Enjoy Stress-Free Mornings With My 5 Morning Must-Dos

posted by Andrea | 10/21/2019

stress-free mornings

Are mornings stressful and chaotic in your home? If so, you can join the apparent 95% of Americans who say they “hate mornings” and continue living in chaos. OR, you can read today’s post, and implement a few of my morning must-dos for stress-free mornings. 

I know which option I’d choose!

And don’t worry, you do NOT need to wake up at 4 am to make this happen! 

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Over the course of my adult life, my morning must-dos have changed and shifted…

I started with a “normal” alarm (6:30 am) before I had children or any reason not to sleep amazingly well every night! 

Then I banned all alarm clocks from my life for a few years as I rocked a sleepless Nora in my arms, praying she’d sleep for just 30 more minutes.

I eventually shifted to slightly earlier alarms (5:30) when I felt my life slowly returning after having 2 little boys in 16 months’ time.

Finally, after all my children were consistently sleeping through the night, Dave and I decided to wake up at 4 am every day. We’ve been doing this for roughly 15 months now and hope to continue for the foreseeable future! 

All of this to say… there are most definitely “seasons of life” for morning productivity. Please don’t feel bad if you love to sleep in… or even if you NEED to sleep in to regain a little sanity.

HOWEVER, if you are tired of stressful mornings and want a few simple tips that should work for just about any busy family, I’m confident that my 5 “morning must-dos” will help you enjoy stress-free mornings once again!

5 Morning Must-Dos for Stress-Free Mornings

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5 morning must-dos for stress-free mornings

1. Start With a Plan

My first 2 tips for stress-free mornings start the night before — but I promise, this one will only take you a few minutes! 

Simply use an actual piece of paper and pen (or a to-do app) to physically write or type 2-3 things you’d like to accomplish the next morning. Do not think you will “remember” them… because you probably won’t! Write them down!

You can also make a “Top 5 List” for the next day and/or write out a detailed to-do for the entire day (that’s up to you). My main request is that you simply have a plan for what you will do once you wake up (see #3 and #4 below).

With a plan in place before your alarm goes off, you will automatically set yourself up to be more productive and efficient with your morning minutes… which is the foundation of stress-free mornings! 

2. Get Organized The Night Before

No matter how busy I’ve been or how tired I am, I do as much as I possibly can the night before. I know from experience that anything I can do the night before will help to de-stress the morning craziness. 

I pack lunches, load up backpacks, plan breakfast and dinner for the next day, pick out clothing, clean out the dishwasher, declutter the mudroom, pick up the living room, and often even pack the van if we’ll be driving somewhere early in the morning. 

I make sure we have the library books in the van if we’re going to story hour. I locate the papers that need to go back to school. I make pancake batter so it’s ready to go when we wake up. Honesty, I’ve even thought about sleeping in my clothing for the next day — but I decided that was taking things a little bit too far! 

If you can muster up the energy to devote 30 minutes every night to prep for the next day, your mornings will be SIGNIFICANTLY less stressful! 

NOTE: Here’s an older post with a listing of everything Dave and I do the night before

3. Wake Up Before Everyone Else

The exact time of your alarm is NOT important here — 4 am or 10 am — it really doesn’t matter.

The important thing is that you wake up at least 15-30 minutes before anyone else AND that you use that time as efficiently as possible! 

I don’t expect you to wake up hours and hours before the rest of your tribe — although that’s an option Dave and I have tried with much success. All I know is that you WILL enjoy many more stress-free mornings if you wake up before everyone else. So let’s start with 15-30 minutes! 

After you wake up, DO NOT sit down at your computer and scroll through Facebook, do not read your book, and do not start a big project you’ll never finish in 15-30 minutes. 

Use that 15-30 minutes to jump-start your day in a way that will drastically reduce the stress and craziness in your life for the next 12-24 hours! 

4. Get Dressed and Ready First

As I just mentioned above, the key to stress-free mornings is to jump-start your morning. For me, this means getting dressed and ready FIRST. (You might consider picking your clothing out the night before to save time in the morning.)

