Seeking sources: Get ready in less time

Getting ready in the morning can take a lot of time. Forget the commute — not having to look decent is the major upside of working from home!

I’m writing a piece for Fast Company’s website on streamlining the morning routine. If you’ve got a great tip for saving time while getting ready, I’d love to hear it. Let me know! lvanderkam at yahoo dot com.

38 thoughts on “Seeking sources: Get ready in less time

  1. Washing hair only a few times a week, if you don’t have oily hair. Also, getting a low-maintenance haircut regularly means it’ll hold its shape better and you’ll have to do less “fussing” with it.

    Laying out your outfit the night before all the way to shoes and accessories? I hate having to think about that stuff when I’m tired.

  2. Get a good, short haircut that requires little time to wash and blow dry. Or do what my SIL does and shower in the evening and let your hair dry overnight. Eat breakfast at work.

    1. I have always eaten breakfast at work. I throw a freezy thing (keep several in the freezer) in an insulated bag along with a yogurt cup. I also bring a few granola bars separately in case I get hungry later in the morning. I usually buy lunch though.

      I’ve recently found a decent product for making my hair manageable either wet or dry when not washed and conditioned. I use the detangling spray that Suave makes for kids. I bought it for my daughter, but now I use it too.

      Still I need more tips. It is taking me way too long to get ready!

      1. @MP – breakfast at work is a good tip. If you’re going to have a nice sit down family breakfast, that’s one thing. But if not, why not wait until work?

  3. Shower at night. Put everything you need (keys, bag, purse) in the same spot every night. Also, choose your outfit the night before. I was doing that and recently stopped doing that and of course have been in more of a rush in the mornings now.

  4. Choose your breakfast at night, too! Generally: leave as little room for waffling (pun not intended) as possible in the mornings by taking away all the options for choosing. On the other hand, cut yourself some slack. You don’t have to conquer the world and be a superhero all *before* getting out the door to work.

    1. This reminds me of an article I read about Pres. Obama – he has someone lay out his clothes for him daily so he doesn’t have to use any brainpower to make that decision, since he has so many other decisions to make. That really stuck with me.

  5. I agree with the comments about hair washing — washing only every other day has been life changing (seriously). On non-hair washing days, I put my hair in a quick bun. Putting out everything you need — clothes, shoes, bag, keys, phone, + smoothie ingredients in the blender canister in the refrigerator. I also have a very pared-down makeup bag with only the items I use during the week. I have an identical set in my desk at work and another identical set that I keep stored in my suitcase. The key is eliminating choice in the morning. I also walk or bike to work, which allows me to get some exercise while commuting — obviously not possible for everyone.

    1. My hair actually looks *better* on the 2nd day after washing – less frizzy. I can usually go 3 days before needing to wash it. (but it’s more on the dry side.)

      1. I wash my hair once a week at most (no its not greasy, it actually is LESS oily since I stopped stripping my scalp and making it over-compensate, who knew?). My hair is thick and frizzy, and looks so much better the 2nd-7th day then it does right after washing.

      2. @ARC – so I’m wondering if there may be very different hair types. I washed my hair yesterday morning, not today, and now at 4 pm it is a mess. Oily. Yet I hear from people who say their hair looks so much better without washing it!

        1. I have always had to wash my hair every day because it was oily and awful if I didn’t. I have recently started washing it with baking soda/water and can now go a day in between washes. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do more than that, but for now I am happy. I am no longer stripping the natural oil, and so it takes longer for my hair to get gross. I know it sounds weird (my husband thinks I am crazy) but it works!

        2. Count this as a +1 for the shampoo/blow dry every other day (or preferably for me, every third day) crowd.

          I would never be able to pull this off if it wasn’t for dry shampoo. I also blow dry my bangs fresh every morning (2 minutes).

  6. Until my son was perhaps 2, I dressed him exclusively in onesies — the little snap-on ones for summer, and zip-up ones with feet (rubber soles once he was walking) either cotton or fleece, depending how cold it was (plus additional layers for warmth as needed, of course).

    Since he was old enough to dress himself (or, more accurately, undress himself) he has refused to wear pajamas. So each night we tuck him to sleep in his (clean) clothes, completely obliterating the morning dressing task for him, at least (I have also been known to sleep in the T that will be my base layer, come morning…).

