, the whole focus of the morning for me is to sleep as close to the time I have to go (work is very early for me) and then get out of the house as quickly as possible. I shower at night. I eat breakfast at work, keeping oatmeal and yogurt there. My morning goes wake > brush teeth and hair > dress > let dog out > grab purse and lunch > leave. There isn’t anything else to streamline!

    But this is applicable to my evening routine, at which I always waste time. Which means I either get to sleep too late or lose time for fun stuff because I’m prepping for the next day. I need to find a better routine for making lunch, laying out clothes, showering, getting tea, etc when prepping for bed.

  3. posted by Molly on

    @infmom – mmm, Aeropress. It does make the morning coffee LOTS better. I’m spoiled, though – my husband makes my coffee, my oatmeal, and my lunch while I’m in the shower. (In fairness, he gets to sleep in while I hit the gym.)

    I agree with @Orual, I need to get a better evening routine going. We tend to waste time on the computer instead of picking up the apartment, laying out clothes for the next day, and sitting with the cat. Perhaps tonight will be a readjustment.

  4. posted by Desiree on

    i, for one, can extoll the virtues of an automatic (timed) coffee maker. it’s an extra step before bed to grind and fill it, but it’s fabulous to wake up to the smell of coffee and no effort. 😀

  5. posted by Shelly on

    I can’t tell you how much time I’ve saved getting ready since I moved to a new apartment. My old place was a loooong apartment (4 bed/2 bath), with my bedroom at the front, my bathroom in the middle, and the kitchen waay at the other end.

    My new place has a much more compact layout, and I honestly save at least 5 minutes just by not walking to the kitchen to pour another cup of coffee, etc.

  6. posted by chacha1 on

    Since getting to work on time is always a challenge for me, I’ve streamlined to the extent of having breakfast and coffee at the office. I’ve also minimized my work wardrobe.

    I scoop the litterbox, tidy up the kitchen, and get the next day’s carry-alongs ready to go with my handbag in the evening. I also try to water my patio plants and refill hummingbird feeders in the evening so I don’t have to worry about that in the morning.

    In the morning I have a cup of green tea while I comb my long-haired cat and do a brief yoga session. Then I also have to shower, dress, groom myself, make the bed, and pack a breakfast & lunch.

    I get up between 6:15 and 6:30 and am generally out the door around 7:55, which gets me to work close (enough) to 8:30. Having my bathroom and the kitchen neat and organized makes it possible.

  7. posted by Lee on

    I like to lay out everything I will wear and everything extra I will need to take with me the night before. I’ll also put a post it note on the bathroom mirror or front door if I need to remember something that’s unusual for the day.

    The only phase I when I didn’t get dressed before getting my children up was during the infant “spit it” time. It was safer to be almost dressed and wear a robe. Robes didn’t have to be sent to the cleaners like suits.

  8. posted by glamazon79 on

    We keep the coffeemaker in the bedroom. It’s great for weekday mornings because the sooner we get caffeine in our systems, the faster we move through the rest of our routines. But it also gives a lovely hotel-room vibe to a lazy weekend morning, only with much better coffee.

  9. posted by Lucy on

    This was good for me. It is funny how I know much of what I read, it is putting it into action were I fall short. But the part about putting like things together really hit home today. I am in the process of packing for a move and will most definitely incorporate this idea into my new home.

    Also, I don’t give myself enough time in the morning but it isn’t because I wake up too late, I get sidetracked very easily. See something which needs my attention and I divert my attention to it, thus making me run late. I have to get this area of my life uncer better control. I will time myself from start to finish of what I absoulutely need to do, then add the 15 minutes and stop at that.

    Kudos for the great help!

  10. posted by jan on

    This funny and interesting at the same time. After a lifetime of mornings life gets easier. The coffee is ready when I get up (thank you sweet husband). There are no children to tend, all six have grown up. There is no job away from home to get to. My goat that needs milking at 6:30AM doesn’t care how I dress. Life is good. Hang in there eventually it all comes together!

  11. posted by Sam on

    This sounds too simple but has helped my morning routine immensely. In the evening, when I change out of my business or dress-casual clothes into casual attire, I lay out my clothes, socks, underwear, shoes, and tie for in the morning, and put what I’m wearing in a hamper or back on a hanger. I don’t do it before I go to bed. I do it after work before I take off my suit and put on my jeans for the evening. I only think about clothes once a day. I even do it on Friday evening for Monday morning.

    I also make the next day’s lunch before I make that evening’s dinner. I like to go out for lunch on Mondays to give the new week a more pleasant start, so I don’t have to worry about a three day old sandwhich.

