Real Simple readers share their practical and creative tips to help you pull your act together.
The worry, the hurry, the stress, and the dread can all be avoided by setting the clocks ahead.
I can select an outfit for any occasion in less than one minute because nothing goes into my closet unless it is ready to wear. Any garment that requires ironing or has a spot, a stain, or a hem that needs repairing does not go in.
I just don’t. In this modern era, where the clock rules every minute of our lives, I like to take a step back and remember that still, in so many cultures, there is a way of life that doesn’t revolve around deadlines, alarms, and fixed schedules. While being late isn’t a virtue, neither is bailing on a friend in need to make it to the bank before it closes. So why not leave a little more room for meditation, conversation, the feel of the sun on your skin, or that book you’ve been meaning to read for so long?
To get out of the house on time in the morning, I have what I call my task-it basket, which sits on my sink and holds sunscreen, makeup, an eyelash curler, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. I pull all items out of the basket, and I put them back when I’m done. I complete all my morning tasks without forgetting anything and keep the counter clutter-free.
With three little ones constantly making it more difficult to leave anywhere within a reasonable amount of time, I mostly find myself yelling a lot. Surprisingly, that doesn’t work at all. So when I need to feel like a capable adult who can do things well at times, I plan a date with my husband or a night out with my girlfriends. I find that these things get me out the door quickly. Oftentimes I’m even early!
I use a planner that allows me to view the entire month at a glance. That way, I can tell from week to week what I have to do. On Sundays I look and see what’s going on the rest of each week. If there are things I need to prepare for more than a day in advance, or if there is something I know I’ll need that’s not readily available, I have a better idea of what I need to do and when to do it.
Grove City, Pennsylvania
I tell my habitually tardy husband that we are leaving 30 minutes earlier than we need to. We eventually get out the door at the right time and avoid an argument, as I am never late.
I can’t. Anytime I try to go somewhere, I constantly turn around because I left my keys, my umbrella, or something that I need to return. I might as well install a revolving door.
College Station, Texas
I keep a spare set of keys in my laundry room. That way, when I notoriously lose my first set, I can grab those and rush out. Actually, I have a third set hidden as well, but I don’t remember where.
Clovis, New Mexico
I love myself the way I am. A five-minute face and a simple, classic wardrobe have always served me well. Fashion is fun, sure, but since I don’t feel chained to the opinion of everyone around me, I find I have a lot more time in the morning for things that matter, like squeezing in a few more minutes of pillow time with my husband before heading off to work.
Graceville, Florida Believe it or not, I wake up almost three hours before I have to leave. Those early-morning hours are the most peaceful of my day. My husband always prepares the coffee. I drink a cup alone in an easy chair, reading or simply thinking. Then I eat my breakfast, wake up the kids, make lunches, and help them get their hair brushed and backpacks ready. Often I’ll make dinner in the slow cooker or fold the laundry. After the kids are gone, I save 10 minutes for yoga or meditation. I start the workday with a clear mind and a peaceful heart.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
We’re not morning people. The trick to my routine of getting our boys out the door at 7:15 is to have them bathe the night before and go to bed dressed for the next day―in everything but their shoes. I know it sounds nuts, but the kids started it themselves, choose comfortable clothing, and have done it for years. We can wake up at 7 a.m. and do everything in 15 minutes flat. And no more buying pajamas (which I do hope they’ll learn to enjoy again someday).
Oak Park, Illinois
Each morning, my mom comes to my home while my toddler is still sleeping. Once he’s awake, she takes him to her house, and my parents fix him a healthy breakfast, dress him, and take him to day care. And, yes, I realize how lucky I am.
I have a routine that won’t budge. I don’t take extra time to tackle non-urgent business. I don’t read my personal e-mails, pay bills, or put in a load of laundry before I leave in the morning. It’s easy to be distracted by household chores, but if they are not pertinent to getting out the door, then they can wait until later.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
My mantra is “Come on! Move it! Move it! Move it!” You might say, “What a mean mom,” but I think that anyone who has little boys can relate. I may be a drill sergeant in the morning, but I’m a clown when I pick them up from school.
Butler, New Jersey
To be honest, I often don’t. But on days when the world is going my way, it’s because the night before I cleared out the sink, loaded the dishwasher, gave some thought to lunch the next day, and took a few minutes to calm my brain before hitting the sheets. Not giving myself the chance to throw a pity party when the alarm rings helps, too. If I force myself to move to the next job (making the bed or jumping in a hot shower) and don’t linger on all the reasons I want to stay in bed, I start the day off right.
