The time it takes you to get to and from work is potentially lost time for those travelling to their jobs every day. Unless you’re working from home chances are you have somewhat of a commute every day. This time is dead, wasted time for many people. It can be difficult to be productive while maneuvering a bike through traffic or carpooling coworkers. Fortunately there are some creative ways to make that dead time into useful time for you. Whether you’re walking, taking the train, or driving, there is a way to stay productive while commuting to and from work.
Before deciding on how to remain productive while commuting, you have to decide what constitutes as being productive. Is being productive related to work, extracurricular hobbies, your personal life, or all of the above? For some, being productive just means doing something for yourself on your commute that isn’t just blankly staring at the road or out the windows of a train. And this is true; maybe your dead time on your commute is quiet time for yourself without distractions from work or home. That in itself is utilizing the time you have for commuting instead of wasting it.
If you are walking or biking to and from work it can be tricky to remain productive when you need your eyes to watch the road or the sidewalk. And for those commuting via bicycle, you’ll need a hands-free activity to ensure productivity. For those who walk to and from work, consider turning your walk into an exercise. Keep your belongings to a minimum, get a backpack and a change of clothes, and turn your walk home into a run. If you’d rather not turn an exhausting walk into an even more exhausting run, you can utilize that time to be alone. Do some thinking, enjoy being outside, or schedule out your night. If you are biking, consider listening to a podcast. Try something fun like Serial, or something informational relating to work, or current events. Or just throw in your headphones and listen to music, it’s a great way to tune everything out and just have some time to yourself without concentrating on anything.
Commuting via train, subway, or bus is truly being given the gift of time in terms of commuting productivity potential. You are a passenger, your hands are free, and your eyes are free to complete many different tasks. You can bring your laptop and complete some tasks for work, watch informational videos and Ted talks that relate to work, read a book, knit, or play a video game. This time given to you on your commute is basically open to interpretation for you.
Start a reading list for the year and spend your commute getting through your list. Check emails or voicemails, create a schedule for your day, focus on yourself and do some deep breathing, or use the time to learn a new language. The average travel time for work commute is 25.4 minutes in the U.S. so the potential time to get work done, learn something new, or read is immense over a short amount of time. Especially on public transportation where you can focus on the task you choose.
Driving or carpooling from work is another way to commute where you don’t have all of your senses free for productivity, but enough to utilize your time. Listening to a book on tape is a great activity for this kind of commute. This might not be ideal for shorter commutes, but it’s a great way to get some reading in instead of listening to pointless radio chatter. Another great way to fill your driving commute with productivity is to take this time to reflect and ramp up or ramp down, depending on whether you are coming or going from work. If you’re heading to work, start thinking about your schedule, the things you’d like to get done, and plan out your day. If you are leaving work, stop thinking about work and decide what you’ll have for dinner, any activities for the night, or any long term plans for the weekend or an upcoming vacation.
If you are carpooling with coworkers, take this time to collaborate or discuss work matters. Find out how their performance is doing or ask for advice on a project that’s giving you a hard time. This is a great time to discuss work without being at work, so take this time to vent frustrations, ask for help, or talk about any other confidential matters. If you’re carpooling with family, take this time to ask about their day, talk about yours, and wind down or ramp up for your day together. Find ways to cut down your commute in the morning, leave a few minutes early after work, or reconsider your route in order to cut down your commute. Or just accept the time it takes and find ways to utilize your time with your carpooling partner.
Commuting is a necessary part of working for many of us and for some of us it’s a rather big chunk missing from our day where we are just sitting in a car, on a train, or walking to and from work. Really, though, that is a valuable chunk of time that we can repurpose in order to do something useful with it. However, that time really doesn’t have to be spent listening to work podcasts, watching webinars, or checking emails. That time can be spent doing your own thing and keeping your mental state in check. For those whose mornings are spent hastily getting ready, days are spent getting work done, and nights are spent with kids or family, the commute can be a welcomed relief to relax and enjoy the tranquility of the traffic jam. Whichever way you’d like to use your commute, do it in a way that benefits you.