“Put on your shoes now!” I yelled at both my toddler and my husband.
I was running all over my kitchen trying to find everything that I needed to get my daughter to daycare, while also making sure that we were both dressed and ready to go.
My keys were missing, again, and I couldn’t find the travel mug I had bought just last week for my tea. Looks like I was going without again!
Just as I thought I had it all together, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. Yikes! I almost forgot to do my hair!
At this point my husband was yelling at me asking if I knew where my daughter’s lovey was. He was trying to get her in the car and she wasn’t cooperating without her small stuffed elf.
This was a typical morning in my house. If I had to use one word to describe it it would be chaos. Pure chaos.
One day, I snapped. Plain and simple. I couldn’t take it any more!
I started reading all over the Internet how I can make my morning better. It was then that I realized I could have a smooth morning with minimal effort on my part.
My mornings are way better now. For starters I don’t want to jump off a bridge. More importantly however, I know where my keys are, my tea is ready to go by the time I walk out of my bedroom, and I don’t forget to do my hair anymore. The shoes are right where I left them and everyone knows the routine to get out the door.
Want to know how I did it? Read on!
What does your typical morning look like? If it looks anything like mine used to, I’m envisioning running around, losing your keys, and maybe even a few cases of yelling “Put your shoes on NOW!” Such is the life of a busy mom.
Did I get anywhere close? I used to struggle in the mornings. Getting out of the door on time was difficult and stressful. That’s NOT how I wanted to start my day.
Mornings should be a time to start fresh and do better than yesterday. How you start your day has a substantial impact on the rest of your day.
I’m also guessing that you have the best of intentions every morning. How do I know? Because I did!
I was going to get up in the morning and exercise! I’d get in some me time maybe. Or I’d work on my blog before the day could get in the way.
Rarely, however, was that the case. I had every intention of getting up and starting the day off right. Every now and then I would!
Then there are the days when I just couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. I would hit the snooze button multiple times and doze until the last possible second.
Doing this day in and day out can impact the rest of the day. There’s a difference in how you feel. You don’t feel calm and collected, just stressed and busy.
If you get up after the first alarm, the day feels more productive and shiny. If you hit the snooze button over and over, I’m guessing the rest of the day didn’t go as well as you felt it could have.
You set the done first thing in the morning. It’s all about how to start your day. Because we’re always looking to be better, let’s make sure we get up on the right side of the bed.
But how can we do that? By automating some of our mornings! So now let’s find out how to automate your morning.
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What is home automation? According to SmartHome.com, “The way devices and appliances can be networked together to provide us with seamless control over all aspects of your home and more.” These are usually connected through wi fi.
Sounds complicated right? The good news is that companies are picking up on this and making it easier and easier to get started. With current technology, it’s easy to get started with a smart home and change your morning routine today.
The major benefit of these speakers is you can speak to them and they will complete a bunch of automation for you. I kick off my entire morning routine with “Alexa, start my day!’
Some people are skeptical of the idea of having something like a smart speaker in their home. But with the way smart phones are these days, it’s really just an extension.
There are so many benefits to smart speakers (that’s another story for another day),
Another key piece for me is the smart plug. These are plugs you can purchase that connect to either Google or Amazon smart speakers and can be automated.
These plugs do more than just help you in the morning. We have automatic timers on strategic lights. What makes these even better than regular timers is that I can set them to different triggers.
My living room lights come on when the sun goes down and turns off at a specified time. We have motion sensors that can pick up when to turn other smart lights on.
These little plugs can go a long way and don’t require an electrician or even any tools! Just plug and play!
We have a Nest Thermostat at our house and we love it. There are other smart thermostats on the market that I’ve heard work well.
Because the Nest connects with Google and Amazon speakers, it’s possible to use them to help automate your morning.
At our house, we have our thermostat set to come on at certain times. But every now and then it needs a bit of adjusting and including them in our “morning” automation can help.
We like the main part of the house to stay cool at night to help us save money on heating. During the summer, we keep it a bit hotter. But once we get up in the morning, we like things to be comfortable.
Here’s what an automated routine might look like.
