How to Streamline Your Weekday Mornings, Start to FinishWhat makes you feel sleepy, strung-out, and stuck in the a.m.? REDBOOK asked 1,000 busy women that question, then found ingenious work-arounds for every roadblock. And no, you don't have to wake up one minute earlier.
Weekday mornings can be like an episode of Wipeout: You're in a race to get the kids off to school or yourself to work or both, and booby traps keep springing up between you and the finish line. But instead of canned laughter, the sound track is a constant loop of you tensely singsonging--or flat-out yelling--"Hurry up!" Facing that kind of obstacle course daily can discourage even the sunniest woman. "Sometimes it feels like mourning instead of morning," one mom of two from Edison, NJ, told us when we asked readers about their a.m. experiences. You described a mad dash to get out the door that often isn't fast enough: 52 percent of our poll respondents said they're late for work or school drop-off at least once a week (and 5 percent of those women admitted they're tardy every day!). The most obvious solution--getting up a lot earlier--just trades one torture for another.
There has got to be a better way. Enter our expert team of more than 30 time-managers, behavior researchers, hairstylists, child psychologists, and more, recruited to help us pull apart our routines and put them back together in a saner, smarter fashion. The game plan on these pages cuts out the chaos and leaves you extra time to actually savor a few moments for yourself, because, as our pros noted, better mornings incorporate more pleasure, not more work.
THE TOP 6 THINGS THAT DERAIL YOU
1. Kid meltdowns
4. "What to wear?!" panic
5. Hair dilemmas
6. Misplacing stuff like your keys, phone, or purse
REDBOOK POLL RESULTS:
64% OF OUR POLL-TAKERS HIT SNOOZE ONCE OR MORE EVERY DAY
60% SAY A LOOMING TO-DO LIST IS THE #1 A.M. ANXIETY TRIGGER
46% CAN NEVER PREDICT WHEN THEIR MORNING IS ABOUT TO GO HAYWIRE
FIRST, CREATE A MORNING BLUEPRINT
"The biggest mistake people make is just focusing on the end goal of getting out the door without having a plan for what they could be doing to start their day right," says Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. Your object, she says, is to map out a routine that's efficient and allows for some relaxed moments. Here's how:
1. Envision your perfect morning
List everything that needs to happen, and any would-like-to-happens. "Maybe you want to exercise, write, or have a real conversation with your husband," says Vanderkam. "Scoring a win by accomplishing something that's meaningful to you first thingputs you in a better mind-set to tackle other tasks throughout the day."
2. Time your current routine
"For the next few mornings, write down everything that happens and exactly how long it takes to complete each task. Many of us aren't aware of how much time we spend on things like showering or getting dressed. Maybe you think it takes five minutes, but it's closer to 15. Creating a log will help you identify stress points--like what's really setting your kid off--and things you need to streamline."
3. Build your new a.m. plan
"Combine steps one and two to make a unique schedule that feels good for your family. The more detailed, the better--'6:00: Get up, put on exercise clothes'; '6:05: Go for run.' Fitting everything into the time you actually have may mean ditching chores that aren't a priority, like, say, making the beds. The only thing you must factor in if you have kids is last-minute craziness--it's unavoidable. Set an alarm for 10 minutes before you depart. A good schedule leaves a cushion to deal with that final push out the door."
BREAK THE SNOOZE CYCLE
Oversleeping was a top reason women in our poll said they run late. Uh, maybe it's because at least 64 percent of you are hitting snooze at least once every day? That won't make you feel rested, experts say, but these tips will.
GET SUN ON YOUR FACE. "Do this for a couple minutes, as soon as you wake, at the same time for a week to reset your body clock," says Edward Stepanski, Ph.D., a sleep disorders researcher. "You'll start to naturally wake then." Up before dawn? Use a lamp that mimics sunlight, like Sphere Gadget Technologies Lightphoria ($65), for 30 minutes.
SET A BEDTIME ALARM. "Most people hit snooze because they're still exhausted from staying up late the night before," says Piers Steel, Ph.D., a time management expert at the University of Calgary. "I set an alarm to go off in the evening at a time that lets me get at least seven hours of sleep. When I hear it, that's my cue to start my right-before-bed routine."
Get tech support. The Sleep Cycle app for iPhones ($1) monitors your body's movements, then chimes when you're at the lightest point in your sleep cycle, for a less-groggy wake-up. Android users can download morning routine (free), a clever alarm that keeps ringing until you get out of bed and scan a preset barcode, like the one on your cereal box.
FIND THOSE "LOST" MINUTES
The extra-long shower, a weirdly gripping Al Roker segment--don't fall into these twilight zones.
