We all know how fast the tension rises and the moods sour when we are racing against the clock in the morning, in order to make it to work on time. Children add an entire level of complexity to getting out of the house. Dealing with the same frustrations week after week, I have come up with a few strategies to make the mornings less stressful.
The night before, think about the next day, while you are not running madly around trying to get things done by a deadline. A good time is when kids are playing after supper, or during your commute, or as the supper is cooking – take a few minutes to visualize what the next day looks like and what you would need.
Do as much as you can the night before:
1. Get lunches ready and packed the day before. I find it saves time and frustration in the morning, if I wash out the lunch containers and assemble lunches as I’m making supper or cleaning up after it. During that time, I’m already getting things out of the fridge and I have a knife and a cutting board out. It’s a matter of a few extra motions in the evening, in a more relaxed atmosphere, which is way less stressful than trying to think through a fog of your just-out-of-bed brain, while being distracted by the leisurely-(not)-waking-up children. You are likely to make better nutritional choices too if you have a few moments to think them through.
2. For some people shower is what wakes them up in the morning. I prefer taking a longer, leisurely shower (a whole 5 minutes sometimes!) in the evening, while my partner bathes the kids. Consider that option if you don’t feel the necessity of a water ritual in the morning.
3. Check weather forecast the night before and get the clothing ready for yourself and the kids. Is it likely to rain? Track down your umbrellas, raincoats, and rain boots. Is it warm? Hats and light clothing would be needed. Is it going to be freezing outside? Line up coats, hats, scarves, gloves, snow pants, boots — whatever each family member needs. Will the weather change throughout the day? Get a few layers ready for yourself to adjust to the difference between the office and the outdoors, and for the kids to be comfortable during their stay inside, as well as at a park or playground, if that is a part of their day. The more items of clothing are needed, the more time and frustration you will save in the morning, multiplied by the size of your family.
4. If, by chance, you find that the item of clothing that you absolutely need is dirty, there is time to run a load of laundry. Start it in the evening, and make sure the clothes are in the dryer before you go to bed.
5. Pack everyone’s bags. Find your wallet and keys (it’s best to have a designated spot for those). Charge electronics overnight – cell phone, camera, whatever else you would need the next day. Help your children find and pack their school books or toys. My son has a tendency to run around the house just as we are leaving in the morning, looking for something to bring for show-and-tell. With intermittent success, I’m impressing upon him the wisdom of doing it the night before.
6. Check your calendar for appointments and visualize your day. Did you run out of tea at the office and were going to bring some in? Unless you imagine yourself coming to work, putting the kettle on, and opening the tea tin, only to find it empty, you will likely forget to bring more. Do you need anything for your appointments? Printed out documents, perhaps, or your medical history, or insurance information? Evening is the best time to collect everything you need for the next day.
When you have several errands to run each day, as well as work meetings, deadlines, potentially-wasted commute time, and the need to remember all the items to bring for the children to make their day go smoothly as well, a few minutes of planning the night before can save you time. They can also help avoid frustration over forgotten necessities, poor nutritional choices, and meltdowns. To continue with the calm, productive attitude at work, create a zen workspace that would foster your creativity and problem solving faculties.