You wake up in the morning. Your alarm goes off and you notice that your smart lights (that are connected with this plug) have come on to gradually wake you up.
You say “Alexa, start my day!” and she responds back with a weather update. It’s cold today so you wear a sweater. She tells you what’s going on in the world with a news update, and lets you know what the traffic looks like. If you have anything on your calendar for the day, she’ll tell you that too.
She’ll start your favorite music or a motivational podcast while you finish getting ready. When you walk out to your kitchen, your electric kettle has finished boiling your water because it’s connected to a smart plug.
You get a reminder that it’s time to go and your thermostat automatically adjusts itself to a few degrees cooler for while you’re not home. If you don’t have an Echo, Google Assistant can do the same things.
Most of these actions are built in directly to Amazon or Google, but some of them can be accomplished using IFTTT recipes.
You leave the house ready to face the day and knowing that you had some extra help getting out of the house!
What Does Your Perfect Morning Look Like?
Here is my question for you. What’s most important to you? What is the one thing you really want to do on a daily basis that would make a big difference, but you just can’t seem to find the time for?
It’s one thing to say “I want my morning routine to be better” It’s another to figure out exactly what better is.
We need to have a clear path forward, a way to know if we’ve succeeded. Otherwise, this just becomes something else that we say “I should do that!” and then we never follow through.
The goal is to make your morning exactly how you want it. That’s only going to happen if you actually complete the challenge.
Normally I advocate for living in this world, but for today I’ll make an exception!
Figure out your habits
In short, what good habit do you want to work towards that would make a real impact on your life? Think about this for a minute.
Here are some suggestions to get the ball rolling a bit.
- Healthy eating
- Getting ahead in business
- Your job
- Working on your relationship with your significant other
- Working on your relationship with your kids
- Finding time for creativity and projects
- Making new habits like reading every morning
I want you to pull out a piece of paper. If you journal, take it out and turn to a fresh page. Write down what habit you want to focus on across the top of the page. We’re going to pick ONE for this challenge. If you want, you can come back to this challenge later and add another one.
What does my morning routine look like?
Once you’ve figured out what you want to work on, what you want to improve, and what’s important to you, we’ll think about how you can make it part of your morning routine.
Sit back and imagine your perfect morning. It isn’t stressed or rushed. Most importantly, it’s a day when you have time for everything on your list.
Maybe it means having time for a long shower. Maybe it’s going for a run before breakfast. Maybe it’s having a few minutes to connect with your spouse over coffee or maybe it’s carving out an hour first thing in the morning to work on your side-business.
That’s a lot of “maybes” but the key is to start with what’s most important to you and think about how you could fit it into your morning routine. Remember, you’re just dreaming and imagining at this point.
We’ll work on figuring out where to find the time to fit it in and how to make it all work out later on. For now, I simply want you to paint a clear picture of what your new morning could look like.
I want you to become very clear on what you want that perfect morning to look like. Imagine it in as much detail as you possibly can.
Write it down in a journal or on a piece of paper that you can refer back to as needed. The title of your page should be “My Morning Routine”. If words aren’t your thing, that’s OK. You can draw it as well. In short, define your perfect morning.
The importance of your vision
Why is this so important? Because you can’t start to make any meaningful changes until you know what your goals are. You need to know your destination before you can start to pick a route and figure out how you’ll get there.
That’s what today’s task is all about. It’s figuring out where you want to get to. Don’t stop until you have it figured out and firmly pictured in your mind.
We need goals in our lives and we need a way to work toward them. That’s why I advocate for setting 12-week goals. After 12 weeks, you can re-evaluate if you pulled it off.
For me, I mostly want some quiet time to work on this blog in the morning. It’s important to me to work on it every single day and make it a priority. I find that mornings are the best time for me to write and when I’m most likely to get quiet time.
My vision of my morning routine (now my reality) is that when I wake up in the morning, I have a cup of tea waiting for me. My computer is started and ready to go.
I know exactly what I’m working on thanks to my calendar, and I’m able to jump right in. I sip my tea as I read what I’ve just written and start my day off productively.
