If each day, for an entire year, you woke up an hour earlier than needed and invested that time in yourself, my experience shows your productivity would jump by 1,000 percent.
In that hour, you can do whatever you want, as long as it is self-focused and involves activities you wouldn't typically do during the workday. Each day's hour can also be different. It should just be working toward becoming a better-functioning, more thoughtful, livelier and more positive person.
The following are key themes of how you can spend that time to yield the best results.
Prepare for the day or week ahead.
This habit, by itself, can yield tremendous benefits. You will get each day or week off to a better start when you're prepared for what's coming. Instead of running from one thing to the next with your mind in a whirlwind, you'll have much more focus.
This will not only make the experience more enjoyable and less stressful, but it will also allow you to take better advantage. Instead of trying to figure out what happens next in the brief periods of time between activities, you can calmly move to the next. This will give you much-needed mental breaks and allow you to prepare for what's next. That will lead to heightened levels of presence in each activity and, consequently, higher output.
Plus, having an idea of what's coming will mentally orient your days. Knowing in the morning that you have a full day but will have to file your taxes when you get home makes that task much easier than getting home tired and suddenly remembering.
Invest in independent learning.
Waking up early is also a great time for independent learning; you can spend the time reading or learning a new skill.
Reading, on its own, is very enjoyable and rewarding. It can also give you a big productivity spike because the content you consume can often be applied to daily life. Even when they might not seem relevant, books have a funny way of being applicable. A novel about a man who ran away with the circus, for example, may help you find a way to handle an out-of-control employee.