STOCK UP ON CLOCKS. Fatigue-induced daydreaming causes you to lose track of time more easily, according to Marvin Karlins, Ph.D., a management professor at the University of South Florida. "Keep clocks in places where you tend to zone out, like the bathroom, to remind yourself that you're on a mission," he says.
STOP DREADING CHORES. "People put off tedious tasks, thinking they'll be inspired to do them later," says Carleton University professor Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., who studies the psychology of procrastination. "If you always do them at the same time--every day, from 6 to 6:30 a.m., I make coffee, wash dishes, and put in a load of laundry--you'll do them by habit and not wait for a wave of motivation to hit."
DELAY YOUR INFO DUMP. Reading the news or watching it on TV is the number-one time trap according to all of our experts. Tune in on your commute instead with the BuzzVoice ($3.99) app. Setup is easy: You curate the papers and blogs you like, and it sends you daily audio files of news from those sources.
PUT A REWARD AT THE FINISH LINE. Whether that's getting your coffee or doing the crossword, our brains are built to maximize rewards, says Pychyl, so you'll fly past distractions to get to the thing you want most.
MAKE YOUR COFFEE BUZZ LAST
A Harvard study found that sipping small amounts of something caffeinated, like four 4-ounce cups of coffee throughout the day, instead of one 16-ouncer in the morning, will make you more alert. Use this formula to get your first fix right.
The Hamilton Beach BrewStation 47454 ($80)--it's Consumer Reports's #1 pick.
Peet's, the go-to of James Beard Award--winning chef Bradley Ogden.
Bottled water: "The chlorine in tap makes coffee bland," says Katie Carguilo, the 2012 U.S. Barista Champion.
A cuppa Joe to rival Dunkin'.
END THE BLANK CLOSET STARE...
...with these 3 stylist tricks.
1. PLAN AHEAD. "Don't put whole outfits together; just lay out your 'power pieces' on Sunday night," says Jeannie Mai, host of The Style Network's How Do I Look? "Think about the blouse you want to wear for that big meeting with your boss, or the skirt you want to reserve for a client dinner," says Mai. "Once you've pinpointed the item that you'll feel good in, the other pieces will fall into place."
2. CREATE A LOOK BOOK. Every time you wear an outfit you love, snap a picture of it with your phone so you can remember and repeat it.
3. ADD SOME ORDER TO YOUR SHOES. An Ikea survey found that women who use shoe racks are seven times more likely to be on time for work. Who cares why--just get one.
NIX HAIR DRAMA
Our poll respondents said that if they didn't have to bother with their hair, they could get to work early, write the next great American novel, possibly rule the world. So these three busy hairstylists told us how they shrink morning styling time. Their tips will help you wake up with your 'do already done or fix the bad kind of bed-head without starting from scratch.
Do this at night:Wash and blow-dry. "This is my game plan, because fine hair always looks fuller the day after a shampoo," says Sharon Dorram, owner of Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger in New York City. In the morning, part your hair differently than normal to boost volume even more.
Or try this in the morning: Dorram's quick fix for pumping up wilted hair when you didn't have time for a blowout: "Spray your roots with dry shampoo as soon as you wake up, then wrap the front few inches backward around a large Velcro roller and mist with hairspray. Take it out just before you leave."
Do this at night: Create texture by braiding your hair before bed, says Tabatha Coffey, star of Bravo's Tabatha Takes Over. "One loose braid will add a subtle wave, while smaller, tighter ones create a curlier effect," she says. If you have naturally curly hair, use gel to coax it into spirals, then tousle them in the morning for soft ripples.
Or try this in the morning: ;Ever go to bed without doing anything and wake up with a frizz bomb? Solution: Perfect your texture by using a flat iron or curling iron (depending on the look you're going for) on large sections of hair. "Just do the top layers," says Coffey. "It will hide a multitude of sins underneath."
Do this at night:"Setting your hair will save you loads of time and energy in the morning," says hairstylist Ellin LaVar, owner of LaVar Hair Designs in New York City. "For curls, roll sections into large pin curls or use Flexi rods for a tighter spiral. And make sure you're sleeping on a silk or satin pillowcase; this is key for waking up fuzz-free."
Or try this in the morning: For relaxed hair, LaVar says the key to smoothing out any weird bends from sleeping is hot rollers. Put them in right when you wake so they have time to cool completely. If your hair is natural, she says, dampen it with a cocktail that's three parts water, one part conditioner, and let it air-dry.
DEFUSE KID MELTDOWNS
The number-one reason women in our poll said they run late most mornings: a tantrum. Next time it happens, pull out one of these recommended scripts from top child psychologists.
