We could all—early birds and night owls, single folks and families—use a little more time in the mornings. So harness the power of tech to carve out those minutes and get out the door on schedule. From gadgets that whip up breakfast in seconds to apps that wake you at precisely the right moment for your body clock, we've picked out 12 ways you can improve the early hours of your day.
1. Get up at the right time for you
Our alarms aren't always in line with our body's circadian rhythms. And when a blaring clock wakes you from a deep cycle of sleep rather than a light one, you feel groggier as a result. To avoid this problem, try a smarter alarm.
For example, the clever Sleepace Nox Smart Sleep System ($100 on Amazon) monitors how deeply you're sleeping and nudges you awake at the optimal time. You still set a window of time when you need to get up—after all, you don't want to run late for work—but the Sleepace Nox picks the best moment within that window, based on your sleep cycle. Then it eases you into the morning with nature sounds and a lamp designed to mimic sunlight.
If you're not willing to invest in a full alarm-clock system, then some fitness trackers will perform a similar service. During the night, the Fitbit Charge 2 ($120 on Amazon) monitors your sleep, decides when it's best for your body to get up, and eventually nudges you into wakefulness by vibrating on your wrist. As with the Sleepace Nox, you choose a window of time within which you want to wake up, so you're not entirely at the mercy of your circadian rhythms. During the day, the Charge 2 does a lot more: It tracks your steps, monitors your heart rate, and reminds you to keep moving.
2. Warm the house before you wake
If you live in a chilly clime, you may find it hard to leave your toasty bed for the icy world outside your blankets. To heat the house right before you wake up, a smart thermostat can learn what temperature you like at specific times and activate itself automatically.
The third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat ($234 on Amazon) will figure out your preferences in about a week. Then you can either leave it on autopilot or control it with your phone from any olcation. It works with the Amazon Echo and Google Home too, so you can turn the temperature up or down with a voice command from the comfort of your bed.
3. Brew coffee automatically
Having a shot of coffee ready when you rise will certainly speed you up on a sleepy morning. Thanks to the growing number of smart devices hitting the market, you can find kettles and coffee makers that connect to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth so you can control them with an app—and program them to have a cup of joe waiting when you wake.
Take the Nespresso Expert Espresso Machine ($380 on Amazon), which lets you set a time for your morning mud the night before. You can even configure personalized coffee settings for different people in the family. If you forget to set it, you can still get your caffeine fix at top speed: The machine goes from cold to ready-to-brew in less than 30 seconds.
4. Hear the news while you get ready
Don't waste time flipping through the newspaper or scrolling through various apps in the morning. A smart speaker can read the news—along with the weather and your calendar appointments—aloud as you get dressed and prepare breakfast. This multitasking saves you valuable minutes.
A growing number of speakers fits the bill, but we like the Amazon Echo Spot ($115 on Amazon) because it also acts as a very capable bedside alarm clock. In addition to news, it can play audiobooks, music, and videos, and more. And you control it with Alexa voice commands, leaving your hands free to get ready for the day.
5. Check the traffic before leaving
If the roads are clear, your commute will take less time, and you can take a few more precious minutes at home. On the other hand, if you know that traffic is jamming up the route to your office, a map app can tell you exactly when you need to walk out the door to arrive on time. It can even warn you about these conditions in advance.
Although you can find several options in your app store, you can't go wrong with the tried-and-true Google Maps (free for Android and iOS). To set up traffic alerts, start by telling Google Maps where you work: Tap the menu button (three horizontal lines), Your Places, and Labeled (you only need to hit the last option if you're on an Android device); pick Work; and enter the address. Next, tap the menu button (three horizontal lines), followed by Settings, Notifications, and Commute. Now, when bad traffic builds up on your route, Google Maps will send you a warning, so you can adjust your morning routine accordingly.
6. Find your phone faster
Scrambling around looking under cushions because you can't find your smartphone can really slow you down in the morning. Luckily, both Android and iOS have built-in tools to help you locate your phone in moments.
On Android, open Settings, choose Security & location, and tap Find My Device. Once you enable this feature, you can pinpoint your phone's location or force it to make a loud noise by visiting this website on any other device.
In the iOS Settings app, tap your name, iCloud, and then Find My iPhone to turn on this feature. If your handset goes missing, you can head to the iCloud website on another device to view the phone's location on a map. As with Android, you can also force the phone to ring even if it's set to silent, making it easier to track it down.
7. Predict the weather perfectly
Should you grab an umbrella or a hat on your way out the door? What coat do you need to face the day's weather? When you don't know the forecast—or your app delivers an unclear prediction—you have to hesitate and waffle, delaying your exit.
Cast all uncertainty aside by investing in Dark Sky ($3/year for Android and $4 for iOS), which will definitively tell you what to expect. Any number of gadgets and apps offer weather forecasts, but Dark Sky excels with hyperlocal forecasts, mixing radar measurements and custom predictive technology to calculate conditions for the next few hours. You can also use it to watch simulations of rain clouds pass over your area in real time.
8. Spend less time in the bathroom
Anything you can do to get ready faster will save you time. Gadgets like electric toothbrushes will clean your teeth more efficiently, and with smart locks, you'll avoid having to hunt for your keys. But our time-saving pick is all about drying your hair faster.
The Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer ($498 on Amazon) comes with a hefty price tag, but it lives up to that up-front cost with a bundle of useful features: A fast, focused stream of air dries your hair as quickly as possible, three airflow settings help you achieve the technique that works best for your coiffure, and four heat settings let you find the perfect temperature. With a variety of tweaks and adjustments, you can find the settings that give you the most efficient morning routine.
9. Speed up breakfast prep
The best way to make good breakfast choices is to prepare your food yourself, rather than buying a pre-packaged option. But if you take too long, you'll have to eat that healthy meal on the run as you hurry to catch your bus or beat traffic. One way to solve this particular problem is to make a morning smoothie—but to prepare it quickly, you should invest in a high-quality juicer or blender.
The Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart Blender ($40 on Amazon) scores highly in the all-important speed stakes: Its 40-ounce glass jar can whip up a smoothie in just 45 seconds. Plus, you can save different blending settings so you don't have to reconfigure it each time. As a bonus, this is one of the less expensive picks in the field, and it still delivers good performance.
10. Take your coffee on the road
Maybe you forgot to set your Nespresso the night before. Maybe you want a second cup of caffeinated goodness. Or maybe you don't have the time to sit at the table and sip your morning tea. In any case, you can always take your hot beverage with you to work.
The Ember Temperature Control Mug ($150 on Amazon) will preserve a drink's warmth for as long as it takes you to drink it. (Check out our full review here.) You set the liquid's desired temperature on the device itself or through a connected app, and if you go the app route, you can also save different presets for your favorite drinks. Thanks to the Ember's sophisticated tech, all you need to worry about is getting out the front door on time.
11. Remember your morning tasks
If you're always running out the door without your keys, or you keep forgetting to water the houseplants before work, give a to-do list app a try.
We like Remember the Milk (for Android and iOS). It lets you easily organize tasks, associate them with particular days, sync them across multiple devices, and even assign certain jobs to other family members. Forgetful types can set reminders that will appear as push notifications, emails, texts, or tweets whenever you need a nudge.
The app is free, but for features like subtasks, unlimited storage, and a linked Apple Watch app, you can buy a Pro version for $40 a year.
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