When I’m finished with my writing, I start the rest of my day. My whole day already feels productive though because I’ve done what I set out to do and I’ve made progress on something that’s meaningful to me.
This vision helped motivate me to get up every morning. And because I had a clear goal, as I applied other tips and tricks from this series, I could clearly see what worked and what didn’t. Was I closer to my goal or further away?
My vision helped me answer yes or no to that question and not waste any time on strategies that weren’t working for me. And that’s what I want for you too.
How to Find Time in Your Busy Morning
Mornings are busy and they can be quiet hectic. If you have a young family and plenty of people to get ready and out the door, you know this first hand. I see you. I feel you. I get you.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way, no matter how busy you think you are first thing in the day. Earlier I shared with you how the first few hours in the morning set the tone for the entire rest of the day.
Do you want that to be rushed, frantic, and feeling like you’re constantly running and trying to catch up? Or do you want it to be calm, collected, productive, and with a feeling that you’re in control? It’s up to you and it’s all about embracing two simple concepts.
We’ve defined your vision and I know at this point you’re wondering how it could even be possible. It’s not a pipe dream! We’re going to work today on finding that time that you need to create your perfect morning so you have space in your life for these new tasks that will change your day.
Get Up Early Enough
It’s tempting to hit the snooze button and catch a few more minutes of sleep, isn’t it? It’s even hard to set the alarm early enough that you have plenty of time for everything you want and need to get done.
I get it. I used to hit the snooze button at least five times. I would set my alarm a bit earlier than I needed to just so I could hit the button. I’m not proud of it, but there’s it is.
If you’re not a morning person, moving up the alarm by 30 minutes to carve out a little extra time can be tough. Trust me though, after the first few mornings it’s not nearly as hard as you think and something you’ll quickly get used to.
My suggestion is to do it over the course of three days. Each day move it back ten minutes. You’ve got this! If I can do it, so can you!
You have to rush to make it out the door in time and any little problem or speed bump along the way turns into a huge problem. Not being able to find the car keys is suddenly a major crisis because it could cause you to be late for work and the kids to be late for school.
Do you really want that judgemental look you get at drop off? Or worse yet, as you run back to the car and you realize your shoes don’t match? Not like that’s happened to me or anything…
Remember, your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. If you start it in chaos, that’s likely how you’ll spend the rest of your day, always trying to play catch up and find that sense of calm.
Kids not cooperating? Well there goes your day! Dog refuses to go outside before you leave? You need to pick between being late or coming home to dog poop on the floor.
For what it’s worth, my dog has refused to go outside, refused to get in the car when I’ve needed her to, and refused to eat. Most of this happens on days when I’m bringing her to doggie daycare (it’s a legit thing!) and it happened the most when I was 8 months pregnant and couldn’t lift all 70 pounds of her.
So it’s not just the kids that can make you late! Although, sometimes I think my dog and kid are in cahoots with each other to see who can do more damage to make Mommy late…
We can’t control everything, but getting up early enough on the other hand puts you ahead of the game. You’re in control, or as much control as you can be in.
You can take care of everything that needs doing in a calm manner and still have time for the important things you want to work on. In short, getting up early enough sets you up for an amazing, productive day.
For me, I now give myself an extra ten minutes days that I need to do a drop off. If we have a smooth morning, then I have extra time to sit in the car after drop off alone. Ah, the bliss of being alone…
Restructure your routine
Spend a little bit of time thinking about your current morning routine and where you’re spending time. Look for things you can change and tweak to find more time for the things you really want to do.
For example, if you want an extra 20 minutes in the morning to meditate, look at what you could take care ahead of time, eliminate, or delegate to make that time.
If you spend a lot of time getting breakfast for everyone, get in the habit of setting the breakfast table the night before. Do you drink coffee or tea in the morning? Could you get a coffee maker that turns on automatically?
Teach the kids to make their own breakfast and take the dirty dishes to the sink, rinse them, and put them in the dish washer. Make sure clothes are set out the night before (including yours), and that diaper bags, purses, briefcases, and car keys have a designated spot and that there where they need to be before you turn in for the night.
