I don’t know about you, but if I’ve got somewhere to be early in the morning (though my definition of early is probably different than yours), there’s usually a manic rush as I try and get everything done on time before I head out.

That rush is easy to avoid, even if you get up not long before you need to leave. It just takes a bit of planning. Here’s how to fly through your morning routine like it didn’t even happen. This is designed to capitalize on your time in the evening or night when you aren’t rushed to optimize your morning routine. The order of items is important, by the way.

Also, this is just a rough guideline with ideas on how one could set up a morning routine that’s fast and effective; there are undoubtedly thousands of hacks you could apply to make things faster, or just get more done within the same time frame.

And finally, I will say that I’m not making this up as I go along; I’ve done this before within the time allotments set out below.

Getting Out of Bed

Stick an alarm clock by your bed and another across the room (or even in another room) that goes off a minute later. The second one forces you up even if you miss the first one, and it makes the first alarm even more effective if you don’t live alone – you’ll have to turn the second alarm off before it wakes anyone else up!

Walk directly to the bathroom.

My time: ten seconds.

Showering

Grab a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner, chuck it in your hair, and use a scrubber with body wash to clean yourself up while you brush your teeth with the other hand (you can store a toothbrush and paste on the ledge of the shower wall if it’s wide enough – and if you can reach up there!). From the time you’ve got the temperature right, you can be out in 90 seconds without sacrificing any cleanliness.

My time: ninety seconds.

Getting Dressed

Jump out of the shower and dry off with the towel you put on the towel rack the night before. Your deodorant, cologne or perfume, and anything else you put on after your shower (moisturizer for the ladies, for instance) is lined up on the sink ready to be applied in rapid succession.

Your clothes for the day are lined up on a rack (or whatever you have available in the bathroom) in the order that you put them on; items that require ironing were done the night before.

You don’t need to shave, because you did that before bed—there’s nothing wrong with a bit of overnight stubble. Fortunately we live in a time when stubble is even considered trendy; I imagine this routine would be much harder in a more “clean cut” era. I don’t pretend to know about shaving one’s legs, but I imagine (and this is a wild guess) that it’s fine to shave the night before. Feel free to correct me!

Walk to the kitchen.

My time: two minutes.

Breakfast

Leave breakfast until last, because if you eat breakfast first and then start losing time, there’s not many other corners left to cut. You shouldn’t skip this important meal but it’s more expendable than a shower if you’re going to be around other people.

Some people will refuse to change their breakfast habits to make things happen faster, but in any case, it’s possible. If you eat cereal, put some in a bowl the night before and stick it in the fridge, requiring you to just add some milk and eat in the morning.

If you have a shake for breakfast, there’s no noticeable difference in taste if you prepare it before bed and stick it in the fridge until morning—in fact, the time it has to cool down will probably improve the taste.

If you eat a fairly complex breakfast, say bacon and eggs on toast with hash browns, that takes time to cook, you can get all the refrigerated ingredients on a plate. In the morning, get the plate out of the fridge and you have everything you need to start cooking; no messing around with packaging or finding an ingredient you forgot about.

I like miso soup for breakfast. Since it’s already prepared, there’s nothing easier to heat up in the microwave, and it can be eaten quickly.

My time: two minutes.

Getting Out the Door

My laptop is ready in its bag, sitting by the door; in that bag is my wallet, and on a hook by the door are my keys. My shoes are also by the door, and I can slip them on as I grab my bag. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet learned to grab the bag, slip the shoes on and get the keys all at once!

The only thing I have to grab before I leave that’s not by the door is my phone, as I charge it over night via USB in my desktop. No wasted time there, though, since I scan feeds and email for a minute or two as I eat breakfast and can take the phone with me as I go to put the bowl in the kitchen sink.

Notice I said scan and not read; it’s really just to pass the time between mouthfuls!

My time: ten seconds.

How long does it take me to get out the door on an early morning? Just under six minutes.

In short: spending fifteen to twenty minutes preparing for the morning before bed can mean you spend only five minutes getting ready in the morning. No more morning rush! Of course, I like to take my time where possible and if I’m not going to be rushed, I take the longer, more relaxed route to morning preparation.

But if I’m working late and I want to maximize my sleep without pushing back my day, this is the model I use to get my night’s work done and still get up early without feeling exhausted.

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