Your little one is getting frustrated with his shoelaces or some other small task...
"Did you get one shoe tied? Awesome! One more left. I bet I can tie mine faster than you." When younger children get frustrated, it comes out as anger, says Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D., author of 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child. First, high-five your kid's mini victories. Then make their biggest hurdles into goofy games to appeal to their sense of fun.
Your child reaches for the remote or gets distracted...
"We can't watch cartoons because we have to make sure we're ready." When children are getting off track, pepper your orders with as many we's as possible to convey that you're on the same team. They'll be less likely to get defensive and view you as an adversary. Oh, and forget time-outs--they'll only put you further off track, says Bernstein.
Your kid is being moody for no apparent reason...
"Want me to yell with you so we can just scream it out together?" Hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Sometimes a bad mood is nothing more than that, and the quickest way to push through is to not try to figure out what's wrong. "When kids fall apart, parents talk too much and try to use logic. It rarely works," says Tina Bryson, Ph.D., coauthor of The Whole-Brain Child. "If you move on, they will too."
Your tween is on strike and won't get out of bed...
"I know this is hard for you." For older kids, giving their feelings credibility--whether they're tired from studying late or anxious about social static--is more effective than shaming them into hurrying, says Bernstein. "Naming their emotions helps," he adds. "They may give you a sarcastic response, but they're more likely to get moving if they know you're not ignoring what's bothering them."
WORK IN A WORKOUT
You said that if you had more time, you'd do one of two things: sleep or exercise. Our tips saved you 20 minutes, so sleepers, go back to bed! And exercisers, choose the fast routine your body craves.
If you're groggy: YOGA
When you wake up with your eyes practically glued together, choose a DVD you can follow on autopilot. We love Kathryn Budig's QuickStart Yoga for Beginners & More ($14.98; amazon.com). She's upbeat but not annoying, and the beginner's practice is easy to follow but still challenging. The other great thing about yoga for extra-sleepy mornings? "Certain poses, like downward dog, increase blood flow to every part of your body, including your brain, so you feel more energized," Budig says.
If you're stressed: SPEED-WALKING OR JOGGING
Repetitive-motion cardio puts your mind in a near-meditative state so you get an endorphin-boosting calorie burn that also chills you out. "But instead of running around and around a track--which makes it too easy for you to quit after five minutes--run through your neighborhood for 10 minutes in one direction," says Los Angeles--based celeb trainer Lacey Stone. "Then you have no choice but to exercise your way back home."
If you're amped: A D.I.Y. BOOT CAMP
Perform each of the following exercises for one minute, then rest for a minute, and repeat the series twice more: jumping jacks, lunges across the living room floor, push-ups, squats, and a plank. (Get the step-by-step on how to do each move at redbookmag.com/amworkout.)
LEAVE THE HOUSE HAPPY ;)
Think of these tips as satisfaction supplements. One a day, with coffee, and you'll feel better in the morning.
SAY: "TODAY WILL BE A GOOD DAY". Don't roll your eyes, missy! Hokey as it may seem, talking positively to yourself has proven benefits. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, found that people who thought about three good things that happened at work the week before felt happier and had more energy earlier in the day than those who didn't.
CREATE AN A.M. PLAYLIST. "Music affects the same structures in our brain responsible for motivation, reward, and emotions," says Kimberly Sena Moore, a board-certified music therapist. Any type of music works, as long as you really like it, she says. "I've seen a patient's mood transform in as little as three minutes."
TRY A MINI MEDITATION. "Studies have shown that meditation can actually change our brains and make us less susceptible to painful emotions," says clinical psychologist Tara Brach, Ph.D. And it's as easy as repeating a mantra like this in your head for a minute every day: May I be safe, may I be happy, may I feel at ease. For great karma, insert the name of your guy, kid, BFF, or--if you're feeling truly generous--your boss.
A GOOD EXIT STRATEGY...
...starts the night before. The most repeated tip we heard: Dock your phone, keys, kids' homework, and anything else you're perpetually searching for by the door before you go to bed, so they're ready to grab as you depart.
inspire: live a better life
No one looks forward to washing windows or storing the ski gear or the other chores associated with spring-cleaning. But this annual ritual does not have to be a drag, if you approach it in a slightly different way. "You've been cooped up with this cave-like mentality all winter; now it's time to break free and play," says R.D. Chin, a feng shui architect and consultant in New York City. "It's time to follow the cycle of nature, get rid of the clutter, and free up your mind." Here's our idea of what a truly effective spring-cleaning can look like.
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