10 Tips To Get Ready For Work in 20 Minutes (Plus A Video Of My Actual Routine!)



GEtting REady for Work and life faster in the morning

I picked up my phone and saw a calendar notification flashing. “Academic awards ceremony for K – 8:05.” Do you know what time it was? 8:03. And the school was 12 minutes away. I slammed my seat belt back in the receiver and drove like Batman to get back to the school before my son walked across the stage at the school assembly. 

With my toddler in my arms, I sprinted into the gymnasium and collapsed in a chair near some moms I knew. My heart was pounding from the adrenaline rush, but I made it in time to see my son receive his award. I didn’t have to worry for one second about how I looked, but I do need to work on checking my calendar…

Many of the moms were dressed in sweatpants, a hat and slippers and one of them leaned over to whisper in my ear, “I don’t know how you do it, April. You look like a million bucks no matter what time I see you. Why can’t I show up dressed and ready like you do?” 

Wait, you’re a stay-at-home mom. I thought this was about getting ready for work Oh, I am a stay-at-home mom, and that is work. It’s my job. And getting ready for any job requires the same process. I’ve had a corporate job, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 11 years, and now I’m a work-from-home-stay-at-home-run-the-kids-around mom. No matter what kind of job you have (and we all have a job), these tips will get you ready in 20 minutes or less.

Outfit flat lay

Getting ready for work or a day at home can be fast!

Last week I wrote a post about why I get ready every single day, even as a stay-at-home-mom, and they are the same secrets I used when I had a corporate job and was getting ready for work. Even though I didn’t have kids at the time, I did have a well-used snooze button. I promised to share my secrets of how I get ready in only 20 minutes or less in this week’s post. 

I don’t have a lot of time to spend primping, nor do I have the patience for it. I’ve got things to get done! It’s fun to spend extra time getting ready for special occasions, but those are rarely on weekdays, and usually only a few times a year. With 6 kids I have to get ready fast in the morning, so my daily routine is 20 minutes or less. I want to look nice, but not spend much time doing it. Since my post last Monday I received a LOT of questions about my routine and how I do it. Not only did I write it all out for you, but I made you a video!

Be sure and check out my tips and answers to all of your questions below.

How to Get ready in 20 minutes or less - a video of my routine


Shower at night. This is my number one tip. If I say I’m going to take a quick shower, I’m lying. I mean it in the moment, but once I get in that hot water, time loses all meaning. I love taking a leisurely shower, and I can’t do that in the morning. Showering at night is a great way to decompress and wash away the day. I like to imagine all the stress going down the drain. When I had a gaggle of toddlers/infants (I had triplets + 2 more in 3 years), it was often the only moment of solitude in my entire day. 

If I shower in the morning, I can get ready in 30 minutes if I’m super disciplined and keep my shower extremely short, WHICH TAKES ALL OF MY WILLPOWER. If I have to wash my hair, make it 45 minutes, depending on how much extra time my hair takes, but really I lose all sense of time in the shower, and then it’s game over.

DON’T LOOK AT YOUR CELL PHONE AT ALL.  Yes, I was shouting. I can’t emphasize what a time-sucker my cell phone can be. It starts by checking that one text that beeped in, or looking at the weather, and before I know it 10 minutes (or more) have flown by. I could be half-way ready!

Cell phones distract when getting ready for work

Set a stopwatch or timer to keep you conscious of the time. Play beat the clock. Maybe this feeds into my competitive side, but watching that countdown on my phone keeps me from dawdling or getting distracted. This process can drag on if I don’t stay focused, especially because I’m not a morning person at all. The timer helps me be more alert and aware of my time. Upbeat music helps too. Whatever you need to jolt yourself into action. Don’t start looking at other things on your phone when you set the timer. It’s the kiss of death.

Do things in an efficient order. I use Lipsense, and it has to be put on in layers with drying time between. Instead of applying it last and standing there doing nothing while it dries, I put the layers on in between putting on other makeup.

Choose your clothes, shoes, and accessories the night before and lay them out so you can get dressed in one to two minutes. The Stunning Style Wardrobe Guide is perfect for making this as easy as possible, even if you wait until the morning because it also comes with a calendar telling you exactly which outfit to wear today!

Get ready for work or home

Get ready first thing before I leave my bedroom. Once I go out there, the kids assume I’m available, and it is really easy to get sucked into the whirlwind of their needs. If they come into my room looking for assistance, I say, “I can help you as soon as I’m done getting ready.” Unless someone is bleeding, badly hurt, or there is something like broken glass in the kitchen, it can wait. I stop for a screaming baby, but not for a fussing baby. There’s a big difference. Fussing is their version of a toddler’s whining. They want something, but it’s not an emergency. It can usually wait 5 minutes.

