Evening Tasks For an Easier Morning

The following is by editor Kara Fleck and originally appeared in March of 2011.

Imentioned a short while ago that one of the ways I help to make life a little easier on myself and our mornings flow smoother is by preparing for them the night before.

I have found that a morning routine helps to set the tone for the rest of the day. You can read more about my morning routine here, but today I want to talk specifically about taking some time the evening before to set the stage for the next morning.

Prepping for the Next Morning

One of the questions I asked myself as I was developing our current morning routine was what can I do the night before to give myself a jump start for the next day?

After some brainstorming and making a few changes, I was able to come up with a list of tasks that can be done the night before – thus, giving myself a head-start on the next morning.

Here are the things I do in the evenings to prepare for the next day:

* This past year I’ve been making a real effort to get my family to drink more water.  To encourage this, I fill up water bottles so that they are in the fridge waiting for us to grab and go. (2012 Note: this task has become one of my ten year old’s evening chores now.)

* As we are clearing the dinner table, we set the table for breakfast.  If you do nothing else, I would encourage you to try this. 

* While I’m in the kitchen, I prepare snacks and pack lunches. We homeschool, so most of our lunches are at home, but I pack up dinner leftovers for my husband (who brings his lunch to work) and sometimes we pack a lunch if we’re having a field trip day, too.  Not all food can be prepared the night before, but many things can.  Even setting out the lunch boxes and food containers on the counter gives me a head start on packing the next morning.

* I make sure homeschool lessons are ready to go and any supplies for art/craft projects that we are going to do are ready, too.  My goal is make sure that no one has to wait on me while I find a sharpened pencil or the watercolor paper.

* I also take a quick glance at the calendar to remind myself what is on the agenda for the next day.

* As we’re getting ready for bed and the kids are going through their bedtime routine, I set out clothes for the next day.

* After the kids are in bed, I do a quick tidy of the main living areas and pick up any toys that didn’t get scooped up during one of our 5 minute pick up sessions during the day.

* Before I go to sleep, I set my alarm clock.  At first, my goal was to get up fifteen minutes before the rest of my family.  Little by little I worked my way up to about an hour and a half by myself in the morning.  Now, I know that getting up at 5am wouldn’t make for an easier morning for everybody, but it helps me to avoid that “shot out of a canon” feeling in the morning and allows me to have a daily quiet time, too.

2012 Note: we’re in a “new baby” season of life, so I’m not currently setting my alarm clock and I’m not getting up at 5am (at least not by my choice, some days Mia has other plans) and I don’t get very much time alone in the mornings.   However, even fifteen minutes cuddling a six month old and spending some time in quiet thought while I rock and nurse her is infinitely better than starting the day in a race.  Baby time is sacred time, too.

Photo by Shutterstock

A Head Start

It doesn’t take very long for me to do these things at the end of the day but, it really helps me to feel like I’m starting the day well to have these tasks already finished and waiting.

Plus, I like having this quiet time at the end of the day to get things settled and the house set to rights again before I head off to bed myself.  (Are you noticing a theme here?  I like to begin and end my days with some quiet. It helps to balance out the joyful noise of the days.)

And, in the event we do have a morning that starts late or begins a little rocky, I’m still in fairly good shape because I have attended to these tasks ahead of time.

Remember, these tasks are specific to my family and may, or may not, be relevant for your family. 

I encourage you to take a look at this list and then start thinking about some tasks that you can do in the evenings to give yourself a head start on the next day, too.

What can you do to prepare tonight to make tomorrow easier for yourself?

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at KElizabethFleck.com.

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  1. You are so right about a good day starting the night before!!! I try and do absolutely everything I can think of the night before… really when we don’t do this we are setting ourselves up for a galactic failure of a day!!! I also try and get all my emailing and computerish stuff done the night before and avoid looking at my computer before school is done… I get distracted and school takes so much longer if I just have to write a quick email or two (or twenty)!!!

  2. Wonderful post. I do many of these things the night before and it truly makes for a better day. The one thing I wish I could do was get up before everyone. I don’t have a problem waking up at 5am. I love it. I love to have that calm, quiet time to myself and my devotions. But I have a precious little cosleeper and his eyes pop open whenever I gently roll out of bed. Sigh, it is just a season of life and I adore it. I will be happy when I have my morning to myself again.
    Karen´s latest post: Extract Your Foot From Your Mouth and Try Again

    • Thanks, Karen, for bringing up a good point that I left out: during seasons with a new baby and when we’ve got a cosleeper with us, I don’t usually get alone time in the morning.

