First Things First: 8 Things to do Before 8 am

First Things First: 8 Things to do Before 8 am

I was drowning.

Not in water, but in life. I couldn’t breathe. The moments I finally thought I had surfaced and could catch my breath proved otherwise. I knew that I couldn’t keep up what I was doing, but at the same time, I didn’t know how to put an end to the vicious cycle.

Overwhelmed? Stressed? Try starting your day with these eight tasks for a more productive and less hectic day. And notice what is NOT on the list.

This was my life. This is just what life looks like with four kids under eight.



It didn’t have to.

That is the lie I believed.

It was going to take a HUGE shift in my way of thinking. I was going to have to train myself to go to bed earlier. This night owl was going to have to make over her mornings.

A plan was needed. I needed to, first things first, (affiliate link) make over my mornings. It took a couple of weeks but I realized that there were several things that I needed to get done every morning before the kids got up in order for a less chaotic day.

If I took the time to do these eight things before 8 am, my day went smoother. I’m not going to say every day is perfect, but there was a lot less crazy.

Overwhelmed? Try starting your day with these eight tasks for a more productive and less hectic day. And notice what is NOT on the list.

First Things First: 8 Things to do Before 8 am

1. Start one load of laundry. It doesn’t end there, though. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to rewash loads of clothes multiple times. Have a plan on when you will put it in the dryer. For me, it’s washing a load after the kids are dressed for the day and putting it in the dryer when the littlest goes down for her nap or when she wakes up.

2. Drink WATER. On my list of first things first in the morning, water is a must.  Water should be the first thing you drink in the morning, then you can drink your much-needed cup of coffee. Don’t like plain water? That’s okay. Infused water tastes great and helps you get in your daily water needs.

3. Empty the dishwasher. It’s like a clean slate. When the dishwasher is empty, as dishes get dirty you can bypass the sink and put them straight in the dishwasher. That leaves you with a clean sink. I don’t know about you, but a clean sink helps my sanity on hard times.

4. Read your Bible. In some seasons this can seem daunting. So impossible that we make excuse after excuse on why we can’t sit down long enough to read and meditate on God’s Word. Let us not give up. Write down Scripture verses and post them throughout your house. Read one Proverb a day until it becomes a habit and you crave that time delving into the Word. It’s not impossible.

5. Know what you are having for dinner. Meal planning is so important in sticking to your budget and maintaining a lower stress level at home. When you know what you’re having for dinner in the morning, you can prep the ingredients early in the day and won’t be standing in front of the pantry and fridge while your children are tugging on your pants legs begging for food.

6.Get dressed. This sounds silly, I know. It’s amazing the difference in the flow of the day when I am dressed and ready to tackle the day when the kids wake up and the days when the opposite is true. Is your closet overwhelming? There is a solution.  First things first, streamline your wardrobe. It’s amazing the difference it makes!

7. Brain dump. Make two columns on a piece of paper. On one side write down what you are thankful for. On the other write down all the things weighing on you. Your to-do list, everything that you know you need to get done, future events, things that you want to do, every thought that comes to mind, write it down. You don’t have to write it in any kind of order, just write down everything. It’s amazing how much brain capacity we take up just trying to remember everything. Once it’s written down, you can visualize what needs to happen and make your to-do list.

8. After your brain dump, write your to-do list for the day. After you write it down, prioritize those items. What absolutely has to happen? What could be done tomorrow if life happens and disrupts your list?

Overwhelmed? Stressed? Try starting your day with these eight tasks for a more productive and less hectic day. And notice what is NOT on the list.

Did you notice what wasn’t on the list? Checking social media. Checking email. Catching up on the daily gossip. While tempting, those are total time wasters. If you want to streamline your day and get more accomplished, skip those and start with the non-negotiables .

How do you start your day on the right foot?  Do you follow my list of these items to do first things first before 8am, or do you have a totally different plan each morning?


  1. Great tips! I need to up my water intake, and starting the day with a glass is a good way to start. Tossing in laundry in the morning is something I do try to do — the laundry never ends does it? but, I admit, I am bad at checking in on social media in the morning, and it does suck up the time.