Get up early. I get up at 6:30 to get ready so I’m available to help the kids by 7:00. This is part of the tip not to leave the bedroom until I’m ready. Once I get into the action of the day, I have a hard time getting back to my bedroom to get ready. Other tasks call to me. Trying to get ready while I help them get ready makes everything more frantic, and someone ends up not getting what they need (usually me). This is my time.

Wash my hair once or twice a week. If you haven’t discovered dry shampoo, you are missing out. My very most favorite is Living Proof. It’s such a great product, and I use it in this video! It is pricy though, so my favorite drug store brand is Batiste. I use both. Quality hair products make your hairstyle last more days. I love Living Proof shampoo and conditioner as well. Since I only wash my hair once or twice a week, it lasts me a long time, and that compensates for the cost.


Since we don’t have early church, I wash my hair on Sunday mornings when I have more time to really style it and apply the products I like for adding texture. Then I can just touch up the next several days with dry shampoo and flat ironing the ends. I wash it again on Wednesday nights, if needed, and go ahead and style it with half the products, then add the other two in the morning. Sleeping in that hair net you saw in the video keeps my hair smooth (update: I now use a satin hair scarf because the other one was itchy). 

Without the scarf I wake up with my hair sticking straight up like a troll doll, and it takes so much longer to style because I have to get it to lay down first. If you have longer hair and have 1 day a week that you can really put the time into straightening or curling it as you like, you can maximize those leftovers. Merrick wrote a great post about doing that with longer hair.

Keep all my get-ready stuff in a basket that I pull out from under the sink. No digging or searching for things. It’s easy to pull out and easy to put away, and it saves me a lot of time. Clearing my bathroom counter is a breeze! I have another basket with stuff I use occasionally. This basket is stuff I use most often. This is what it really looks like. I didn’t straighten it at all for you.

Getting ready for work basket of products

Here's how I do it

This is my exact routine to get ready for work faster:

The night before:

  1. Shower/shave/exfoliate/etc.
  2. Moisturize my face
  3. Hydrating cream for my body
  4. Deodorant. An extra benefit of this is the deodorant has time to set and I don’t get streaks on my clothes the next morning.
  5. Dry and style my hair if I wash it mid-week, or if I was working in the yard and have wood chips, leaves or rocks in my hair (it happens a lot in the warm months). Why can’t it be flowers stuck in my hair?
  6. Brush teeth
  7. Set out my clothes
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In the morning when getting ready for work or your day:

  1. Put clothes, shoes, accessories on. Since I showered the night before, I can get my clothes on immediately in about one minute. It takes the same amount of time to put on real clothes as yoga pants.
  2. Apply dry shampoo (but don’t brush yet)
  3. Apply foundation.
  4. Put on eyeshadow primer (it needs a few minutes to set up before I apply eyeshadow or the eyeshadow will not blend)
  5. Brush my teeth (being efficient and giving my primer time to set up)
  6. Clean lips with witch hazel to prep for Lipsense
  7. Put on first layer of Lipsense
  8. Eyebrows (read about how I grew my eyebrows back here)
  9. Blush
  10. Second layer of Lipsense
  11. Eyeshadow, waterproof eyelinermascara (if I need to shave time off my routine, foundation, eyebrows, mascara and lips are perfect.)
  12. Final layer of Lipsense
  13. Brush the dry shampoo out of my hair and spot straighten as needed. I have naturally curly hair, and always have some crazy spots in the morning. (I’m look at YOU, bangs!)
  14. Apply gloss layer of Lipsense
The final result after getting ready for work

Done. This is me on a morning I got ready in 20 minutes or less following the formula above. Follow along with this burgundy makeup tutorial.

I know not everyone likes to do things in the same order every day, but that is how I can be efficient with my time. Structure and routine are essential for me. I do makeup before hair because with my bangs I’m going to be pushing them up to do my eye makeup and mess them up.

All the Questions

How Early Do you get up and exercise?

If my exercise of choice will really elevate my heart rate, I get up at 6:00 a.m. because doing that at night disrupts my sleep. For something mindful like yoga, I go to an 8 p.m. class because it helps me sleep. During really busy seasons, I won’t do any exercise that lasts more than 30 minutes, including warm up and cool down because I will talk myself out of it. (I think) I don’t have time!! 

Prep for morning exercise the night before as well. This includes making my protein drink and my ice water and putting them in an insulated thermos and water bottle (this is my favorite) on my bathroom counter, setting out my workout clothes and shoes, and setting up my exercise DVD before I go to bed. I realized a while ago I was wasting 30 minutes or more getting ready for my workout because I’m so groggy (and, um, I was checking my phone), and it should take me no more than 5.

Getting ready for a workout

Don't you need another shower after you exercise? What if I'm covered in breast milk because I leaked all night? What if I have night sweats?