We have a designated area in our kitchen near the door. Before I go to bed at night I do a quick sweep to make sure everything is there.
Car keys are in the basket, daycare and work bags are packed on the floor, and shoes are laid out. Plus if there’s something I can not forget, I put it in my shoe. Yeah, I went there.
Small changes like this to your morning routine can make a big difference. I don’t run around in the morning looking for everything anymore. It’s the world’s most amazing feeling! I challenge you to come up with a few small tweaks that will save you at least 30 minutes in the morning.
If you’re still stuck, think about things that usually make you late in the mornings. Let’s say you always lose your car keys. Do you always leave out of the same door? Add a basket or a key hook where you can put your keys right when you walk in. Then when you’re leaving they are in a set place.
Do you get stuck with lunches? Find ways to pre-make some parts of lunch. If you can’t make a sandwich (because it could get soggy) could you leave out the bread and put everything you need together the night before? Small actions like that can add up and make a huge difference.
When thinking about these things, remember to keep in mind what you already do. For example, in our family we like to dump keys places. So key hooks for us didn’t go over well.
We use a basket because we can dump the keys in there without altering our routine too much. Small change, BIG difference.
Let’s go back to your journal. Write down all the areas that you struggle with or all the things that can make you late. Write the problem on one side of your paper, and add some solutions to try on the other. You may not get it all right on the first try, but it’s a work in progress you can adjust as needed.
Once you identify problems that you face every morning, and come up with solutions, start working them into your morning.
Try not to change everything at once. While tempting, if something isn’t working it’s hard to know what that something is if everything is different.
Instead, change one thing at a time and live with it for a few days. If it doesn’t work, you know exactly what the problem is and you can try something else.
What Should You be Doing in the Morning?
I want you to think about what you should and what you shouldn’t be doing in those first few hours of the day.
That’s an important idea to think about. As humans, we tend to do things because that’s what we’ve always done. This means we can get stuck in a routine without even realizing it.
I used to watch TV every night before bed. It was part of my routine and it didn’t feel right to go to bed without watching a show. Sometimes I didn’t even like the show I was watching. But it was part of that rut I was stuck in.
We do it without really thinking about whether or not it’s the best use of our time and we fail to ask “why”? So what should we actually be doing in the morning?
Eventually, I took a giant step back in my life and realized that I didn’t want to watch TV before bed. Instead, I wanted to watch the shows that I actually like earlier in the day because I’m more likely to absorb it. And I ditched the shows I didn’t like.
Now I have a lot more time at night. There was a time I used to watch my recorded shows in the morning. I don’t do that anymore either because it was causing me to rush around.
It’s all about asking yourself why you do certain things. You’d be amazed at what you can cut out!
It’s Not About Cramming More Things Into Less Time
Making over your morning isn’t about figuring out how to cram more tasks into fewer hours. When you read books and articles on productivity and time management, that’s often the main message and gist of it.
Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work.
While it can help in the short term, it isn’t a good long-term strategy for meaningful change. Very soon you’ll hit the limit of how much faster and how much more efficient you can get.
It’s like building a house of cards. When you build anything up, you need a strong foundation. Hacking your life so that you do more in less time can help you build up a tower, but one slight breeze and it all comes down.
We want strategies that will work long term. We want a system of tweaking our mornings so that we can repeat it in the future.
Unfortunately, getting more done in less time isn’t that strategy.
Shift your thinking and don’t try to add to what you do in the morning. If you want 15 minutes exercise, meditation, or passion projects, don’t just think about getting up 15 minutes earlier.
Likewise, shaving 15 minutes off your morning routine by showering faster, getting dressed in record time, and rushing through breakfast won’t work either.
In other words, don’t add to your already lengthy list of things that need to get done. You’ll only feel more rushed and stressed if you do.
How do I know this? I’ve been there. Getting up earlier can really help. But let’s say you want an hour to read every morning, and you want to be able to finish getting lunches ready, and you also want to be able to wash your hair every morning.
If you keep waking up earlier and earlier to do these things, eventually you’re going to stop sleeping all together! We need to be strategic about it. Wake up earlier when it makes sense and you know it’s for the right reasons.