    • Laundry NEVER ends. I think it multiples in the hamper. Ha! Social media sucks me in too. I get so much more done in the morning though when I don’t check it first thing.

    • Josh

      18 July

      Studies have shown that drinking 1 glass of cold water , first thing once you get out of bed jump starts your metabolism and sets you up for a productive day

    • Ang774

      3 April

      I’d make one addition….exercise. For me, if I don’t do it in the morning it doesn’t get done.

  2. Sarah

    4 June

    This was a great read. I appreciate you sharing these tips, especially reading God’s word daily. It truly does make a difference in the direction of our day, would you agree? We get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that we tend to forget that without Him, our lives would be a mess. Nonetheless, well noted and I look forward to more of your reads. Keep up the great work!
    – Sarah

    • Thank you. Spending time in the Word makes a HUGE difference. It helps me keep my focus in the right place.

    • Cynthia

      6 January

      Yes. That is the one tip I cannot do without. When I miss that the day just doesn’t go my way

  3. Jennifer

    4 June

    I am a single mom of four, they are 17, 16, 13 & 9. I can’t tell you that it’ll “get easier” when they are older, but with these tips…you really are going to streamline.

    I love the fact that you have a “trigger” to put your clothes from the washer to the dryer (naptime). I too love having the washer and dishwasher running because I feel so productive when I know both are being done.

    Have you found Flylady? She too suggests that you meal plan before 9am (so meat can thaw or if you need an ingredient, you can either get it or change your meal 😉 )

    And you are so right, no one writes down “check ” or “check email” (although with work, sometimes I have “call so-and-so” or “email contract to…” so there is that 😉

    Fabulous post. Not only is this being shifted to my Simple Living (secret) board on Pinterest, but The Blogs I Follow board too 🙂 Thanks so much! 🙂

    • Jennifer

      4 June

      *check social media (guess my “greater than & less than signs” looked like html code to the comment box 😉

      Also, in response to Christina, my suggestion is to assign a day of the week to each family member/bedroom. In my house (5 girls, with me included) I do my laundry on Monday, my eldest’ son Tuesday, the older middle on Wednesday, the younger middle on Thursday, the “baby” on Friday, and pet stuff followed by towels on Saturday. Sunday is when the machine should be quiet.

      I encouraged my older ones to do their own laundry. (And I cut down their clothes to about a week’s worth so they had to wash laundry every week in order to have underwear…) If they forgot, they had to wait until the child whose day it was had a chance to go first…then they could start theirs.

      After two loads of laundry over six years were killed by red crayon, I had to change things, so I separated laundry by child. Now they check their pockets, my clothes are no longer in danger, and all four of my girls know how to run both our washer & dryer (including checking the lint trap) and fold their clothes. (We only have 2 laundry baskets to dump the dryer into 😉 ) Oh! And bedding is run with laundry…well, separately, but at least twice a month they are washing comforters, etc. I’m eyeing a clothes line now because the weather is getting nice and we moved into a HOA that allows them behind 6′ privacy fences 😉

      • I LOVE the idea of having one day per child for laundry. Teaching my kids to do laundry at a young age is definitely on my to do list. Sometimes our 7 year old helps, but I need to be more diligent in having her help/watch so she can do it herself. Before we moved I purged our closets. That made a HUGE difference. HUGE. The weather is so much different here though I had to pull out Fall/Winter clothes in addition to our Spring/Summer clothes, so I need to do that again. A clothes line would be amazing. We’re renting right now so that’s a no go for now, but in a year, maybe!

        • Cathy Drew

          18 December

          Get an umbrella clothes line and ziptie it to a metal fence post.

    • Meal planning in the morning is so key for me. Evenings are less stressful and we already have a plan. Plus I don’t have to answer the question “What’s for dinner?” 20 million times. Everyone already knows! HA!

      Thank you for stopping by and for your words of encouragement!!

  4. Jess

    6 June

    I think you didn’t finish this sentece on # 7. “Brain dump. Make two columns on a piece of paper. On one side write down what you are thankful for. On the other write down all the things.” Write down all the things… what?