  12. posted by christine on

    I’m absurdly happy with my current morning ritual!

    I get up at 8am, bathroom, then unroll my yoga mat and do 100 situps and some leg lifts. Then I shower, check the weather, and get dressed (streamlining my work “uniform” has been a the best uncluttering move EVER).

    I pour homemade cold-brew coffee from our french press over ice in my thermal mug, kiss my boyfriend good-bye, and walk the mile-and-a-half to my office in about a half-hour, usually getting to my desk before 9.

    I’m the opposite of athletic and a terrible exerciser, but this works, and I’m so energized all day. We’ll see how the walking goes when it gets really hot and then really cold, though!

  13. posted by Ben on

    First of all, this is great advice. I definitely need to improve my morning routine, and I have attempted this on many occasions without success. This has definitely given me a new resolve to do better.

    Your disclaimer at the beginning of your post was rather hilarious to me. I’m not being judgmental, I am a caffeine drinker and I have no qualms saying that I am addicted. I just couldn’t help but relate your statement of not being addicted to caffeine to a funny comment a friend once made: “I’m not an alcoholic, I just really like to drink vodka!” Denial is a sure sign after all 🙂

    I love your blog! Keep up the good work (and advice)!

  14. posted by glamazon79 on

    @Sam, that is a fantastic idea. It is difficult for me to get motivated to do any next-day prep once I’ve had dinner and wine and am in full on “the workday is over, time to relax” mode – the last thing I want to think about is the next workday. I could see how shifting that prep time from before bed to right after work might take the edge off. I’ll give it a try!

  15. posted by Dawn F. on

    To help our mornings run more smoothly, I put our “to go” stuff in the car the evening prior (both vehicles are parked inside the garage). I put my son’s school backpack in the car along with things like mail to drop off, items to return, grocery list with tote bags, clothes to take to the dry cleaners, etc., etc. Whatever needs to leave the house in the morning with us will be waiting for us in the car.

    Also, our clothes for the following day are always hanging on a hook inside the closet and breakfast items are placed on the kitchen counter.

    This might sound silly, but I think waking up to nice music is important (at least in our family it is). I hate those loud, screeching, beeping alarm clocks. In our home, we all have gentle music to wake us up instead of being jolted out of bed (although I would guess some people need jolting.) 🙂

  16. posted by Sam on

    @glamazon79 – When I lived alone, I had a whole mental checklist of things that had to be attended to before I changed out of my work clothes, or sat down, like sorting mail, unloading the dishwasher, putting away any groceries or purchases I brought home with me, next day’s clothes, etc. Basically, I added all those little five minute or less chores to my workday. If you keep up with it everyday, it rarely amounts to more than ten or fifteen minutes and keeps all that stuff from invading your evening or following morning. Just do it while you feel like crap after a day of work, then change your clothes and feel like a new man with a relaxing evening ahead of you. It’s more difficult since my GF moved in with her chaos. I can see that this might not be much help to parents with younger children.

  17. posted by mimi on

    Programmable Cuisinart Brew/Grind is readied before bedtime, to brew coffee five minutes before morning alarm goes off. Clothing is put out evening before. Pet food dishes are filled just before bedtime and put on counter. A.M. let dogs out, get dressed, get coffee, put pet food dishes down and continue morning regimen. I get up early so household chores can be done before work. Grocery/errand list is kept with checkbook so shopping can be done after work. Coming home to a clean house with minimal needed chores is a delight.

  18. posted by Pamela Vincent on

    I generally work from home, so my usual morning routine is quite relaxed- but when I’m not working at home, it means I’m heading to the airport, so a streamlined routine really helps there. The computer bag is packed and ready to go the night before, as is the suitcase, and my tote bag that goes on the plane with me– reading material, knitting, wallet and other travel needs. My travel outfit is hanging in the dressing area, and jewelry, and other accessories are ready to go.
    I love having a programmable coffee maker, and use it every day. Nothing like having the coffee ready when my feet hit the floor– especially those ‘up before dawn’ to catch an early flight days!

  19. posted by Sue on

    When we remodeled the master bathroom, I had a cabinet with shallow shelves installed. I have my morning prep products lined up in the order I use them. It allows me to stay on auto pilot a bit longer in the mornings–that and keeping my makeup routine simple.

    In the kitchen, I have one lazy susan in a cabinet that has everything I need to put together my breakfast.

    Anything that has to go with me in the morning is in a tote at my launch pad. DS has his backpack hanging by the door, and has learned to prep it in the evening.