Here’s how I almost always utilize the first 15-30 of my mornings: 

  • (5 minutes) get out of bed and make the bed 
  • (3 minutes) go to the bathroom and get my hair wet (here’s how I style my hair)
  • (5 minutes) get fully dressed in whatever I will wear that day (with any accessories, jewelry, etc)
  • (5-7 minutes) do my makeup and finish my hair (it dries in about 5 minutes!)
  • (2-5 minutes) look at my to-do list (see #1 above) and start on the first thing (laundry, breakfast, etc.)

Yes, I’m moving quickly, but that’s the point! 

I don’t let myself get distracted. I don’t check my phone or computer. I don’t get side-tracked by a bigger project like picking up the house, starting the laundry, or working on my blog. 

I simply do the basics I absolutely must do to be able to get out the door and move on with my day. I get dressed and ready to the point where I can leave the house without any further “preparation”. 

If you only have 15-30 minutes before others wake up, use that time to get dressed and ready. In my experience, it is the best use of those precious few minutes and will drastically lessen the craziness of the next hour.

NOTE:  if it takes you significantly longer than 30 minutes to get dressed and ready, I highly recommend waking up early enough so you have time to get dressed and fully ready before anyone else is awake (either that or figure out a way to streamline your morning routine!) 

5. Give Yourself 10 Extra Minutes

While I don’t necessarily think arriving 10 minutes early for every occasion is wise or acceptable, I DO think it’s a good idea to give yourself at least a 10-minute buffer every morning (maybe longer if your travel time is more substantial).

I do this daily as it’s one of the only ways I’m able to regularly arrive on time with all my children (here’s how we “kill the time” when we arrive too early).

If I need to be somewhere at 7:30, I plan to get there at 7:20. If I have an appointment at 9:00, I plan to arrive at 8:50 and then structure the rest of my morning accordingly. 

Yes, this might mean you will eventually need to wake up another 10 minutes earlier… but what will help you more over the course of your entire day? Will you benefit more from 10 extra minutes of sleep or from actually getting out the door on time and not feeling the stress that comes with rushing throughout your entire day? 

I know what my answer is! 

kids riding in the van

backpacks ready to go

hearty oat pancakes

bento box lunches

Now, certainly there are so many more factors that go into enjoying a stress-free DAY, but when it comes to de-stressing the mornings around our house, these are 5 tips that often seem to help us.

You don’t need to hate mornings. 

Arriving late and frazzled for your morning meetings does not have to be the norm. 

Screaming at your children to “hurry”, “eat faster”, or “run out to the bus” should not be an every morning ritual.

By implementing even a few of my 5 mornings must-dos, I feel confident that you and your family will be able to enjoy stress-free mornings!

What are YOUR best tips for stress-free mornings?

enjoy stress-free mornings

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17 comments

  1. Lora

    10/24/2019

    My kids sleep in their clothes for the next day! We started it when Beto was in preschool and it was so difficult to get him out the door. It’s worked for us and now the kids think it’s normal. They really only sleep in true Pjs on Friday nights and in the summer! Saturday nights they sleep in church clothes! Haha!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha! We’ve actually talked about doing this as it would save time, but the kids don’t want to.
    That’s impressive that they sleep in church clothes!

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  2. Jennifer

    10/23/2019

    This is a great list! I’m a recent early rising enthusiast. Normally I shuffle around in my pajamas and definitely scroll facebook while I’m waking up. That’s enjoyable in it’s own way but probably not the best use of my time! This morning I tried your tip to get myself ready first and that made a big difference in how alert I felt. I didn’t think that our mornings were chaotic before, but this morning was even better… my son had time to play a bit before school while I enjoyed my coffee.
    My biggest tip is to know how much sleep you need and go to bed accordingly. I function optimally with 9 hours and I’ve finally stopped fighting that. It makes such an impact on how the whole day goes.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, I definitely have days when I lounge around in my PJ’s and I’m always shocked by how much LESS productive I am on these days. Plus, then when the kids wake up, we’re all frantically trying to get ready at the same time. Our whole family runs more smoothly if I get dressed and ready RIGHT AWAY when I wake up!