  5. katie

    7 June

    Wow, too many things in here just hit right on target for it to be a coincidence!
    I already read 1 Proverbs a day,
    I recently changed my “description” on Facebook to say “beautiful mess”,
    I just put a note up in my hallway that says, “What are my (daily) non-negotiables?”
    I’m already planning to do a capsule wardrobe for my kids and myself,
    And I just browsed through about 10 different meal plans and gave up because it was too complicated to avoid both gluten and dairy!!

    I saved a link to this page on my homescreen, thanks so much for posting this! ?

    Oh! One question….is there a grocery store list somewhere on there??

    • Lucy

      14 December

      Hi Katie, I was just scrolling through these comments and noticed you need dairy and gluten free recipes. Have you heard of the blog “My darling lemon thyme”? It’s amazing and might be just what you’re looking for ?

    • Shannon

      7 January

      I love all these ideas unfortunately I am not a morning person so I do all of this before bed and I sleep like a dream knowing I already know what my day will look like the next day. And I take out my frozen meat before I go to bed so it is thawed by dinner. Speaking of dinner…

      Gluten and dairy can be avoided. I have a few key meals as my daughter is both and add in beef!

      Mexican rice with ground turkey and gluten free taco seasoning with vegetables is tasty and you can add cheese for those who can have it at the table and salsa for the ones who like it. Add beans for more protein.

      Another good one is any cream sauces can be replaced with coconut milk. Butter chicken made with coconut milk is great and tasty. I make a shepherds pie with ground pork and gluten free gravy mix and mashed potatoes.

      There is a lot out there you just have to look at paleo diet and go from there.

  6. I thought this was lovely. Getting ready to have my kiddos home for the summer and as I transition, I’m trying to find some ways to integrate new routine. I love the brain dump alongside gratitude and then turning THAT into a to-do list. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I really like the brain dump part. I never heard or read of that one before. I will definitely use that tip.

  8. What a great post and a great reminder. I have that same series and need to sit down and do it myself. The laundry is NEVER ending. We are a family of 8 and I think it multiplies while I sleep. My time is vital to not only my existence, but every one around me. I can’t serve anyone else if I’m drained. Getting up early and doing these things are amazing. If you haven’t read The Miracle Morning, I’d really recommend it. It goes along the same lines from a different perspective.

  9. Erin

    8 June

    I have 3 kids 5, 7, 11 and we have systems going in the morning as they all have to leave for school at 8:40am Here’s how our morning goes:
    7:30 I wake up. Kids may or may not be awake. All of them will be woken up by 7:45 if they aren’t awake. My coffeemaker turns on at 7:45.
    7:45-8:00 I make breakfast (only 3 options-same thing every weekday morning) while the kids unload the dishwasher-usually one takes top rack, one takes bottom rack, little one takes silverware-mornings where the dishes don’t need to be unloaded (usually Mondays, we eat dinner at my MIL’s Sunday nights so there’s not enough to load) they have to put their folded clothes away, each kid has a bin.
    8:00: all have to get dressed and brush teeth.
    If the kid has eaten breakfast, gotten dressed (pjs back in the drawer or hamper), brushed teeth, they can play computer or ipad.
    8:30-5 minute warning. I rush any kids falling behind, electronic games are wrapped up and saved.
    8:35-shoes on (we do 8;30 in the winter-we’re in Canada and everyone needs snow gear on)
    8:40-out the door, sunscreen is on our porch and I sunscreen everyone in the summer.

    Dishwasher & clothes washer are loaded after dinner and run after 7:30 (our power is cheaper after that time of night). Then I try to remember to flip to the dryer before I go to bed that if I have extra time in the morning I can fold a load.

    Hope that helps someone!

  10. Bonnie Nelson

    10 June

    So wise. Those are things I did when I had 8 small children had to really planned to function at all. As an older person with no children at home I had forgotten the sweet blessings of those important details. Thank you for the reminder.

  11. Mary Wilkinson

    10 June

    This is so amazing. I wanted to cry happy, peaceful tears of relief as I read. Thank you!

  12. Nathan

    11 June

    I’d love to see gym time or sone fitness activity on the list. The energy boost you receive from working out in the morning is unbelievable.

    Personally, I was glad to see reading the bible made the list. Meditation and quite time is another one I like.