      But, you know what? As I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, that quiet morning time one on one w/ babies and toddlers is pretty sweet, too :-)

      Best wishes! And, here’s to enjoy the season we’re in!
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Evening Tasks For an Easier Morning

  3. Kara, Great inspiration to get more done ahead of time for greater calm! Thank you.
    Sarah Clachar´s latest post: Frugal Family Fitness- 8 Tips For Having More Fun Together On Less

  4. I first read the title as “Easter Morning” and I was like, whoa, planning in advance!

  5. I am in graduate school, so my kids go to daycare 3 days a week (MWF). I made a list of items that need to be done the night-prior to daycare days, titled “Things that must be done on Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday nights” (inventive title, I know). It is a simple checklist that we posted on the refrigerator. It helps my husband and I know what needs to be done that evening (pack lunches, backpacks, lay out clothes, etc) so we can all make it out the door on time on those busy mornings. The list has made all the difference in the world!
    RE´s latest post: The terrible- horrible- no-good- very bad day

  6. We could use some of this organization around here Kara! I always love to read suggestions for maintaining order with a busy family life. Thanks! :)

  7. Wow, light bulb! I never thought of trying to get up earlier in 15 minute increments. (I am such an all or nothing perfectionist.) Great post.

    • I with you on the all or nothing, April. I often forget that baby steps can make all the difference.
      Kiasa´s latest post: Right Now

    • I went to a recent lecture about sleep and it was suggested that you set the alarm two minutes earlier each day for a month and presto you have an extra hour for little pain. It sounds great but I’m yet to try it.

  8. I drop my daughter off at the babysitters 5 days a week. In the evening I try to make sure her lunch is packed, usually leftovers in a container and everything cold is gathered together in the fridge. Anything not needing refrigeration goes in her lunch bag on the counter. Same routine for my lunch for work. I often pack Hubby’s main course but he is on the hook for packing any snacks or sides to go with it.
    I also fill up my girl’s 2 sippy cups with milk and put them back in the fridge. It saves me the time of doing it in the morning and I know in advance if there aren’t 2 clean cups!

    I’m seriously considering looking for one of those 5 day clothes organizers that hang in the closet so she can pick out 5 outfits and put them in for the week. Just lately she has been “expressing her likes and dislikes” for my clothing choices, which has resulted in some morning battles. It would be better to let her pick from 5 outfits that are already pre-approved, rather than have her choosing from the entire drawer of shirts!

    I try to go to bed with most of the day’s mess put away, dishes in the dishwasher, books on the shelf, etc… Doesn’t always happen but we try.

  9. I admire how organized you are! I am such a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person anyway, and this pregnancy is wrecking me. Maybe once the sickness gets a little better I’ll try implement a bit of this. I’m sure it would help our chaos here. :)
    Alicia´s latest post: Researchers find that attached babies grow up to be better partners

    • Oh, Alicia, the first weeks of this pregnancy were definitely “fly by the seat of my pants” and a little chaotic. Mainly because I was often yawning right after dinner and had a hard time staying awake long enough to have our normal evening routine 😉

      It helps that I feel like a human being now and that has made it easier to fall back into our rhythms.

      Hang in there!
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Creating Realistic Routines for Your Family

  10. Jennifer says:

    I do a lot of the things you suggested and it really did make things easier when I started prepping things the night before (except when I’m just too, too tired).

    I recently got a new phone that allows me to have a to-do list application on it, and I have created separate daily nighttime and daily morning routine to-do lists in the app. The point is to make it a habit, and after about 45 days, I no longer HAVE to look at the app for my morning routine. I do though, because I like the satisfaction of checking off all the things I have to do to get my little guys out the door. (I have an Android phone and I use the ColorNote app). I keep the morning list very simple-just the bare necessities since that’s our most difficult time of day- and allow a bit bigger list in the evenings for clean-up of toys, etc. Still necessities but the house doesn’t stop running if these things don’t happen.