It’s About Making Smart Choices When Using Your Time
Instead, what you should be thinking about is the best use of your time in the morning. Time to take out your journal again.
I want you to write down what your current morning looks like. How do you feel? Again, if you aren’t into writing, draw how it feels. Remember, this is just for you.
Compare your perfect morning with your current morning routine. What aren’t you doing on your ideal morning?
If you can start by cutting things out, finding time to do what’s important to you becomes much easier.
There are two great ways to find things you can stop doing. The first is to look for busy work. This is something you do out of habit that doesn’t necessarily need doing every day.
Some examples of busy work include checking your email first thing. I have a confession. This used to be a major problem in our house.
In our home, sometimes stressful emails would come through late at night or extremely early. These emails were things like “This number on a spreadsheet is wrong and our whole process needs to be reworked!” Checking email first thing meant that the whole day was started on the wrong foot.
In this example, there’s nothing to be done about the problem before getting ready for the day. The problem can’t be solved before getting dressed and heading into the office. So instead there’s just a lot of stress and rushing without concentrating on the task at hand, getting ready for the day.
These are the mornings that coffees get left behind, the wrong set of keys are taken by accident, or laptop bags are left at home. These are the rough mornings that can throw off entire weeks.
Or maybe you like playing around on Facebook for half an hour while you drink your coffee. If that’s how you choose to spend your time, that’s perfectly fine, but if you’re doing it out of habit it may be time to rethink it.
What’s the point of social media? I’m going to argue that it’s to be social. It’s to catch up with family and friends we may not see on a daily basis. I use social media to share ideas with my friends and to keep up with family.
Are you being social first thing in the morning? Maybe you are. But chances are, you aren’t. I know for me at least I was just scrolling without responding to anything or sharing anything. I hadn’t finished my tea yet.
Cutting out social media has freed up a lot more time for me to do things that are a higher priority for me. And again, we don’t have to stick with it forever. Try it out for a week. If things seem easier, great! If not, then go back to your scrolling and try something else!
This is a great place in your morning to cut the busy work and find ways to automate. I automate the news I want to get, getting my tea ready to go, and I set reminders to keep me from getting sucked in to one particular task.
Kids are the perfect example. We start out fixing their breakfast, making their lunch, cleaning up after them, picking out their clothes, and making sure their backpack is packed and ready to do.
When they are very small, we have to do these things. However, often we continue to do them long after they’re capable of doing things on their own.
Storytime! When my daughter was younger, we spoon fed her everything, including her oatmeal for breakfast. Then one day I noticed her reaching for the spoon. So I gave her another spoon just for her.
Over time, I noticed that she could get the oatmeal into her mouth in the mornings without me spoon feeding her. Fantastic I thought! Our mornings would be so different!
When they didn’t seem to speed up at all, I wondered why. Then one day I noticed that my husband was still spoon feeding her. She was capable, but I hadn’t told him about my new trick so he continued to stay in his old routine.
Now, she feeds herself breakfast and it freed up a LOT of time in the morning. We still have to pack her bag and get her dressed, but she can do more and more on her own. Soon she’ll be able to get herself ready in the morning.
Not only does it give us more time to do other things in the morning, but it’s also a great skill for her to have. Part of growing up is becoming independent. It’s a great life skill for her to have AND it helps us out.
Rachel at Smart Moms Smart Ideas advocates for keeping things simple, which is perfect for smaller children. Simple breakfasts can be handled by themselves and it frees up a lot of time for you.
The same goes for things we do for our spouse. Maybe there was a time when you had less to do in the morning and it made sense to take on the majority of morning chores.
Did things change and if so, is it time to lighten your load and get help from your partner? A few small changes may be all it takes to make the time in your busy morning for what’s important to you.
We used to have a routine in our house that was set. We would load the dishes at night. The next morning my husband would empty the clean dishwasher before leaving for work. It was a good system at the time.
After our daughter was born, things changed. My schedule was a bit more flexible (I work part-time) so I was already spending a lot of time with our daughter. My husband, on the other hand, felt like he didn’t have enough time.