After a short, intense morning workout, I’m hot and happy to take a short shower in tepid water, so I’m not tempted to stay. I’m feeling pumped and ready to tackle the day too, so I shower in 3 minutes. A shower cap keeps my hair dry, and I use dry shampoo to refresh. I still shower the night before because that is when I wash my face, moisturize, shave, exfoliate, and all those other things that can make a shower take so long. This is just a quick rub down with soap to get the sweat/breastmilk off and be fresh again. If you do more intense workouts and have sweaty hair when you are done, see Merrick’s tips for that.

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What Time Do You Go to bed?

Anywhere from 9:00 (if I’m super exhausted) to 10:30, which is my usual time.

Do you ever wear loungewear?

Yes! After the kids are in bed and I’m done for the day I put on something more comfortable. That is my signal to my body and brain that we are finished working. I also wear it after church on Sundays because we chill after church. I have cute loungewear, though, and I’m not embarrassed to answer the door in it. Plus my hair and makeup are done, so I look much, much better (as seen in the video).

Loungewear for evenings to wind down

I have a collection of cute and comfortable loungewear. Striped joggers, a soft, vibrant colored tee, and a cardigan with my moccasin slippers

What if I don't have 20 minutes all in a row to get ready?

It happens. I oversleep or I wake up to a kid who has had an accident or an overflowing toilet or dog vomit, or all the other exciting things moms wake up to (a.k.a. disasters). There are days when I have to do my 20-minute get-ready routine in pieces. 

First: I put on clothes before I leave my bedroom. No matter what. It takes 30 seconds to pull on some jeans and a tee. All t-shirts go with blue jeans. Just grab one of each. No thinking required, and you immediately look and feel better than if you were wearing pajamas or loungewear. 

Second opportunity: I do something about my hair, because with short hair there is no merciful ponytail, and I wake up looking C-R-A-Z-Y if I don’t wear my head scarf. I can make a big improvement in 30 seconds with a comb and dry shampoo. 

Third opportunity: I do eyebrows and lips at a minimum. More if I can. If I need/have a fourth opportunity I will add some mascara and accessories. When you are really crunched follow the French beauty aesthetic of foundation, brows, lashes, lips. Done.

Quick and Easy Makeup Formula Getting Ready for Work

Think about the 2- to 5-minute increments you waste on your phone. You do have time if you look at where you are losing time. The kids are eating, run and put on some mascara. I don’t let my kids watch much TV, but if you have to put on an episode of Sophia the First or Thomas so you can get dressed, it’s worth it. And actually, if your child is 12 months or older, I love the Preschool Prep videos (DVDs here and digital download version here). Mind-numbing to an adult, but kids are engrossed. It’s educational, so it’s an exception to my no-TV-during-the-week rule. 

What if my kids are sick?

If I have sick kids and I’ll be cleaning up vomit or wiping noses all day, I choose different clothes than on a day I’m going out, but I still wear real clothes. A button up flannel or cute tee and jeans are all washable, comfortable, and still perfect for being puked on or answering the door or running to the store for more apples, bananas, crackers and Sprite. 

I took these pictures the week I had 3 days of lap duty with my sick 3-year-old. She did actually vomit all over me on day one, approximately 30 seconds after I took the adorable picture of her sleeping in my arms below. I took it all off and put it straight in the washer and put on something else just as comfortable and washable. If I am the one vomiting, I stick to (cute) lounge wear and my bed/couch/bathroom floor because I’m D-Y-I-N-G.

What I Wore When My Daughter Was Sick

What about cleaning? I don't want to ruin my clothes.

When I’m cleaning or cooking (and sometimes when I’m eating because there is a magnetic attraction between white clothes and tomato sauce) I wear an apron. Find one that you like!! All of my clothes are washable, so if something does get on them, it will usually wash out. The one exception is cleaning bathtubs and showers because I get soaking wet when I do those (if you don’t, please share your tips). I will do one or two right before my shower at night, but that’s not every night.

I can't do my whole get ready routine in 20 minutes!

Don’t get sucked into the all or nothing mentality when it comes to getting ready. It doesn’t have to be a choice between ready to attend the Oscars and I-haven’t-showered-in-3-days. There are so many degrees of in between, and they are all better than the nothing look. Putting on your clothes is the first and fastest step, and it makes the biggest impact. It will also trigger you to want to complete the process. 

Think about the 20% of your get-ready routine that makes 80% of an impact. Clothes are the first 40% of impact and it takes 2 minutes at most! ANYTHING you do with your makeup and hair is better than nothing. Prioritize which items will make the biggest impact in the shortest time. For me it’s eyebrows and lips, then mascara. Some days you will be able to do more, and that’s great. On the days you need to do less, you are still presentable, even in the office.