  20. posted by Melanie on

    @Sam- I laughed when I pictured myself neatly laying out tomrrow’s clothes only to find them scattered about the house and stained by toddler sticky hands, or slept upon by the dog. With that being said, I do choose my outfit for the next day by moving it to the front of the closet. I tend to do it at the end of the day; love your idea to do it when changing out of work clothes.

  21. posted by Michele Connolly, Get Organized Wizard on

    I’m a caffeine addict for sure. I even named my beloved espresso machine (Tarquin). He’s part of the family. *kisses Tarquin*

    Anyway, I’ve refined both my morning and evening routines – it certainly makes me more productive and organized. 🙂

    Bedtime Routine

    Morning Routine

  22. posted by WilliamB on

    I aspire to everything I can the evening before – lay out clothes, pack lunch, pack bag, etc. Some days I do it, some days I don’t. Last night I did and good thing, too. Things went to hell in a handbasket this morning but, because I had everything ready and laid out, I could cope with the emergencies and still be to work on time.

    Must remember this when I think “I’m too worn out, I can do it in the morning.”

  23. posted by Kari on

    For me, the biggest thing about my morning routine is giving myself enough time to get up and moving and to my desk or out of the house (I work at home two days a week, and am on campus the other three). I ate being rushed in the morning (since I am not really a morning person under the best of circumstances), and I finally accepted I need a minimum of two hours to get up and moving, even if I need to be up and out of the house really early (like to catch a plane). Even though I would rather sleep later, I know that the extra time taken for getting up begins my day in a calm and restful way.

  24. posted by ecuadoriana on

    @Sam: Getting clothes ready for the next day as you take today’s clothes off is a GREAT idea! That never occurred to me. I always lay out my clothes before I go to bed & spend waaaay too much time agonizing over what I should wear- NOT a great way to relax before bed! Your idea is good because it saves the steps- you’re already there at the closet & it saves the mental shift because you are still in a work frame of mind as you are removing today’s work outfit (It is hard for me to think about next day’s work while wearing my sexy lingerie or cozy flannel jammies & all I can think about is hitting the pillow!!!) I will put your suggestion to work starting today!!! Thanks!

    After dinner I put all the leftovers into my lunch sack for the next day’s lunch, so I make dinner with that in mind. I never have to stress the next day about what to bring for lunch.

    I do keep a “coffee station” on my counter space (which is actually a table top because where I live now doesn’t have a kitchen). I use a siphon-vacuum coffee carafe (makes the best tasting coffee!), which actually takes just as long as a drip maker, however the difference being I can’t walk away from it. So that is my 5 minute relax-stretch time, because if I don’t take the time for that “breather” before heading out the door- whoa to the first driver who cuts me off! LOL!!!

    My “coffee station” has everything I need right there- jar with spoons, sugar canister, coffee canister, grinder, measuring spoon, napkins, stack of wipe up towels in a little basket, & my big jug of water (so I don’t have to walk over to the sink!). After I wash my coffee mugs I put them at the “coffee station” on a little rack (most people put them away in a cupboard- waste of time!) & I keep everything lined up in the order I use them.

    @Sue, I’ve been using your bathroom idea ever since the day I got half way to work & realized I had forgotten to put on my deodorant! I keep everything I need for my morning “get my self together” routine lined up on a little shelf over the sink. I don’t have a “medicine cabinet”. For me it is silly to put everything away in drawers and cabinets- Better Homes & Bathrooms is NEVER coming to my place to do a foto spread on my bathroom so who do I need to impress?!

    I had a friend stay with me once & she teased me for having OCD! But a few months later, when I visited her & watched her dizzying disorganized & stressful morning routine I told her she also has OCD- “Organizational Collapse Dishevelment”!!!! (By the way, I coined that phrase!)

  25. posted by the milliner on

    @Sam, I think your routine can work for parents of younger children. Depending on the particular family. I’m totally going to do it. I love changing out of work clothes and usually only do it anyhow after my son (2) goes to bed. So now I’ll just add an extra 5-15 mins of small tasks before I change. The big motivator will be to do everything quickly so that I can change out of my work clothes.

    Like you & @glamazon79 said, hard to get motivated after dinner. Just knowing I have the rest of the evening to relax is a huge motivator.

    Thanks for the tips!

  26. posted by We Ship Supplies on

    When I wake up in the morning I take a hot steamy shower to try to jolt my body awake but it doesn’t work. So the thing in the morning that wakes me up is a nice cup of coffee I am a caffeine addict I love it!!!

  27. posted by sarra on

    Totally perplexed as to why my comment was modded. Er?

