We’re all over-stressed and over-extended, so it might seem counterintuitive to suggest waking up 30 minutes earlier to accomplish even more with our days. Most of us, however, have at least one or two “I wish I had time to…” tasks or dreams that’ve gone undone or unfulfilled for years, and if we ever want to make them happen, we need to find time in our schedules where there appears to be none. Waking up just 30 minutes earlier, five days a week, for one year will add 120 hours of (hopefully, uninterrupted) time to achieve whatever it is you’ve been meaning to achieve for as long as you can remember. Here, five uber-productive things to do with that time that’ll make you never want to hit the snooze button again.
Stretch, Tone or Burn
Wishing you were more flexible? Try 30 minutes of YogaGlo each morning. Constantly berating yourself for not having flatter abs or a tighter backside? We love Tracy Anderson’s quick workouts that can be found for free on YouTube or apps like Hot5 Fitness, which features step-by-step workouts from top trainers in almost every category of fitness. If all of that sounds a bit too ambitious for 5, 6, 7 or 8 o'clock in the morning, simply taking a 30-minute walk each day decreases the risk of heart disease by 40% (and you can multitask by listening to podcasts as you go).
Learn A New Skill
The Duolingo language app has become a pleasurable habit we feel bad about missing when we oversleep. And while our French isn’t yet perfect, it’s better than it would be if we hadn’t done the 30 minutes of language lessons a day. You can also use this time to teach yourself to play an instrument, take online classes (MIT offers them for free) or read a self-help or how-to book.
Most of us are missing the mental space in our days to simply think. Setting aside 30 minutes each morning for free-writing or daydreaming, without feeling the need to dive directly into work, can lead to greater creativity. Use this time to solve work or life problems intuitively, write the novel that’s been in your head for as long as you can remember or just clear out all of the jumbled thoughts cluttering your brain.
Unless you live under a rock, you’re probably aware by now of the myriad benefits of daily meditation. At the very least, meditation can help quiet the incessant chatter of the voice in your head that overthinks everything and drives you some degree of crazy. If you don’t know where to begin, we like the Headspace app. Its free 10-day “Take 10” program will teach you the basics in just ten minutes a day.
This can mean anything from doing your laundry to writing out a to-do list for your day. With regards to the list, we like the 1-3-5 rule—assign yourself one big task, three medium tasks and five small tasks for your day, so that your goals are reasonable and executable. You can also use this time to change burnt lightbulbs, fix a household appliance, flip your mattress or just do whatever it is that makes you feel more ‘together.’