    So, 6 years in, we have pretty much completely avoided needing to get the kid dressed: he already is. In street clothes, now, and in ‘jammies (onesies) when he was little. Works well for us…

    Count me, too, as one who doesn’t shower or wash hair in the morning (at all). Those are nighttime tasks in these parts.

  7. Have all my shirts ironed at the start of the week(Sunday night), rather than each morning.
    Dont look at your email – I know this is obvious.
    Dont eat breakfast. Means no deciding, preparing, eating or cleaning up. I know sounds crazy at first (as do most advances), but I tried this about a year ago and couldnt be happier with the decision for a number of reasons. There is no scientific basis to the myths about the need to have breakfast. I didnt do it for time saving reasons, but this is an added benefit.

    1. @Gary- oh yes, email. That can derail a morning right there! As can turning on the TV to check the weather. Don’t do it!

  8. Shower at night, sleep in clean workout clothes (I workout at work then take 5 minute shower), put work clothes in backpack, keep extra heels at office for when I forget to pack shoes, pack lunch at night, put steel cut oats or some other grain in rice cooker, which has a timer so it can be set to be done at a certain morning time.

  9. Ha! You’ll see a need any help I can get here, when you see my time logs. Mornings can either be a well-oiled productivity and quality-filled machine, or a total clusterf& in our house.

    1. @Ana – ha. We are lucky in that the kids’ schools are close by (and the oldest rides the bus) so there’s less crack of dawn racing around. But on the mornings I have to look presentable, it can be a scary time.

      1. At the risk of sounding snarky, most of us have to look presentable every darn day! This is one reason the daily grind is so stressful.

  10. it’s not romantic but I like dry shampoo ..
    also I get my hairdresser, who is also my friend to come to my house — she cuts anyone and everyone in our house for 25% of what I’d pay in the salon and we pay her cash so more for her whereas in a fancy salon often your stylist is getting 20% of say a $100 job — and a good haircut goes a long way ! I also think kids should go to sleep in their school clothes after a certain age but I haven’t been able to get the rest of the family into that.. then there’s always the slow down and do one thing at a time and enjoy getting dressed and getting your kids dressed thing … everything maybe shouldn’t be time managed to be less but rather more living in the moment?

  11. also maybe someone should right something about after a woman makes a certain amount of money and unless grandma or nanny is going to pack lunches, all children should buy the school lunch. I was shocked by how angst ridden this is in upper middle class white america.. as a child I always bought the school lunch and I never felt lesser about it and my mother never would have been stressing over packing a lunch … sometimes i think how much we save on packign lunches and I realize the mental energy it is and I can’t wait to send the kid to school with their own lunch… me I don’t also think a full work lunch is necessary or bfast.. if you can pack or combine a meal into working and leave earlier or arrive later and enjoy another meal .. I have often had success say enjoying a slower breakfast but working through lunch.. or rushing bfast but having a longer lunch either with work colleagues or a friend or even spouse

    1. For me, it’s not about what is the most convenient when it comes to lunches for my kids. It’s about what is the healthiest and best for them. They sometimes buy school lunch, but I pack their lunches most of the time and I’m happy to do it. I’ve eaten lunch at my daughter’s (previous) school. They served “walking tacos” (or something catchy like that – I can’t exactly remember) one day I was there. It consisted of gross-looking ground beef taco meat and a bag of Fritos corn chips. I’ll gladly pack my kids lunches! To streamline the process, they help me. Once they are a little older, I’ll let them pack their own lunches. I know Laura does this with her oldest, and it’s something I plan to start soon with mine.

      1. @Emily- interestingly, the lunch packing didn’t last long with my oldest. It turned out he loves buying school lunch – so since that’s kind of what I wanted him to do anyway, I’m happy. We send him with a healthy snack (at least a serving of fruit) since they eat so early (11 a.m.). That way I know he gets at least one serving of fruit, even if he doesn’t eat the healthiest stuff for lunch.

        I’ve been reporting a piece on school meals and in many cases, even the “kid food” stuff – pizza, chicken tenders – is being done much better. The pizza my son buys is whole wheat crust and they make sure the chicken tenders meet the reasonably strict sat and trans fat requirements. I doubt whatever I packed him would meet stringent nutritional standards!

        1. I learned from my sister who raised eight kids that school lunch was the way to go. There is always something they will like – I’ve been fortunate my kids like the fruit and vegetables – so even if that’s all they eat with a cup of skim milk, that’s good enough. Our lunches here cost $1.50 per day. My costs to pack something would be higher than that before factoring in the time spent. Walk around the lunchroom and see what’s in the lunches many kids bring from home – Capri Sun, chips, fruit snacks, prepackaged meat and cheese, cookies, etc. In my opinion the school lunch options are much healthier.