  28. posted by Diana on

    I move a lot of traditional morning routines to the night before – I shower at night, lay out my clothing for the next day, use the timed coffee maker (when I remember) and I even go so far as to prepare my lunch and sometimes breakfast ahead. I’m REALLY not a morning person, so the less I must coordinate, the better.

  29. posted by Availle on

    my morning routine is as follows:

    – get up when I wake up (no alarm necessary)
    – bathroom I
    – turn on laptop for music, a few blogs I follow, unplug mobile from charger & put in bag
    – ~ 8:45 bathroom II – shower
    – ~ 9:00 breakfast/reading
    – ~ 9:20 bathroom III – face/teeth/makeup
    – getting dressed
    – ~ 9:40 off to work

    I usually need about an hour before bathroom II just to wake up. If I don’t give myself that time, I’m cranky during the day.

    A relatively new addition to my morning routine (bathroom III) is incorporating all the little ‘maintenance’ things that don’t need to be done daily – filing nails, plucking eyebrows, facial masks… By doing a different one each day in the morning, they are getting done regularly (and add at most 10 minutes) rather than every once in a while when I feel like it and happen to remember…

  30. posted by Deb on

    When I began timing my morning routine, I realized that, somehow, it always took 20 minutes more than I expected. Although I could never pinpoint exactly where the extra time went, the problem was solved when I started setting the alarm 20 minutes earlier!

  31. posted by Claire on

    Oh yeah! I learned about ”storing in place” about five years ago, and it’s calmed me immensely. I’ve done this all over my kitchen, and instead of using the pantry for all my foods, am storing them where I use them. My cereal is stored in the drawer below the bowls, which are below the silverware, which is below the three tier stand I keep on the counter, which is next to the refrigerated drawer I keep the milk in. The ”beverage center” is right around the corner. All I had to do was try it Once and I was sold! Saving steps and keeping down frenzy is what it’s all about, no matter what time of day or night. My DH also got the point immediately, and is a happy convert.

  32. posted by Nine on

    @We Ship Supplies Have you ever tried ending the hot steamy shower with a burst of cold water? Does the trick for me. Afterwards I feel revived (I tried the hot steamy shower as well but it made me drowsy ;)).

    My morning routine needs a bit of streamlining and I tried putting out clothes the day before but had them ruined a couple of times in the morning because I bled on them (it’s a health thing and there’s nothing to be done about it that fixes it forever, unfortunately). Now I just shedule in an extra 15 minutes to deal with things 🙂

  33. posted by Thrift Store Mama on

    This is one of the things that I fought tooth and nail for a long time: “I recommend that parents get completely ready before children (especially young children) wake up and always padding your get-ready time by 15 minutes.”

    I just hated sitting idly by while my children ate breakfast. They usually wanted cereal and it would take them 3 times as long as it did me to eat. So I would try to dash back into the bathroom to do make-up, fix hair, let the dogs in the back yard, etc. Inevitably, cereal would get spilled, somebody would need more milk and I would wind up doing more dashing than was necessary.

    We did two things to fix that. One, both the husband and I get completely ready, pack lunches, and put lunches, water bottles, etc. in the car before kids wake-up. Two, the kids eat oatmeal on the days they go to daycare (3 days per week). It’s quicker and easier for them to eat and more filling. They also sit on the kitchen counter and eat instead of going to the table in the other room.

    While they eat, I straighten up a kitchen drawer, clean off the front of the fridge, clear off the voice mail messages, but mostly I eat my breakfast, help them eat, keep the juice from spilling, and chat about the day ahead.

    Those things have really improved our morning routine.

    Now if I could just get the 2.5 year old to be quicker with #2 on the potty !

  34. posted by Graham Allcott on

    when I worked from home I used to find it difficult in the morning to break from home mode to work mode and
    get things done, so I devised a morning routine that involved going for a run, showering, breakfast and then a short walk around the block. It was less than 5 minutes, but that walk was the signifier to me that I was entering work mode. The completion of my morning routine was ‘worst first’: pick the worst thing on my to-do list, the thing that I was procrastinating about the most, and do that first thing. The rest of the day was set up so nicely as a result!

  35. posted by Natalie in West Oz on

    I see nobody has the problem I encounter. I do all the above (except get ready before my kids) but I am a ridiculously early riser. However, the sun isnt. If I turn a light on, it will wake up a child too early. So I enter the study, close the door and turn on the computer…Hi facebook ; ) Hi Emails : ). I wish there was a way I could clean my house and do things really really quietly but there isnt. So I sit in here (its currently 4.59am, just to prove my point) and then when the family is finally awake I have to race around doing things even though I’ve been up for hours. The last thing I do is get dressed as I’m running out the door because it was too early when I got up and then my husband takes over the bathroom!

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