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  3. Veronica

    10/22/2019

    Love these tips! A big one for me is making double or triple the amount of a particular breakfast food (scrambled eggs, waffles, pancakes, etc) a couple times a week to save me some time in the morning. We heat them up and eat those throughout the week and I cannot tell you how much more relaxed I am on those days lol. It dawned on me that if I’m already making eggs-and dirtying the pan- why not make a few more for tomorrow. Also, we have recently started eating overnight oats and it has been nice just to hand them their breakfast straight from the fridge! We just add fresh fruit or granola.

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  4. Kim

    10/21/2019

    yes that extra 10 mins makes a huge difference

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    Andrea Reply:

    always! there are SOOOOOOOOO many last-minute things that come up (bathroom breaks, diaper blowout, traffic jam, forgot something and had to run back into the house, etc. etc.) I would be late all the time if I didn’t factor in the 10 extra minutes!

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  5. Natalia

    10/21/2019

    I just set up my daily alarm to a little earlier and I made my list for tomorrow am. Like always, your blog gives me the encouragement and motivation that I need (or, ahem… a kick in the derriere ;))

    [Reply]

  6. Avia

    10/21/2019

    I pretty do all these during the week and I’m sure some were implemented from reading your blog! The weekends are where I struggle right now because I have it hardwired into my mind that I should be able to sleep in on the weekends (that would mean getting up at 6:30 instead of 4:30). But my little kids don’t sleep in so then I’m getting up right when they get up which makes me GRUMPY! In order to have a good day and I have to have 30 minutes with no one talking to me when I get up. So I’m getting better at that on the weekend.

    [Reply]

    Avia Reply:

    I meant to say – the biggest motivator for me to get up early (430/5) is to have the automatic coffee pot set. Knowing that all I have to do when I first get up is drag myself downstairs and get a cup of coffee with no effort is a huge motivator for me!! So I’ve started doing this for the weekends also and it’s helping.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing this simple tip Avia!
    Yes, I’ve found that having the laundry in the washing machine ready to go is another motivator for me — all I have to do is turn it on and I’ve crossed one thing off my list!

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  7. Ashley

    10/21/2019

    All great tips/reminders! It was on your blog that I first heard the suggestion to put everything possible *in* the car the night before and it makes such a difference! I miss the days of getting showered/dressed before the kids get up, but being pregnant I just need more sleep than I did before. Like you said–all seasons! Thanks for always being practical in everything you write!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yup! As long as it can withstand outdoor temperatures, I put things IN THE VAN the night before. Library books, backpacks, diaper bags, etc. etc. It’s all so much easier to get out the door without trying to carry 800 extra things in the process!

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  8. Katie

    10/21/2019

    For me, it’s the combo of having a plan and having routines. I don’t wake up and wonder what I should do first – I know exactly what I’m going to do – make coffee, empty dishwasher, wake up kids, fix breakfast, get ready while kids eat and dress themselves, do kids hair, and head out. Also – understanding that the routine will need to change as seasons of life change – when my kids were younger, I had to be 100% there for them in the AM. Now that they are older and can do more themselves, I can use some of the time for myself.

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    Andrea Reply:

    you are exactly right Katie! Thanks for bringing attention to the 2-part success of the plan + routine!

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  9. Margaret

    10/21/2019

    A frequent line-item on my daily to-do list is “restock”. I have a quite a few things decanted in some way to make them easier to use or easier to see when I’m almost out, and I refill in the evenings when I’m washing dishes & sweeping floors. It saves significant time not to be digging dog food out of the bags in the ammo box on the front porch (with barking dogs) or groping through the backstock drawer looking for toothpaste–and not finding it.
    BUT, I have to keep up with it. It really is one of those “stitch in time saves nine” things–I can make my life run more smoothly when I invest some time upfront and then maintain it.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, I feel like this is just part of my dinner clean up — I pack lunches, get breakfast ready for the next day, and refill or restock everything. Whether it’s cutting up raw fruits and veggies for the next day or filling up pantry containers with more grain, flour, granola, snacks, etc.
    It takes time upfront, for sure — but it saves SOOOOOO much time (and my sanity) later on!

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