Q. How can my family establish a more efficient morning routine on school days?

A. "The first tip on how to have a better morning is to have a better night before," says Brooke Stone, president of Brooke Stone Lifestyle Management, which matches personal assistants to busy families in the New York metropolitan area. Pack lunches, set out clothing for the following day, pack the school backpacks. It removes a lot of stress from the morning.

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"Every morning, something goes wrong," Stone says. "Somebody spills something, something drops, someone gets up late." Having these other concrete tasks already taken care of leaves time to deal with the inevitable glitch.

Have your children help with the "night before" tasks. That also helps them develop good lifelong habits. "I still set out my clothes every single night because I did that with my mom every single day," says Stone, now 29.

How to get the family on board? One night at dinner, let everyone know you want help to make mornings smooth and streamlined. Bring up ideas, and ask the family to suggest ways to make mornings go better. That way, it's a family project and not something mom dictated, Stone says.

Give it a few weeks for the pieces of the new routine to get set in place. Then tweak, if necessary. "If Sally still doesn't like setting out her clothes the night before, try making it the first thing she does in the morning," Stone says.