Americans spend more than 100 hours per year commuting to work, with an average one-way drive-time of around 25.5 minutes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. When you do the math, that adds up to more than the allotted time workers receive for vacation (two weeks, 80 hours). All of this means employees are spending more time driving than ever – there were 139 million workers commuting in 2014, according to the same report.
We think that time could be better spent doing pretty much anything else! Despite the rise in remote work situations, some of us still need to commute to a job almost daily. Until the day comes where you land your work-from-home dream job (or until teleportation becomes a reality), your commute is inescapable.
The good news is there are ways to make it much more productive. Rather than mindlessly scrolling through Twitter or Instagram, you can use your commute as an opportunity to get a head start on your day or edify your mind.
Here are six ways to make your commute more constructive:
Create a plan for the day
If you’re not behind the wheel, use your commuting time to jot down tasks on your to-do list, so once you sit down at your desk, you can hit the ground running. Feel free to get specific with your strategizing – as you are writing down your priorities, break up each big to-do item into smaller pieces, so you can feel confident that they are manageable enough to get done.
If you are driving, choose a safer method and record your to-list items into your smartphone using an app such as Evernote. It will revert your voice into text so you can easily refer to it later.
Listen to a great podcast or audiobook
Listening to podcasts and audiobooks are great ways to spend your time while on a commute – they’re interesting, entertaining, and chances are, you’ll learn something new. No matter what kind of genre you’re looking for, there’s something for everyone.
Not sure where to start? Check out our list of recommendations:
- NPR’s podcast directory for various options from the popular station
- Audible.com for countless audiobook options
- Lead to Win with Michael Hyatt for career inspiration
- This American Life for great stories that will pull you in
- Rad Awakenings with Khe Hy for interviews about personal growth
- Reply All for commentary on how the internet affects modern life
Find a moment of zen
Turn the subway car into your own private meditation zone using an app such as Calm, Headspace, or 10% Happier. All of these apps offer guided meditations on topics ranging from focus to sleep. (Headspace even has a session dedicated to commuting). Even a few minutes of meditation can change your outlook to skew more positive, allowing you to start your day with less stress and improved memory, focus, concentration, and mood.
If you’d like to start even smaller, just try a few breathing exercises on your way to work. Disconnecting and letting your mind wander is widely beneficial – just remember to time it so you get off on the right stop!
Catch up on email
At SaneBox, we preach the importance of batch processing email. This method revolves around the following principles:
- You only check email a couple of times per day at specific times (example: 9:30 – 10 AM, 2 – 2:30 PM).
- You focus on responding to similar types of email at the same time.
- Once you’ve responded to the email, you clear it from your inbox.
- You get more done in less time.
So, if you commute by train, subway, bus, or rideshare, your commute may be the perfect time to process email. You’ll enter the office with a cleaner inbox and the mental clarity to focus on larger, more important tasks.
Brainstorm new ideas
Whether you use public transportation or drive a car, think of your commute as “me time.” You have X amount of time that is largely free of interruptions from pesky coworkers, random meetings, or inane water cooler chats.
According to neuroscientists, an influx in dopamine plus the distraction of an extremely habitual task (like commuting) sets you up for your most creative state of mind. So when you’re happily driving home away from the office, your mind goes into a relaxed state, and you might find you can do your best brainstorming of the day.
So take advantage of this time and indulge in your creativity – truly let your mind wander. You might have your best idea yet on your way home!
Learn a new skill
Ever wanted to learn a new language or dive into a new topic? Your commute may be the perfect opportunity to learn new things and add to your arsenal of knowledge. You can even take up a new hobby, like crocheting! The options are endless.
For learning a new language, try apps like DuoLingo or Babbel. Sites like Skillshare, Coursera, or edX offer free or inexpensive classes on various topics ranging from business to psychology. When you think of all of the time you spend traveling to work, it will seem more worth it once you use that time pursuing something you’re genuinely interested in.
When you’re stuck in traffic or the subway is late (again), it can quickly feel like you have no control over your commute. Choosing how to spend that time wisely can assuage feelings of resentment or frustration as you’re shuttling between work and home every weekday. Using your commute to learn something new, listen to an interesting podcast, or simply disconnect can take away some of the mental and emotional stress that comes with the territory. How do you make your commute more productive? Tweet at us @sanebox and let us know.