We all have our best makeup and hairstyles that take a lot more time, but those usually aren’t the ones we can do everyday as a stay-at-home mom or a busy working woman. Whether you are a habitual snooze button abuser, or your mornings are hectic because of little ones, we all need a faster routine for getting ready for work. Find easier, faster hairstyles for normal days. Dry shampoo, headbands, hats, clips, scarves and ponytails can be a great way to extend another day or two without washing your hair. 

There are so many ways to make a pretty ponytail instead of the, “I give up” ponytail. Sleek and low, high pony, side pony, middle part, pompadour, headband and a ponytail, topsy tail (oh yes, they are still around, and I have one for my girls!), braids, etc. I used to have long hair, and I used all these tricks for the additional days I didn’t want to wash my hair.

Quick and easy hairstyle for getting ready for work

I will be referencing this article with 34 quick and easy hairstyles for my daughters’ long hair when school starts! When you are getting ready for work or the day, your hair can be on point in no time. Photo credit.

What if I'm going to be doing something dirty and gross that day? Do I still get ready?

I love to work in my yard and gardens, I mean, really, really dirty work. But I still get ready for the day, just on a smaller scale. Yard work clothes and shoes plus foundation (bc mine has SPF 50 in it and doesn’t sting my eyes like sunscreen does), eyebrows, mascara and lips make me happy when I’m digging trenches. Even though I usually wear a hat to protect my skin, I still brush my hair, but don’t necessarily worry about making it perfect. 

Even if I’m dirty, I don’t look like a zombie that just dug herself out of a fresh grave with that shovel I’m carrying. I can run to the nursery or Home Depot, and people can clearly see that I’ve been shoveling mulch, but my face looks nice. And honestly, I just FEEL better. Plus, neighbors seem to stop and say hi when I’m outside, and it’s nice to not look horrible for that.

When people asked why you are so dressed up

How can I be dressed up in just a t-shirt and jeans?

This applies whether you are getting ready for work or staying home, because a lot of work environments are really casual, and a nice tee and jeans would be perfect. But I’m not talking about your stretched out, oversized, stained t-shirt from college or the one you paint in paired with mom jeans (I don’t care what the trends say, it’s a mistake to make your rear look 10 miles long). 

I’m talking about good t-shirts and flattering jeans. You can get them at any price point. They can be anywhere from a dollar at the thrift store to $200 at Nordstrom. They don’t have to be expensive to be flattering. My favorites tees are from Banana Republic and J. Crew, but I’ve had good ones from Target, too. Whatever your budget allows is perfect.

Get tees that are a flattering fit, meaning not skin tight, make all the difference. I like mine to skim my body so you can see my figure, but you can’t see the outline of my last meal through it. If we can see your belly button, it’s too tight. I also love button ups and sweaters. It all depends on the weather. My favorite jeans are Express for both comfort and a flattering fit. Add a pair of flats, fashion sneakers or sandals and throw on a necklace or earrings, and you look great! If you want to take it to the next level, add a cardigan or jacket for that extra oomph.

Simple outfit formulas to get dressed quickly

You’re ready to try this, and I’ve got some easy outfit formulas to make this as easy as possible. If you work, I’ve got professional outfits, and if you have a casual lifestyle (at home or at work), I’ve got you covered too. 

Office outfits

Work outfit formulas to get ready in  minutes or less

What is considered office attire has changed dramatically in the last few decades. It can be anything from t-shirts and jeans (which you can see below) to pencil skirts and heels, and everything in between. I’ve tried to cover all the options to give you quick and easy ideas for getting dressed for work. Here are more ideas on how to combine your casual and work capsule wardrobe.

CAsual outfits

Simple casual outfit formulas to get ready in  minutes or less

Do I look fancy? I kind of do. But I’m not. All stretchy. All comfortable. All as easy to throw on as yoga pants. All very presentable. I would stop at the school, run errands, walk into my husband’s office or answer my door for Ed McMahon in any of these outfits.

But, but, but...

But stop. There are a million variables and reasons why you CAN’T do this, and if you don’t want to, that’s ok. If you do WANT to do this, I’m here to help! Use the tips that are helpful to you, give it a try, and do as much as you can. You don’t have be a street-style icon everyday. This is about looking nice, or at the very least looking better than you did when you woke up, and getting ready for work or your day in record time! It will take practice and effort at first to get your own routine down, but it will pay off. First step, put on your clothes! The rest is icing.

Did I answer all of your questions? Are you going to try this? Do you have any tips for getting ready for work? Share your success. Or failure. We can laugh together, and then you can try again!

Are you ready for more inspiration?

Looking for even more inspiration? Discuss capsule wardrobes and classic style with a fun community of like-minded women in the Classic Capsule Conversations Facebook group! You can also follow me on Instagram to see how what I wear everyday!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase through my links I get a small commission, but it doesn’t cost you anything extra.

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