According to the United States Census Bureau survey, Americans spend more than 100 hours a year commuting to work. Australians don’t fare much better, as the average daily commute time ranges from 22 minutes up to 35 minutes. And if the infamous opening scene from Office Space is any indication, most workers don’t enjoy weaving in and out of traffic (or being crammed into a public transportation, as the case may be).
However, commuting doesn’t have to be a useless time suck, because there are plenty of productive uses for your commute time. Here are a few suggestions:
One of the few things I actually miss about commuting is the amount of reading I used to get done sitting or standing on the subway. Depending on your preferences and tech accessories, you can catch up your RSS feeds on a smartphone, read the latest bestseller on your favorite e-reader, or go old school with a paperback or magazine. Choose something light-hearted if you need escapism or further your career with a business book. I’ve even seen people skimming legal briefs or reviewing notes for a presentation on the subway.
Maybe you’re someone who drives to work (please don’t try to juggle an e-reader and the steering wheel!) or perhaps you get motion sick trying to read on a moving vehicle. Listening to an audio book or a podcast may be an even smarter use of your time! Many libraries offer audio books to patrons, or you could sign up for an expensive membership like Audible. Many podcasts are available as free downloads. Alternatively, you could listen to some nice, soothing music to drown out the sounds of honking horns or chattering commuters and start your day off right.
If you’re lucky enough to live within walking or biking distance from work, this is a great way to squeeze in a workout on nice days. Some companies even offer incentives to employees who bike to work, because it’s more eco-friendly than driving and means they don’t have to provide parking. Just make sure you bring a clean shirt or a towel so you won’t be hot and sweaty during that morning meeting! If your workplace has shower facilities, that’s even better. For those who can’t walk or bike to work, consider parking a few blocks from your office or getting off the subway or bus a few stops early so you can walk the rest of the way and explore the area around your office. You might discover a great new lunch spot or treat yourself to a cup of gourmet coffee.
If you can’t walk, bike, or ride public transportation to work, then car-pooling is your next most eco-friendly option. It also gives you a chance to catch up with coworkers, neighbors, or friends and save on gas money. Whether you’re brainstorming for your next client presentation or merely comparing notes about the previous night’s episode of The Bachelorette, car-pooling let you connect with people outside the office and feel like part of a community. Plus, you may not need to spend as much time chatting during happy hour if you’ve already spent time before work chewing the fat.
Sometimes you just need a few minutes to let your mind wander (but don’t let it wander off the road if you’re driving!). Daydreaming can help you find a fresh approach to a creative challenge or clear your head for the beginning of the day. Some find that people-watching (especially on public transportation) can keep the creative juices flowing and keep them entertained. Others prefer meditation or even the calming, repetition motions of knitting (just keep those needles to yourself).
Your turn! How do you spend your commute? Is there anything you would add to this list? Leave a comment, and let us know!
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