  13. Ashley

    11 June

    Great ideas. Especially the list suggestion. Taking time to be thankful can really make or break my day!

    Also, I suggest reading your Bible in the first twenty minutes after waking up. Experts say you’re brain waves are operating at a higher level than any other time of day.


  14. Meansville mom

    12 June

    Years ago I read a bio on Susanna Wesley & she was fond of saying “you must have a method. ” I tell my kids that to this day. If you don’t have in mind what you need to accomplish and how well it probably won’t get d6. Love the brain dump! It really does help to make lists and prioritize. Carry it around and check off as you go for a sense of “it’s done”

  15. Regina

    12 June

    I start my day with scripture and daily meditation from Forward Day by Day. I refuel each day with this time with God. I only have my 3 y/o granddaughter that requires care and supervision, which I find more of a delight than a chore. Days that I don’t give the first part of my day to God seem most hectic.

  16. Kristen

    13 June

    I love this! It is something I’ve began thinking about lately, because if I actually wake up before my daughter, I can get so much done! I have even been working on some of these already, like 1 laundry load/ morning and menu planning… But I needed a better game plan that covered more, This sounds like what I am looking for, and very do-able! Thank you for sharing this- I think it will really improve our household- and my stress! lol

  17. Marsha

    14 June

    Great suggestions, kids are grown and I’m back in online class and working. I’m going to use these to help me be productive ( and hydrated) while sitting at computer for hours! I have used a timer for breaks and this will improve my routine even better.

  18. Great post!
    Just a little editing note- you’ve forgotten to delete “(affiliate link)” under the advertisement in your intro section 🙂

  19. maitha

    20 June

    I’m 24 years old and I have three kids.

    I dont like to wake up early in the morning but I will try do it.

    Thank you

  20. This really is an amazing list. It’s so simple, yet so hard to do! I give you so much respect for having it together with 4 under 8 — I only have a 7 month old, but still can’t get back into any sort of routine for myself. I think this will help a lot.

  21. Paula

    27 July

    I can totally relate to the working on going to bed earlier…I really struggle with that! Loved the whole list!

    • I’m so glad you love the list! I really need to work on going to bed earlier. Tonight will not be one of those nights though, unfortunately.

  22. Eliza

    30 July

    The brain dump is great! I don’t just do it in the morning, I carry a notepad and pen in my pocket everywhere so I can brain dump as soon as something pops into my head. Then when I get home, I transfer the brain dump notepad items to the correct place in my planner – does it go on the grocery list, to do list, general shopping/town list, into the calendar? This very very simple system has saved me some headaches, stress and means I am HEAPS less forgetful!

  23. Whitney, I completely agree with your list! An 8-ounce glass of water first thing in the morning really helps my energy level. I add a splash of lemon juice to mine. I also can’t survive without my morning prayer time. The rest of the day just doesn’t work without it. I am not married and don’t have children, but I also do most of the things you recommend. They make a huge difference in the day.

  24. I absolutely love this post. I am always trying to find ways for my clients reduce stress. My favorite suggestion was brain dump. I was so inspired. I saw a cute index card notebook that would be perfect for brain dump so I am doing a giveaway on my blog for a notebook and it was all inspired by your post. Thank you so much.

  25. Wow! What a great post! I started the Make Over Your Mornings course, and needed the encouragement to finish. I have worked on making my mornings look better, but often succumb to distraction (esp. on my computer, where I have my Bible reading plan), so more discipline is required. I love and agree with your top eight items, even if mine may look a bit different. I never thought of doing a “brain dump” in the morning before, but it sounds like a good idea. I also need to curb my “night-owl” tendencies, which is increasingly difficult as my sons get older and stay up later. Thanks for the sound advice and encouragement. Here’s to making our mornings work for us!

  26. Christine

    8 August

    So what time do you wake up? ☺️ These are wonderful ideas and id love to know how long they generally take you to complete them.

  27. Shelly

    11 August

    I never thought about planning dinner in the morning- but wow- that is a great idea!