  11. No matter what we do in the mornings, whether it is leave for work/daycare/school or we homeschool, or we are a WAHM or SAHM, going to bed with some preparations done for the next day makes the morning so much better. And so the morning goes, so goes the rest of the day!
    As your kids get older, make sure they create the same habits!
    Some great tips here!
    Living the Balanced Life´s latest post: 8 Reasons You May Not Have Enough Time

  12. Laying out my daughter’s clothes is an important one that I need to do more regularly…otherwise we have a fight about it in the morning. I also am trying to fill up sippy cups the night before, and I want to start waking up 15 min. earlier each morning. I also keep meaning to make a short to-do list the night before so I’m ready to go in the morning. Oh, and setting the coffee pot to brew on it’s own is wonderful too! I have lots of ideas of what I’d like to do the night before…now the trick is to implement them! :)
    Krissa´s latest post: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp…and A Giveaway!

  13. Kara, I’m loving all these rhythm/ routine posts! I’m so inspired and want to be better (but also I have to remind myself that with 3 kids 4 and younger I can’t do all these right now in life). I struggle to just clean off the table after dinner! I’d love to hear a bit about how to fit in time with your spouse. Is he helping do these things in the evening? Do you have time together to just talk and decompress?
    Kiasa´s latest post: Right Now

    • Kiasa, that is a great question! To be honest, putting a regular date night into place (and then keeping it) is something Chris and I really need to work on.

      How it generally goes right now is that we have time together in the mornings to talk and start the day. I get up earlier than everyone else, but he is usually up around 6 or 6:30 and, depending on when the first child wakes up, we usually have at least a half an hour to have some coffee and toast together and talk before the day begins.

      This isn’t perfect, but it works for us for now.

      You’re wise to remind yourself that with three young kids you can’t (and shouldn’t) be doing it “all” right now. Though I have a suspicion that if you ever sat down and wrote out all you actually do, you’d probably end up with a pretty long list. :-)

      Chris is pretty good about pitching in and helping and my older kids are, too.
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Creating Realistic Routines for Your Family

  14. * clean, empty kitchen sink
    * clean, kitchen counters with everything put away
    * a fully-loaded dishwasher that i run at bedtime (clean dishes in am) OR if it is only partially full, i wait until breakfast is over and run it so i can empty at lunch.
    * empty the dryer, fold the laundry, put away my clothing, husbands clothing
    * take a peek at our family calendar
    * coffee into coffee press, mugs out
    * make breakfast foods, if necessary (muffins, breads, overnight waffles)
    * meal planning, assemble & prep ingredients for dinner
    * have a clear idea of what kids and i will wear next day
    * we always hang keys, coats, school bags, homework, etc., in same place by the garage door so everything is always in the same spot when we need it and it is time to head out the door
    * pour dog food into bowls, leave inside food bin so i can grab and go in the morning
    * wipe down kitchen table after dinner, have napkins laid out for morning
    ***** mom MUST get up considerably earlier than everyone else to ensure a smooth morning!!!
    happy spring

  15. Wow! So many organised people. We usually just wing it every morning but really – my kids get up so early sometimes we have trouble filling in the time before school.

    One thing I do try to do often is make porridge the night before. My babies have never been patient in the morning waiting for food. And porridge (I don’t like that fluffy package stuff, I like the real thing) takes time. So I make it at night and only have to reheat a smidge in the morning. If I’m super lazy I just put oats, grated apple and milk in a bowl and let it soak overnight. No need to cook.

  16. I am seem to be really good at preparing the evening before when I have an early start. I will put clothes out, have lunch/breakfast sorted as much as possible and have the house tidy, but on days where I don’t have to be up early I slack on this and so shouldn’t.

    Your list has given me a few extra ideas (putting out breakfast plates for one and getting art supplies or whatever is on the agenda for the day ready the night before too – this is going to be so helpful to me so thank you! Can’t believe I didn’t think to that before!!!).
    Marie´s latest post: The Benefits of Baby Wearing – 6 Pros to Buying A Sling

  17. I was introduced not so long ago to FlyLady.net, which has great to do lists and daily reminders that are really helpful and can easily be applied to my life. One of the lists is what to do the night before to be prepared for the following day. It has really made my mornings a lot easier!

  18. What a great post!!Getting shot out of a cannon pretty much describes my morning routine every single day. Your ideas are a classic example of “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail!”

    I have been thinking of ways to make our mornings easier and have definitely considered getting up earlier, but I am not a morning person and I feel like when I do get up early, I am completely exhausted by 4pm in the afternoon and can basically deem myself useless.

    When you started, did you experience this? Did it get better?

    • Emma, I’ve never been much of a night owl, so it isn’t too difficult for me to get up in the mornings. Granted, during early pregnancy and life with a newborn, all bets are off :-)

      But, in general, I’ve always been an early riser. At first I just started setting my alarm a little earlier each day and gradually worked my way to 5 am as “my” time.

