Whether it’s the first week back or school has been in session for a while, chances are your family’s morning routine is far from ideal. Even with just one school-age minion to get ready in the morning, my process tends to be a frazzled, unorganized mess. I’m pretty good at the whole “failing to plan is planning to fail” thing.

The good news is that a little forethought can go a long way. There is hope for us yet! Check out these simple ways to make your mornings flow as smooth as hot coffee.

1 | Get up earlier. (I’m talking to you, not the kids.)

Before you slap me silly for suggesting such an ungodly thing, hear me out. I’m not a morning person either, but getting up just 15 minutes before the rest of your crazy clan can make a world of difference. Sniff some lemon, have your coffee, do a few minutes of yoga, read a devotional – whatever you need to do to feel alert. For me, things tend to flow better when I’m fully awake than in half-asleep-crazy-eyed -grumpy-mama mode. You set the tone for the morning!

2 | Do nightly prep.

Get as much as you can ready the night before. Have kids pack their backpacks, find their shoes, and place all by the door. They can lay their clothes out as well. Take it to the next level by storing clothes for the entire week in labeled drawers, with bags ready to go on top.

3 | Stay on task with multiple alarms.

Alarms are good for more than just a wake-up call. Instead of hastily yelling out what your kids need to do next (when you’re not even sure yourself), set up alarms to go off throughout the morning. You can even record your voice – or better yet, your kids’ voices – and set as the alarm tones. (“Time to brush your teeth!”Now get dressed!” etc.) They love to hear themselves (and are probably more likely to listen to their own voice than yours)! Also use your phone to set reminders for special days, events, and appointments. (Don’t be the one parent that forgets about pajama day!)

4 | Provide visuals.

Another way to help kids get ready (hopefully independently) is to provide them with visual cues. They do better when they can actually see what they need to do. This DIY photo to-do box will help them get the job done. Morning routine cards are pretty genius, too.

5 | Delay getting dressed.

Don’t have your little mess makers get dressed until AFTER breakfast and brushing teeth. Because they WILL spill milk all over their favorite shirt and you probably do NOT have time for the hell that is re-dressing! Plus, any day is fair game for a toothpaste disaster (most likely on picture day).

6 | Master the make-ahead lunch.

Skip the messy sandwich-making in the morning – make sandwiches in bulk, store in the freezer, grab one and add to the lunchbox in the morning. It will thaw and be ready to eat by lunchtime. See this freezer sandwich how-to with tips on what freezes well and what doesn’t. You can also make convenient single-serving sides that stay fresh all week. Simply prep and store in Ziploc snack bags. This works well with carrots, celery sticks, cheese cubes, grapes, orange segments, berries, apples, etc. (For apples, dip slices in lemon juice first to prevent browning.) You can do the same with non-cold foods like popcorn, crackers, pretzels, and chips. If your kids are bored with the usual sandwiches and sides, check out these awesome make-ahead lunches.

7 | Make breakfast a breeze.

Yep, another thing you can prep ahead! You’ve got plenty of fast choices with these brilliant breakfast ideas. But if you’re slacking in the planning department, make sure to keep backup breakfast items on hand like cold cereal, granola bars, fruit, etc.

8 | Do a final check at the door.

Even if you’ve done everything right to ensure smooth sailing, it’s still easy for something to get left behind. So wait until they have all things on and in hand and then go through a checklist like this one posted at the door. No more forgotten homework or lonely lunches left on the floor!

So go conquer the mornings, my super-parent comrades. Get ready…get set…get organized!

What helps your family get going in the morning? Share your tips below!