When we took a look at our mornings, it made a lot more sense for him to spend time with our daughter in the morning and for me to take over the dishes. That simple switch has made our mornings a lot more enjoyable (especially for my husband and daughter).
When trying to make over your mornings, have a conversation with your partner. Explain why you want to change things up and what you hope to accomplish. This small conversation can go a long way and can give you a great source of support!
OK, now what?
At this point, we’ve figured a lot of stuff out. We know how we want our mornings to look and feel. We’ve gotten ideas on how to create space in our mornings and what not to do. We have a good idea of what we should be doing to have the mornings we want.
If you’ve been keeping track in a journal, you have all the pieces you need to come up with a new game plan. We’re going to start on this tomorrow. Just remember, this isn’t a quick solution.
You’re going to have to rework things from time to time. Life changes and your morning will change with it. We want to get the system down so that we can do this again when we feel we need to shift around again.
And also remember that it’s OK to try something and have it not work. We can always try something else.
Your New Morning Game Plan
Now that you have a pretty good idea of what you want to do in the morning, what you don’t want to or need to do, and where to find the extra time needed, it’s time to put it all together in a new morning game plan.
We’re going to start with the new set of tasks that you’ve decided is the most important. Figure out a time when you’re going to get those things done.
This is a great place to pull out your journal and start to make a plan.
If your goal is to go for a run in the morning, you may decide to do that first thing before getting a shower and having breakfast when your spouse is home with the kids.
If your goal is to meditate each morning, you may decide it would work best after you’ve had a cup of coffee.
If your goal is to find some time for reading or your favorite hobby in the morning, you could carve out some time before everyone else gets up and while you enjoy that first coffee.
The same goes for wanting time in the morning to work on your business or learn something new.
Come up with a plan
Then work the rest of your morning chores around these new plans. It may take some shuffling around and mixing up of your current routine, but with a little creative thinking and a bit of flexibility, I’m sure you can come up with a working plan.
For me, I wanted time in the morning to work on this blog. This was the most important thing for me so I made a plan to get up a bit earlier while everyone else is still asleep.
I’m used to getting up at this point and getting things done first thing in the morning. I’ve come to love my quiet time to sit, sip my tea, and write.
Making over your morning and turning it into a new routine isn’t something that comes natural to most of us. It takes a little while to get into the grove of things. We’ll look at this in a little more detail tomorrow.
For now, get out that journal again and write your new morning game plan down. Writing it down will help you solidify your new plan and see if there are any holes in it.
Put the journal or notebook where you jotted down your new plan on your night table or somewhere else where you’ll see it first thing in the morning. It will serve as a reminder of what you’re intending to do and do differently in the morning now.
The hardest part of this makeover is the follow through. So make sure you make it as easy as possible for you to stay motivated.
This new plan of yours isn’t “final” though. It’s a guideline and can be adjusted as needed. Sometimes we over commit, or something we thought would work just doesn’t.
That’s 100% OK! We’re all just a work in progress right?
Instead of panicking, adjust the plan and make changes as needed until you come up with a new morning game plan that works well for you and the rest of your family. Once you have that it’s time to make it the new routine… something we’ll talk more about tomorrow.
When I started working on my mornings, I wanted an hour of time to blog. But then after I started my new plan, I realized that the hour wasn’t working out for me the way that I wanted it to.
I enjoyed my quiet time, but I found myself wishing my family was awake at times. I trimmed it back to a half hour of blogging in the morning and added another half hour at night and I’ve found it’s a great solution for me.
You might have to play around with it. And when you’re adjusting, keep in mind that some things are one-offs.
For example, maybe the day you tried your first new morning, your oldest woke up with a cold. Or perhaps your coffee maker broke. These things aren’t going to happen every day, so it’s worth it to try again tomorrow and see if tomorrow goes any better.
You don’t have to get it “right” on the first try. And it’s OK to make tweaks when you need to.
Everything is fluid. It’s all about finding what works best for you and your family.
Once you figure out your new plan, it’s time to make it a habit. You can read more about habits and routines on another post I wrote. (will open in a new tab)
What do you enjoy doing in the morning? Let me know in the comments below!