      I do know friends who say they are more productive at the end of the day. That works for them. I think we all have our own natural rhythms, too. Some of us are night owls and some of us are naturally awake with the sun each day :-)

      I’m just the kind of person who does better with all the sleep she can get on *this* side of midnight.

      Even if I just get fifteen minutes or so before the kids get up, it helps, I find.
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Creating Realistic Routines for Your Family

  19. I am a super-early riser and do most of my prep-work in the morning — but your post is helping me to think I could do a bit more at night and start my days on a more relaxed note. And the idea that I might get my husband to help out a bit before we go to bed? Ingenious! It’s so important to do the things we can and need to do as adults, when we have “adult” time, so that we can fully enjoy the time we have with our children. I don’t have a lot of time with my daughter as she has a full day at school and attends her school’s extended day program, so my minutes with her are precious. I appreciate this new perspective on the way we spend our “alone” time and how it affects the time we spend together. Thank you!
    jennifer´s latest post: On my needles – the Raring to Go Edition

  20. You are spot on with this one! If I miss the “night before” prep, I am a complete mess for the next day! I live by my family calendar but I just realized that I do not routinely check it the night before! Thanks for that reminder!! :)
    Paula@Simply Sandwich´s latest post: Gifts- Grab- Go!

  21. Kara,
    Nice read and very useful reminders. Though, I too like to finish off some tasks ahead in time, there are days when things are chaotic and the next day starts too late for comfort – usually when my little one has summer holidays.

  22. Wow, what a fantastic post! Even though we don’t have children yet, I feel like we could benefit so much from instilling some end-of-the-day and beginning-of-the-day routines. Thank you for the inspiration!
    Maggie´s latest post: Family is a Verb

  23. Thank you!!
    Chelli´s latest post: Fabric Wrapping

  24. oh yes, quiet to bookend the noisy day. You are so right! I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing until you named it.

    I do most of the things you do in the evening. It’s such a good, well-tended feeling to go to bed then!
    margo´s latest post: What I Cooked For My Birthday

  25. I agree so much with your article. Being well-prepared in the evening will make your morning easier to deal with. That’s the good thing about having an organized and planned views in life. Cool!
    riza @ kitchen drawer organizers´s latest post: Wire Kitchen Drawer Organizers – How to Re-Organize Your Cluttered Kitchen

  26. Nice post, will try to remember these tips

  27. The one thing I wish I could do was get up before everyone. I don’t have a problem waking up at 5am. You are so right about a good day starting the night before!!! I try and do absolutely everything I can think of the night before.
    Jenny´s latest post: Silver Jewelry

  28. i really need to start packing my lunches the night before!!

  29. Nightly prep is a must in our family. I always tell myself, no matter how darn tired you are tonight, you’re going to be even slower and more tired tomorrow morning. So I pack our lunches, get our breakfast somewhat prepped, pick out my clothes, shower, and clean up dishes in the kitchen.

    I’ve got to take it a step further and set the table like how you do!
    Sleeping Mama´s latest post: Flashback Friday: struggles of a new mom

  30. What a great post! I really like the idea of setting the breakfast table the night before–it’s something that my kids can do and how nice it is to wake up to a pretty table.
    I’m going to have to try the oats, grated apple and milk soaked the night before too!
    One of my favorite things that you wrote in this post is “baby time is sacred time”. Absolutely!
    Amy´s latest post: Uncommon Weather

  31. I love the water bottle idea. Drinking a glass of water was one of my goals for my morning routine after reading Tsh’s One Bite at a Time.

    I’ve been using this printable from IHeartOrganizing and my three year old loves it. I “pinned” it and got a huge response! Clearly we all could use a little help getting through evening routines more efficiently!
    Emily @ Random Recycling´s latest post: Questions to Ask Your Kid’s Dentist

  32. Great ideas! I always (try) to get up at least 30-60 minutes before my kiddos. It is so strange and quiet to come downstairs to a darkened and quiet room. I make a cup of tea or coffee, do some work on the computer, and that quiet time really seems to help (when I can get it). When I start myself off earlier, knocking out some of my chores, I am more available for my kids, present and less rushed for schooling and just all around more pleasant. :)
    Debbye @ The Baby Sleep Site´s latest post: How Yoga Can Help Your Baby or Toddler Sleep


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