It never fails: the alarm clock starts squawking at 6 a.m. and you’ve got an hour before you need to hit the road if you’re going to make it to work on time. You race to brush your teeth, shower, eat breakfast, grab a coffee and head off.
But what about the mess around the house? The scattered dirty laundry! The dishes piled up in the sink! You don’t have time to clean up, but you know you don't want to do it when you come home, so you burn precious minutes tidying when you should be getting on the road (or settled into your home office).
If this sounds like your life, try these 11 ways to get organized so you're not late for work.
1. Set Out Your Clothing
Before you go to sleep, lay out what you plan to wear the next day to work. Choosing your outfit before you hit the hay will save you precious seconds, plus it cuts down on decision fatigue. Lay out everything from socks to belt the evening before. You can always change your mind if you don’t like the shirt you picked in the morning light. If you have kids to dress, try doing this for them, too.
2. Do Dishes Right Away
Don't let a full sink or cluttered counter lower your spirits as you start your day. Take a few minutes after dinner to load your dishwasher or do some quick hand scrubbing. A neat and tidy kitchen will inspire you in the morning, reminding you that you're a person who takes care of business.
3. Start a Load of Laundry
Toss in a load of laundry or two before hitting the sheets. Try to time it so you can load your dryer before bedding down, so you don't risk encouraging mildew on damp garments. When you get home from work, you can fold and stow your fabrics—the least annoying part of the job.
3. Pre-make Lunches
If you have kids (or spouses who forget to eat unless you feed them) prepare their lunches in the evening before everyone goes to bed. Just be sure you don’t put anything on sandwiches that may make them soggy by lunchtime the next day (eg. tomatoes, avocado, etc.).
Pick up some small packs of ketchup, mayo, mustard, etc. and place them in their brown bag lunches to avoid drippy sandwiches. Prepare your own bagged lunch at the same time and save money instead of going out for lunch during work.
4. Set Coffeemaker Clocks
If you have a coffeemaker with a timer, pre-set it for right before you leave the house to save time during the busy morning hours. Place a travel mug under the spout and you’ll have fresh hot coffee when you wake up. Add creamer and your favorite add-ins for even greater efficiency. Skipping a stop for coffee will save you time (and a few hundred bucks a year).
Pod-based coffeemakers are great for fast-brewed cups to take on the road. Complement this choice with pre-made breakfast items like bars, muffins and quick microwavable egg dishes to eat on the go, too. All this avoids making breakfast from scratch and dirtying up the kitchen.
5. Power-up Electronic Devices
Before going to bed, plug in all your electronic devices, from cell phones to laptops. Don’t wait until the morning to start recharging. It could take time you don’t have, and it might affect your wake up time if you rely on a phone for your alarm.
6. Tidy Up
It only takes a minute or two to put sofa pillows, remotes, throw blankets, popcorn buckets, videos, and other items away before going to sleep. This will shave a few moments off your morning routine, and help you start your day feeling empowered.
7. Do a Quick Email Check
Don't get lost in the web, but consider doing a quick email scan before heading off to bed. It's better to knock out a few answers to important questions in the evening than gobbling up precious morning time, and it will help reduce your stress levels. You'll probably have newer messages in the morning, but at least you'll have a head start on the deluge.
Just make sure your phone or laptop is set to red-shift in the evenings. Otherwise the bright, blueish screen might interfere with your ability to get a good night's sleep.
8. Prep Dinner a Day Ahead
A few nights a week, set up dinner the night before by programming a crock pot or freezing meals in batches. If you make a week’s supply of dinners, you won’t have to start cooking when you get home from work.
You can prep salads and veggie dishes before going to sleep by tearing lettuce, cutting up salad mixings, and stowing them in the fridge. You can even slice and cook veggies for use as side dishes to save time and mess later.
9. Vacuum, Dust and Mop
Vacuum carpets, dust and mop floors the evening to save time, hassle, and depression in the morning. Set a schedule to do this a few times a week to take the sting out of these repetitive chores.
10. Pack Backpacks
Make sure kids’ homework and other school essentials are in backpacks before morning arrives. There will be less scrambling during crucial early hours.
11. Gas Up
Instead of gassing up the car in the morning and risking being late, stop on the way home after work hours and pump a few gallons—at least enough to get you to and from work the next day.
The bottom line is that the more unpleasant or annoying tasks you handle before bed time, the happier you'll be when you wake up. Not only will you save minutes in the morning, you'll reinforce your confidence that you can get things done. This sense of pride may seem like a small thing, but it can snowball into better decisions all throughout your life, making you stronger, happier, and more successful in everything you do.