How To Get Ready For Work Faster In The Morning

Getting dressed for the office again? Stylists, makeup artists and a productivity coach share their tips.
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You’re reading First Thing, a weekly series on HuffPost UK helping to make your mornings happier and healthier.

For many of us who have been working from home since March 2020, morning routines have looked a lot like slipping into tracksuit bottoms or athleisure – if you changed out of your pyjamas at all – and throwing on a hat or headband to cover up that I-can’t-remember-the-last-time-I-washed-it hair. And forget about makeup.

So the thought of jumping back into a morning routine that includes putting together an office-appropriate outfit, applying makeup and doing your hair all before going into the office might cause some stress. “There’s a lot of anxiety,” productivity coach Ellen Faye tells HuffPost of the return to the workplace. “So that’s where the planning helps. It’s a really great time to update the routines.”

Stylists, makeup artists and hairstylists offer their tips for making getting ready before work a bit more manageable.

Assess your morning routine at the beginning of the week.

We’ve all heard the age-old adage of laying out your outfit the night before, but Faye recommends nailing down what you want to wear for the entire work week before it starts, “so you don’t have to put as much thought into it when you’re standing in your closet in the morning.”

She suggests doing the same with deciding when you want to wash and/or style your hair during the work week. For example, a client of hers who Faye says has “a big head of hair” plans to skip her morning workout on Wednesdays in order to wash, dry and straighten her hair.

Go through your closet ahead of time.

In order to lessen decision fatigue when putting together outfits and avoid wearing ill-fitting pieces, “you’ve got to do homework,” southern California-based stylist Jess Dreyfus says.

“Get in your closet, go through everything, try everything on.” Yes, everything. “You may think it fits or you may think you like it, but unless you put it on your body, you’re just not going to know. Your closet should be like a boutique. It should be a place where you love going in and getting dressed every day.”

While trying on clothes during the closet edit process, Dreyfus suggests creating outfits and even snapping pictures of them to go back to when you find yourself in a pinch in the morning. And if you need some style inspiration, look on Pinterest or Instagram.

Keeping your clothes in a consistent color palette makes it easy to mix and match.
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Keeping your clothes in a consistent color palette makes it easy to mix and match.

Curate your wardrobe around core colours.

Next Level Wardrobe founder Cassandra Sethi recommends sticking with a classic colour set “as the unifying pieces of your wardrobe to make [creating] outfits easy.” Sethi defines core colours as black, gray, white and navy. “I always tell my clients, ‘Stick in that colour palette and you can’t go wrong. You’ll always look great and you’ll always look put together,’” she says.

Make sure you have closet staples.

Having a solid set of go-tos will make it easy to build timeless outfits. Dreyfus thinks everyone should have a pair of non-ripped straight-leg jeans, “simple” black trousers, a black leather jacket, a white button-down shirt and a denim shirt. “Things that you’re going to be able to throw on in five years and it still works,” she says.

Sethi also likes the idea of keeping a “great fitting T-shirt” on hand. “I’m not talking about a T-shirt where you would maybe sleep in it and go to the gym in it,” she says, “but a T-shirt that fits you really well, that’s high-quality fabric that you can layer under a cardigan or under a blazer and be work-appropriate.”

Simplify packing your work bag with pouches or a smaller purse.

If you change the bag you carry to work from day to day, avoid having to dig for the essentials in the morning by keeping the necessities in a small crossbody, belt bag or pouch that can be easily transferred from one bag to the next, Dreyfus says.

Should you want to cut out that process altogether and need a professional everyday carryall, Dreyfus endorses adding a “very simple tan leather tote” to your closet.

Take packing items like chargers and reusable water bottles off your morning packing list by buying a set to keep at the office. “Simplify that process as much as possible so that you’re not having to do more,” Faye said.

When it comes to makeup, stick to three areas you want to focus on.

“Pick your top three favourite things that you like to do for yourself, whether it’s eyebrows, mascara, CC cream, or for your hair if you like to use a cute scrunchie or headband,” New Jersey cosmetologist Nicole Livia says. “No one has time to blow it out and curl it and do a full face of makeup, so sometimes those little things can make you feel 10 times better.”

Livia notes that feathered brows continue to be on trend, so you don’t even have to bother with tweezing in the morning, if you don’t want to. For a quick fill-in, she likes Pixi Beauty’s Brow Tamer.

Use multi-purpose products.

Save time in your getting-ready routine – and space in your makeup bag – by opting for products that can do multiple jobs, such as one of My Makeup Artist Victoria owner Victoria De Los Ríos’s favorites, Mac’s Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation. “Instead of doing your foundation, your concealer, your powder – instead of three products – you’re just using one,” said De Los Ríos, who additionally touts bareMinerals Original Loose Powder Foundation for its ability to double as a concealer.

Palettes like Dior’s Backstage Contour Palette also offer that all-in-one simplicity. New Jersey-based De Los Ríos called the palette “a lifesaver,” and noted that you can use the contour as an eyeshadow as well as a highlighter.

Keep a schedule of your morning routine on a sticky note on your mirror.
Chinsuwee Jetjumrat / EyeEm via Getty Images
Keep a schedule of your morning routine on a sticky note on your mirror.

Don’t wash your hair every day.

Amid celebrities’ ongoing debate about shower frequency, hairstylist Carly Zanoni clarifies that washing your hair two to three times a week is sufficient. “If you’re washing it every day, you’re getting rid of all those natural oils. Your hair is overcompensating, producing tons of oil and then you wind up like, ‘My hair is so greasy, I have to wash it,’” she explains to HuffPost. “If you skip washing for a couple days, your hair will adjust. And with a good arsenal of products, you can refresh your hair so you don’t have to spend a ton of time washing it every morning.”

San Diego-based Zanoni recommends making those products a dry shampoo (she loves m’Chel Haircare’s Day After Brush), a serum like Davines’ OI Oil that’ll keep ends hydrated and smooth, and a workable hairspray that will refresh curls without getting crunchy such as Davines’ This Is A Medium Hairspray.

Rely on hair accessories for easy, office-appropriate styles.

Those scrunchies and headbands that’ve made appearances throughout the Zoom era can transition to the office, too. Livia has been enjoying using headbands for a quick, put-together look and Zanoni says you can use a scrunchie for a slicked-back bun or pull out some pieces intentionally for “a professional-looking but messy bun.”

Another 90s trend making a comeback: claw clips. “Those are great if you want to twist your hair up in the back, put one of those clips and keeps it out of your face,” Zanoni says.

Write your routine on a sticky note.

Once you’ve nailed down what you want your morning to look like, jot it down on a sticky note and affix it to your mirror. “Because what happens is your mind starts to travel and you’re not thinking about your morning routine,” Faye says. “So instead of having to remember it, it’s on a Post-It and you could just follow that along.”

Faye also recommends keeping a clock in the bathroom – or wherever you get ready for work – and setting an alarm on your phone for 10 minutes before you need to leave. “The most important thing is to help manage the stress because change causes additional anxiety,” she continues. “This is about what you need to do to help reduce the stress and to help you really focus on getting out the door. We have to be kind to ourselves.”

First Thing is a weekly series on HuffPost UK Life giving you tips and advice on how to enjoy your mornings. Whether you’re an early bird or night owl, starting your day off right will make for a happier and healthier day. We’ll be sharing exercise advice, nutrition guidance, as well as ideas on forming new habits. (And no, the answer to a productive morning isn’t just setting an alarm for 5am!).