Whether you’re a morning person or just pretending to be, the way you start your day has a lot to do with how you’ll feel for the rest of it.

Sure, all the commercials you heard as a kid recommended starting with a “complete breakfast” of cereal and toast and milk and orange juice (I never understood why you’d drink both), but now that you’re a career-climbing adult, you’ve figured out your own routine based on what matters to you.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, many of us (myself included, I’ll admit) struggle with being on time. So I was inspired when Eric Barker at The Week shared a story about a colleague who gets lots of stuff done and always manages to leave the office at 5:30 PM. No late nights, no weekends. What’s the secret? Breaking down every task into small steps, then scheduling everything by starting from the end of the day and working backward.

After I read that article, I thought the same principle could apply to getting out the door on time while still accomplishing a morning routine. Let’s look at a few scenarios for routines that need to wrap up by 8:30 AM.

Note: I’ve based these on routines that I’ve personally tried as someone with hair that’s ready with a few brushstrokes, no makeup (though I gotta admit, I probably moisturize more than most guys I know), and no little ones to hustle out the door. If these don’t account for steps that you normally take, make note of them and add in estimates for the time they take.


1. The Morning Miler

You just have to get that run in.


What You Might Be Doing Now

  1. Wake up (7:25 AM)
  2. Turn on your TV for background noise (7:30 AM)
  3. Pick out running clothes (7:35 AM)
  4. Get dressed (7:40 AM)
  5. Run a mile (7:45 AM)
  6. Shower (7:55 AM)
  7. Pick out work clothes (8:05 AM)
  8. Get dressed (8:10 AM)
  9. Eat a quick breakfast (8:20 AM)
  10. Pack your work bag (8:25 AM)
  11. Leave (8:30 AM)


What You Should Try

The Night Before

  1. Pick out running clothes and work clothes
  2. Pack your work bag
  3. Schedule your TV to turn on automatically
  4. Place non-perishable breakfast ingredients on the counter

In the Morning

  1. Wake up (7:25 AM)
  2. Get dressed (7:30 AM)
  3. Run a mile (7:35 AM)
  4. Shower (7:45 AM)
  5. Get dressed (7:55 AM)
  6. Eat a quick breakfast (8:00 AM)
  7. Leave (8:05 AM)

You saved four steps and 25 minutes!


2. The News Nerd

You want to have the best water cooler gossip.


What You Might Be Doing Now

  1. Wake up (7:30 AM)
  2. Turn on your TV (7:35 AM)
  3. Turn on your radio (7:40 AM)
  4. Open your laptop (7:45 AM)
  5. Check your phone (7:50 AM)
  6. Share on social media (7:55 AM)
  7. Eat a quick breakfast (8:00 AM)
  8. Shower (8:05 AM)
  9. Pick out work clothes (8:15 AM)
  10. Get dressed (8:20 AM)
  11. Pack your work bag (8:25 AM)
  12. Leave (8:30 AM)


What You Should Try

The Night Before

  1. Pick out work clothes
  2. Pack your work bag
  3. Place non-perishable breakfast ingredients on the counter
  4. Schedule your TV to turn on automatically
  5. Sign up for email newsletters or download apps that send headlines to your phone regularly

In the Morning

  1. Wake up (7:30 AM)
  2. Eat a quick breakfast (7:35 AM)
  3. Shower (7:40 AM)
  4. Get dressed (7:50 AM)
  5. Leave (7:55 AM)

Read the headlines, listen to stories, and share on social during your commute or when you get to the office.

You saved seven steps and 35 minutes!


3. The Serial Snoozer

You want to sleep just a little…bit…longer…


What You Might Be Doing Now

  1. Wake up (7:30 AM)
  2. Snooze (7:34 AM)
  3. Wake up (7:44 AM)
  4. Snooze (7:45 AM)
  5. Wake up (7:55 AM)
  6. Shower (8:00 AM)
  7. Pick out work clothes (8:10 AM)
  8. Get dressed (8:15 AM)
  9. Pack your work bag (8:25 AM)
  10. Leave (8:30 AM)


What You Should Try

The Night Before

  1. Pick out work clothes
  2. Pack your work bag

In the Morning

  1. Wake up (8:05 AM)
  2. Shower (8:10 AM)
  3. Get dressed (8:20 AM)
  4. Leave (8:30 AM)

You saved six steps and got to sleep in 35 minutes later!



With any of these routines, you can try a few tweaks to see what works best for you. News nerds and serial snoozers may want to shower the night before. Or you could be like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or a New Yorker and have a uniform so you don’t have to think too much about what to wear.

Either way, if you take a moment to plan ahead, you’ll find that one stitch, in time, really does save nine.


Photo of alarm clock courtesy of Shutterstock.