Kristen Green Wiewora
My husband wakes up every morning before I do, even though he does not have to be at work until much later. He prepares my lunch, makes me breakfast, drives to me to the train station, and does not leave until the train pulls out. My husband is the reason I’m able to get out the door and to work on time.
It’s impossible. I’ve tried setting the alarm early, getting out of bed 10 minutes early, showering at night, prepacking lunches. Nothing helps me overcome the well-known “Martin time” that runs in the family.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
I leave at 6 a.m., so I make sure my clothes and accessories are set out before I go to bed. The advantage? I don’t show up at work wearing two different shoes, which happened once when I assembled my wardrobe in the dark so as not to disturb my sleeping husband.
With two little girls to get to day care and a full-time job, I wake up at 5 a.m., ask God to give me patience, and cross my fingers.
Apple Valley, Minnesota Focus. Do only what you have to do in the morning. Let everything else wait until you get home. Don’t get distracted by anything that’s not bleeding or sick.
I set the clock in my bedroom 30 minutes ahead. When I wake and see the time, I go into overdrive.
I drink coffee. Lots of coffee.
Angela Wilkerson Fitch
Lyman, South Carolina
I keep three totes on hooks inside my pantry: one for work; one for errands, like returning library books; and one for shopping. That way, all my things are always organized and ready to go.
Monica A. Consalvo
Mount Sinai, New York
I place my keys right next to anything that I need to take with me in the morning. For example, if I need to bring my cell phone in its charger, I put my keys with the charger. Or I’ll even put my keys in the refrigerator on top of my brown-bag lunch. That way, I’ll remember both.
Canyon County, California
Picture the Bumsteads from the “Blondie” comic strip. Except in this case I am Dagwood, frantically putting on my shoes and gathering my stuff, and my husband is Blondie, calmly waiting by the door with our dogs as I grab my lunch and run. If it weren’t for my darling husband, I would still be dreaming in bed.
Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
Create a routine, stick to it, and pity the poor soul who throws a wrench into it.
There was a period when I fussed endlessly over my hair, what outfit I selected, and which accessories to wear. I put pressure on myself, thinking that unless everything was just so, I couldn’t leave the house. Well, life isn’t “just so.” As long as I look good enough, I don’t sweat the details. Acceptance leads to confidence, confidence gets me out of the door on time, and being on time helps set the tone for a great day.
Oak Park, Illinois
I have two children under the age of four, so getting out of the house on time is like a military maneuver. And if I ever get around to accomplishing this feat, I will call it Operation Shock and Awe.
Santa Barbara, California
I rely on my daughter. I bought her an alarm clock for her first day of kindergarten and told her that she would have to get up when it went off. Now she is up first every day. She brushes her teeth, gets dressed, and then comes in to wake me. This may not work forever, but it has for the past two years.
St. Louis, Missouri Eating breakfast before I leave for work helps keep me punctual. It would be easy for me to hit the snooze bar if the worst-case scenario were that I would be a few minutes late to the office. But if I think there’s any chance of missing my favorite morning oatmeal, I jump out of bed―fast.
Port Tobacco, Maryland
I picked a career that I love. Even when I’m tired, I can’t wait to get to school and see my 20 second-graders. I know that the day will be full of new challenges and special moments, and that’s my motivation.
As a single mom of three children, ages 10, 7, and 5, I find getting everyone dressed and out the door to be stressful. I tried bribery and bargaining, but what finally worked was feeding off my children’s sibling rivalry. Once everyone is in the car, I assign a score to how well each did that morning: 10 being the best and one being the worst. With this system, everyone does what I ask without being reminded. It has taken the anxiety out of our days, and we all feel like we’re on the same team.
San Diego, California
I pace myself with the local morning news. For instance, they run a technology segment at about 16 minutes after the hour, and I know that I need to be putting my makeup on at that point in order to walk out of the house by 6:30.
I “backward-plan” the day before. I make a timeline for everything I need to do the next day: arrive at doctor, 2 p.m.; leave house, 1:25; gather briefcase and papers, 1:15; shower and dress, 12:30. I pad the timeline with extra minutes (in case someone calls or I’m distracted by a bird in the yard). I realize my routine may sound nutty to some, but I’m a busy gal.
I follow these words of wisdom from my former manager: If you’re not early, you’re late.
Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey
A couple of years ago, I created a mantra that I repeat to myself right before I walk out the door: “Wallet, keys, phone.” These are the three essential things I need for the day, and making sure I say this every morning has saved me countless return trips.
Brooklyn, New York
How do I get out the door on time? Oh, that’s easy. I leave my husband at home.
How do you get out of the door on time? Share your routine here.