How would you describe the time from when your alarm goes off to when the bus screeches to a halt outside your door? If you're like most parents it boils down to total, utter chaos. You're not alone. "We all tend to leave stuff we have to do to the last minute," says Jamie Novak an organizational expert and author of 1000 Best Quick and Easy Time-Saving Strategies. "A list of seemingly small tasks can easily add up, and because there's only so much time in the morning, everything becomes rushed," explains Novak. There are, however, a number of ways you can make mornings go smoothly. Try these tips to give your kids a good, stress-free start to the school day.

Make meals easy. Cut down lunch prep time by preparing lunchboxes while fixing dinner. "You've already got a lot of food out," notes Novak, "And this way, you'll only have one post-meal clean up." You can also streamline breakfast by setting the table the night before, and by skipping foods that take lots of time to prepare.

Have some mom time. Get up 15 to 30 minutes before your crew so you'll have time to browse the paper, feed the dog, or just sit and have a peaceful cup of coffee. If you ease into your morning, you'll be less likely to feel stressed and take your anxious feelings out on your kids.

Pack backpacks in advance. Sure, you've heard it before, but packing up in advance is an essential step to keeping morning craziness to a minimum. When your child finishes his homework, have him pack up all of the books, permission slips, instruments, gym clothes and everything else he may need for the next day. Adding this to the homework routine prevents you from having to worry about last minute scrambles and forgotten papers.

Turn time into a game. Use timers to motivate children. "Kids love the challenge and game of beating a timer," says Novak. "They'll sprint around the house completing their tasks just to beat the clock."

Check the weather the night before. What's worse than scrambling to find your child's missing rain boot when you wake up to pouring rain? Get in the habit of checking the weather the night before so you'll have umbrellas, jackets, and hats at the ready.

Plan transportation. If there is no bus service in your neighborhood, see if you can find other parents to join you in a carpool. When you're responsible for getting other people's children to school on time, you'll have extra motivation to get out the door. Novak suggests using online calendars to organize the carpool so that everyone will have easy access to the latest version of the schedule.

Select outfits the night before. If your little fashionista has to try on tons of clothing before settling on the perfect outfit, start the process the night before--and narrow down her options. "Hang or store clothing you don't want your child wearing to school in a different place from her school clothes," suggests Kathy Peel, author of The Family Manager book series. This way, screaming matches over wearing princess outfits in public can be saved for the weekend.

Designate a launch pad. Be it an entryway cubby contraption or just your kitchen counter, establish a place where children can store all of the items they need for the next day. It can be helpful for this spot to be right by the door so items can be dropped upon entering the house and picked up when leaving.

Make it a team effort. Encourage children to help each other get out the door by turning them into a team with some sort of group reward or privilege, suggest Novak. "Kids will think: 'If we all get out the door on time, something good will happen, so here, let me help you put your backpack on and tie your shoes,'-- it gets everybody involved in getting out the door."

Think outside of the box. Avoid morning bathroom congestion by storing brushes and hair bands in the kitchen (where you usually end up using them) rather than the bathroom, suggests Novak. Also consider adding a mirror outside of the bathroom or in the kitchen to help alleviate some of the bathroom mirror backup.