Are you feeling it? That slow creep of back-to-routine panic? Let’s see if you can get a morning routine in place sooner rather than later to help manage this a bit.

At the time of writing we are still in the middle of August, 2021. Here in Ontario, Canada we resume school the day after Labour Day which is the first Monday in September. Some of our friends in the US and elsewhere in Canada start sooner.

We’ve also been in and out of lockdown for, like, ever. Some of us have settled into a daily routine in our homes, and some have adopted a more free-flow approach.

Either way, we’re all in for a big, big change in a few weeks (or less).

How to handle the panic

Ok, no need to panic, we have things we can do to ensure success.

One of the most effective ways to manage the overwhelm so many of us are starting to feel is to create solid morning routines for the whole family to follow. The predictability of routines gives a sense of security, and frees up your attention to be able to react to the many other things that will be vying for our attention.

Children and pets really need this too. Those of us who are parents of skin- and/or fur-babies know this to be true. So, do your whole family a solid and let’s get some routines together now.

Why start your morning routine now?

Well, because it takes time for any routine to stick. Not only that, but if you’re intending to create a routine that will work for longer than, say, three days, you need to have time to reflect, review and revise the steps.

A great routine of any kind is rarely born overnight. Whether it be a morning routine, or getting-ready-for-school routine, a bedtime routine, or whatever, it’s important to consider how the routine fits into the daily pattern of your household.

How to start planning your morning routine?

If you don’t already have a set morning routine for yourself or your family, it’s important to start small.

Here’s what to do:

  • Notice: what goes into your routine right now?
  • Review: is it working?
  • Revise: can you fix something that’s not working?
  • Repeat: fix it the thing and try again.

I know it’s basic and nebulous, but this really is the key to establishing and maintaining a great morning routine over the long term.

Let’s dig in a little further to see how this works.

Notice

Grab this PDF or a sheet of paper and write down all the things that go into your typical morning right now. Estimate how long each thing takes. Then tomorrow check against your list to see how accurate you were.

Don’t judge, just do it.

What’s so important is to determine the timing of everything. If you predict that you take 5 minutes in the bathroom to pee and brush your teeth, check the timing. Is that actually true? Or do you sneak in some phone time and while away 15 minutes? (Ew, I know, but let’s be honest here.)

This is crucial to know because there are other people in your house too who also will need to use the bathroom in the morning. If you each think you take 5 minutes but you actually take longer, well, this isn’t going to be pretty on the first day of school.

What do you do each morning before you have to leave the house? How long does each thing take? Write it down, with timings.

Review

Try your routine for a few days and see if what you think you’re doing is actually what you’re doing. Remember to review your timings.

As you do this, think ahead to how much time you’ll need on a busy school/work day. If your current routine takes you 2 hours, that’s great, but if it means you’ll have to get up in the middle of the night to do it, maybe you’ll need to tweak some things.

Also, if you enjoy a 45-minute shower in the morning but you know there are others who need to use the washroom too, you’ll have to figure that stuff out now too. Maybe you set a timer, or shift to evening showers.

Have the other members of your family start to do this too. If you share spaces, this is going to matter. This is all about avoiding a screaming match in the morning when time is tight.

Revise

As you continue to Notice and Review, start to find spots in your routine where you’re getting off course. Let’s say you’re planning for your morning routine to take 60 minutes, from the time you get up to the time you’re ready to go. You try it out, but it takes you 90 minutes right now.

What do you do? Pay really close attention to where you’re getting stuck.

Do you hit the alarm and go back to bed? Do you waste time finding something to wear? Remember to add time for putting on real pants and shoes with laces when you leave the house. Makeup? Actually doing my hair? Yikes.

Here’s a hint: many people get stuck when they’re faced with a decision. If you’re getting stuck at the clothing choice, try setting out your clothes the night before. It might take you 5 minutes at night, but it might save you a family stress explosion in the morning.

Repeat

Continue to look for these little things that derail your best intentions and see if there is a common thread. Figure out a solution to that problem and try it again.

It’s important to remember to try one thing at a time here. If you try to fix the clothes thing, and figuring out breakfast, and how long do lunches take in the morning, and how long does each person take in the bathroom… this is a lot.

This, right here, is exactly why you should start figuring all this out now.

You’ll notice I haven’t told you to try and do your routine with a specific start time in mind. When we’re on the summer schedule we tend to think that our typical school-day morning routine is tied to a specific schedule.

Well, on a regular school day it is tied to a specific time schedule. But, you can still rehearse the flow of the routine starting at any time you get up.

The trick here is to set your intention. Decide in advance what time you’ll wake up to try this out.

Here’s a suggestion: let’s say you’re trying on a 60-minute morning routine, but you’re still on summer-time and you don’t want to get up too early. So, plan ahead to get up at 8:00 and try your routine on for size. See how it goes.

It doesn’t matter if that 60-minute routine starts at 8am or 5am or 11am. If you start the day with intention and a view for how long the routine takes, then at least you have a clear picture to start from. It’s the length of time that’s important, not the start time.

Rehearse

Ok I’ve gone off script and added an extra category.

It’s one thing to figure out your own routine, but it’s another thing to weave everyone’s routines together to avoid collisions.

Here’s an example from my house. My daughter and I both have our own routines. We know each other’s patterns well enough that we stay out of each other’s way.

We’re both pretty grumpy in the morning so it works well. She knows when I’m out of my home office so she can practice in here, and I make sure I have my AirPods and journaling stuff out of my office the night before so I don’t interrupt her when she’s practicing.

One funny thing about getting serious about a morning routine is when other people start to want to do one too. When the husband jumped on the bandwagon all of a sudden he was getting in my way. He takes longer in the bathroom in the morning than I do, so I know I have to get up 5 minutes before he does otherwise my routine gets stuck, and I get grumpy (grumpier, actually).

No one wants mom to be grumpy in the morning. So, mom needs to know when everyone else plans to get up.

We still need to do the rehearsal thing in our house, especially around morning bathroom time, so this is very much on my mind.

Good luck!

If you can get some of these ideas into place before the crazy starts it will go a long way to lessening the back-to-school anxiety. This has been a weird stretch of time for so many of us and it’s not over yet.

Do yourself and your family a favour and figure this stuff out now to help ensure as smooth a transition as possible when you add an earlier wake-up time and extra stress into the mix.

Remember to grab the PDF to help you along!

Let me now how you’re doing!

Do you have questions about this, or want to start a discussion thread? Pop your question into the comments and let’s help each other.