  28. Great tips, I too always feel like I’m drowning but can’t seem to make headway with my daily schedule.

  29. Mei Adlah

    25 October

    Thank you so much for the tips! That helps awful lot 🙂

  30. Janet

    9 November

    I love your 8 Things list and have forwarded it to my 2 daughters who are young mums and love it too. Thank you Whitney. Good idea to Brain Dump and then give the list to Jesus and trust Him with the things that might be overwhelming us.

  31. Amanda Hensley

    10 November

    Haha!! So I’m reading this post at 10 till 8:00! Great reminders! Thanks! Hope ya’ll are doing well!!

  32. Bri

    14 November

    These are great tips! I often feel like I’m drowning too, but it is nice to be reminded that all moms feel this way at times. I also love to start the day with an empty dishwasher. On the days that I do this I am so much more productive!

  33. Reeni

    25 November

    Love these tips!! I will have to start the ones that I don’t already do:) thanks for sharing!!

  34. Tyler

    28 November

    I love all of these, but how you do convince yourself that waking up and doing all of this is more important than sleep? That’s the problem I’ve been running into… I’m pretty productive during the day, though. Just wondering 🙂

    • Ha! Well, some days it’s not, and that’s okay. I have found if I go to sleep around 10, it’s much easier to wake up and start the day. It’s the midnight and 2 am nights that make me want to snuggle under the covers longer in the morning. Part of the motivation in getting these things done is also the flow of my day. If I’ve already planned dinner and have a clean Kitchen, I’m less likely to get aggravated when my kids are asking me at 3:30 what we’re having for dinner and standing under my feet.

  35. Tisha

    16 January

    Really helpful tips! I really think I can accomplish a lot of things if I start my morning right! And checking social media and emails even before my eyes are fully open ? Oh im so guilty! I seriously need to change the habit. Thanks for this!

  36. Megan

    20 February

    So often, it is the common sense tips that are over looked. I love what you have written for the simpleness of it. That morning time really can set you up for the whole day (and I need to make more use of it). As a busy business owner and mum of 5 kids – i need this type of simplicity in my life. I’m going to write these tip on my bathroom mirror 🙂
    Thanks xo

  37. Mydhili

    23 February

    Amazing list. Iam a mom of 21/2 year old kid and my day is completely occupied. I always try to be organised and did managed it for my morning routine but for dinner time I will be running to keep it on time for my hubby and other family members. Planning dinner in the morning is a good idea . I want to try this and others I do it except writing to do list. I cannot leisurely sit and write it in the morning. So I do write it at night or evenings for the next day.

  38. Kathleen

    23 February

    My MR (morning routine) is:
    Drink Water
    Buush teeth
    Shower or wash up
    Make bed
    Dress for the day
    Hair and make up
    Pick up dirty clithes
    DONE in bedroom!
    “Dress” house- pickbup clutter and straiten
    Coffee, Sit down in prayer chair.

  39. Blue

    2 March

    Although some nice things on this list, some are impossible to those of us who have no dishwasher and have hydro use issues during the day. After 7am, hydro is too expensive to do laundry. For us it has to be done in the evening, which sucks for “winding down” at the end of the day. Dishes and laundry are the bane of my existence and stressful. Everything else on your list would be great if I could get out of bed that early when I have to be up so late doing laundry 😞

  40. LaDonna

    5 March

    Those are great ideas for empty nesters, too. Only it would take me till noon to get them done! Of course if I’d get into the habit of living like I had kids at home, I’d be less chaotic and probably late to yoga, etc. less often. Devising a to do list would be one way to be more productive. I seem to struggle to get my Bible Study Fellowship assignments done and clutter is eating my lunch!! My plans for how to balance elder care, a desire to get my doula business back up and running, and learning how to be helpful with my husband’s health issues are always voices in my brain.

  41. Some great tips here for making busy days a little less stressful.

  42. Jennifer

    29 March

    Doing laundry at night is awful. I used to do that until my husband just told me to do it during the day and hang the extra cost. It was worth it for the sanity and chaos it saved. If I missed an evening or two, the laundry would just pile up and it became impossible to catch up. Then I’d have to do it on the weekends when we should be doing things together as a family. Heaven forbid we had plans to go out. It really is worth the extra cost to do it during the day.

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