10 Ways To Use The Extra Hour This Week

Last Updated Oct 28, 2011 10:16 AM EDT

I am a big fan of Real Simple magazine, but the editors have, sometimes, been known to take the "time crunch" narrative a bit far. Back in January 2007, I found myself paging through a section that asked readers a question: if you had an extra 15 minutes in your day, how would you use it? In wistful prose, the readers described how different their lives would be if only the clock would slow down for a bit. They would play with their dogs. They would play the flute. They would sit in the hammock. My favorite letter? A woman from Abilene, Texas who wrote that "Fifteen minutes of uninterrupted writing time would be a priceless gift," though, somehow, she did find 15 minutes to write Real Simple about her elusive dream.
In other words, when it comes to lamenting how starved for time we are, many of us stretch the truth. The best evidence? Most weeks have 168 hours, but once a year, the powers that be grant us a 169-hour week. This week is it (if you include Saturday night as part of this week). The clocks fall back an hour. Do you see a lot of people using that precious extra hour to write, play the flute, and sit in the hammock?

Nope. We pretty much live as we always live. Our problem is not a lack of time.

But let's say you did decide to use that extra hour for something meaningful. What would be the highest impact way to use it? Some ideas:

1. Get an extra hour of sleep (I suspect this is what most of us do).

2. Spend five minutes writing a note to each of the 12 most important people in your life.
3. Go sit outside and really observe your surroundings. This is especially great if you're in a part of the world that features an explosion of autumn color right now. A nice slow walk somewhere beautiful should do it.
4. Write in a journal about what you hope the next year will bring. New jobs? New loves? New friends? New adventures?
5. Look over your calendar for the next few weeks and spend the hour pondering what you'd like to do with your time, rather than what you "have" to do.
6. Do something out of character your kids would love, like finger-painting with them if you're a neat freak, playing video games if you're the bookish sort, or making hot fudge sundaes if you normally push organic kale chips.
7. Snuggle with your partner.
8. Read poetry.
9. Meditate or pray.
10. Visualize what you'd do on a perfect day, and brainstorm what you'd need to do to make that day happen.
Like these ideas? Then why wait for an extra hour? If you tried, I'm sure you could re-arrange a 168-hour week to include most of these if you wanted. After all, even 10 hours is small change compared to the time we spend watching TV, hitting refresh on our inboxes, surfing random websites, puttering around the house and doing errands that probably could wait. We already have more time than we think. The question is whether we're using it to build the lives we want.

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Photo courtesy flickr user Earls37a