  12. I also go with the evening prep to make the mornings less stressful. Lunches are made, clothes picked out and items needed ready to go. I find if I don’t do this, it starts my day off on a wrong note.
    I started washing my hair every second day after my first child. I have fine, straight hair though so some days my bed head is barely disguised.

    1. @Shelly, and everyone – so a philosophical question about evening prep: does it actually save time? Or does it just shift time from AM to PM? That’s not necessarily a trivial thing, as PM time is less precious in many cases. But I’m curious.

      1. Mostly a time shift, as I’ve been pondering ever since I commented earlier. For me, I need to get out of the house by 6 a.m. at the latest for schedule and trafffic reasons. So it does save time in that I”m soooo slow at that hour, everything I do at 9 p.m. to get ready for the next day would take at least 50% longer in the a.m. (and while waiting for the oatmeal to cook, I’d be tempted to check e-mail or the weather and as you noted, big rookie mistake!) Even when all I have to do between waking up and getting out the door is brush teeth, put in contacts, put on shoes, it’s never much less than 20 minutes just due to grogginess.

      2. I have a list of 15-20 work outfits/combinations that sits on my dresser, and each one gets a hash mark when I wear it or some variation of it. The idea is to really have to think about how to put an outfit together only every once in a while when I shop and/or update my list.

        I also like to assemble everything having to do with work lunches (or AMAP) in one small block of time on Sunday. This involves considerably fewer moves (e.g., pouring trail mix straight into 5 Ziplock bags rather than having to get it out five times/week, times all the other components of lunch or snacks) and lessens the mental burden of getting out the door each day. If you’re trying to incorporate leftovers into lunches or want to have a great deal of variety throughout the week, this obviously won’t work. Switching things up from week to week is enough for me, though.

        1. @sara- Ah, the classic Look Book. Someday, I would like to make one of those – photos of outfits and accessories that look good together, so I don’t think about it. Then again, I rarely have to look that presentable that it matters…

          Agreed that batch processing of things you need for 5 days is the way to go. Back in the day, I’d sometimes make a casserole or lasagna on Sunday and then portion it out for the rest of the week’s lunches. I’m not sure it saved time, though it did raise the quality of my lunches. It was not quicker to bake a casserole than to make 5 PB&J sandwiches.

          1. I hesitated to use the term Look Book, as it would’ve made me sound more fashion-conscious than I am. 🙂

          2. Yes, we make our work lunches on Sunday (salads with grilled chicken and a bunch of other extras) and so I just grab that and a couple of fruits in the morning and am set to go. We do any cooking for kids’ lunches/snacks on Sunday as well, but I portion out/cut fruit the evening before, so in the morning I just grab their bags and go.
            I LOVE sara’s idea about outfit planning. I probably wouldn’t take pictures, either, put having a list to choose from and keeping track of what I wore recently is seriously brilliant. I really do spend way too much time trying to figure out what to wear some mornings, and then realize something doesn’t fit anymore, or is wrinkled, and then I have to start all over again. Plan for weekend: closet clean-out and outfit list!

        2. It helps to have a small wardrobe with lots of basic pieces. I’ve learned a great deal from the Wardrobe Oxygen site about “what every woman should have in her closet,” wardrobe capsules, etc.

      3. Yes, it saves time because I can move through the prep more easily in the evening than the morning. (That’s a morning person v. evening person thing). More importantly, it helps eliminate the feelings of stress, indecision, chaose, and being slightly out of control. That makes the morning much smoother and the pieces are more likely to fall into place.

  13. Prepping can definitely be stressful, but my indecision re: outfits seem to double/triple in the mornings!
    As for shower, I think not having to blow dry at night or morning saves times.
    I’m not packing school lunches regularly yet, but my husband will definitely help with this!

  14. Put in the time to teach self-sufficiency. Kids can get themselves breakfast and pack a lunch from early on. My kids have morning dishwasher jobs and we have a rotating schedule of speedy bathroom wipedowns. It takes longer in the beginning but it pays huge dividends.

  15. A teasmade in the bedroom. We start it when we first get up and our drinks are ready by the time we’re dressed, we don’t have to go into the kitchen. It is wonderful.

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