Updated: May 27
Being caught in traffic or waiting for a train on your way to work can be stressful but here's how to effectively use that time so that you can arrive feeling relaxed and ready to go.
Creative Ways to Enjoy Your Commute
In our last post, we discussed how your commute can be a great opportunity to start / end your day and get into the right mindset for what is to come. In this post, we will discuss more ways to explore to make your commute one of the best parts of your day.
Write Down Things That You Are Grateful For
If you are feeling a bit blue, try to write down the things that you are grateful for - this is always a great way to raise your spirits. It’s not too often that we stop and think about the things that got us to where we are; it is easy to take things for granted until we don’t have them any more. Writing down what you are thankful for having can make your day better because it gives you an opportunity to reflect. This will allow you to take your mind off of the actual commute, and instead use the time to uplift your mood and feel better about the day ahead. Perhaps this can be an activity you work in once a week during your least favorite day.
Enjoy Some Entertainment
Your commute can be a great time to let loose and have a little fun. Listen to that album you’ve been meaning to check out that your buddy sent you, or maybe throw on some of your favorite sports highlights. And if you’re really looking to get creative, check out how Zane Lowe, global director and host of Apple Music, described his 40 morning commute with his kids in the car:
“I like that my commute in Los Angeles involves spending time with my family in my car listening to music, playlists and conducting business in an isolated environment. Our youngest took control of my phone the other morning and introduced me to a brand new artist I hadn’t heard of, which I then took great joy in claiming discoverability rights for. I’m only half kidding, but really it’s a constant tussle between my family and I as to who’s taking control of the sound system. I take great pleasure in introducing them to Jane's Addiction, Del the Funky Homosapien and PJ Harvey. Somewhere in between, we strike a balance between essential music history and discoverability, and it’s always an amazing listen.”
If your commute is on the shorter side and you’re riding solo, maybe you can get some inspiration from Jonathan Goldstein, who typically walks 10 minutes each way to a studio in Minneapolis for his “Heavyweight” podcast:
“I usually listen to “The Daily”, but if it's too sad or if I feel too sad or just generally not ready to let the world in, I turn to more lighthearted fare. I've been enjoying “Mission to Zyxx,” which is an absurdist, very funny, improvised science fiction serial — so at the other end of the real-world spectrum.”
If you’ve got a mix of alone time and kids in the car, this is how Glynn Washington, a serial podcast host, spends his lengthy two hour morning drive through Oakland:
“Like a lot of people in the Bay Area, I have a kid carpool. I am the D.J. and the podcasts are my vinyl. I’m laying down the tracks for them on the way to school. The kids in the car are all 12 and it’s a great age for podcasts. I know I got them when the story is going long, and we pull up to school and they don’t get out. On the last 15 minutes of my trip, when I am alone, I listen to the quiet and let my mind be a podcast of its own.”
Washington recommends the following podcasts:
“Radiolab”: Each episode investigates some strange, science-based aspect of the world.
“The Stoop”: A show that dives deep into stories about being black.
“The Nod”: This show celebrates the genius, the innovation and the resilience that is so particular to being black in America,
“Uncivil”: A history podcast that brings to life the untold stories of the civil war.
“Ear Hustle”: A podcast that is recorded behind the bars of San Quentin State Prison in California.
“Song Exploder”: Each episode, a musician talks about his song and tells its origin story.
Tune in to Your Surroundings
All of the ways we’ve discussed about turning your commute into a positive, uplifting experience have been focused on performing certain activities, interacting with others, or using some sort of technology. However, your commute can also be a unique opportunity to take your mind off of everything else you have going on and focus on what is happening in the moment. Take a look at how Jonathan Kaplan, a psychologist and director of the SOHO CBT and Mindfulness Center, spends his 30 minute commute via subway in New York:
“To be mindful, I put away my phone and focus on the sensory experience of riding the train. After checking in with my posture, I feel the vibrations in my feet and notice how the muscles in my legs tighten and release to help maintain my balance. (I’m usually standing). I also look around the car to see the other people here with me. Observing the diversity of people present, I make a mental note that we’re all in this together (literally and figuratively). This reminder of our shared experience always helps to lighten my mood. Too often, we tune out while commuting. Why not use it as a time to deliberately tune-in?"
As you can see, you can enjoy your commute and use the time you have productively, even without any allotted activity or usage of technology.
Suggestions for Productive Commutes
As a high performer, you want to be at your best when you step into the office (or into your Zoom meetings for the time being). Here are some great suggestions, put together by Forbes, for ways that you can ensure you’re in the right state of mind when you arrive to work each day you’re in the office in 2021:
1. Record your thoughts.
“You can always listen to books and podcasts. However, I find that an even better way to make use of long drives is to use Google Voice or a voice assistant such as Alexa to dictate. You can use driving time to brainstorm, make to-do lists or map out a business strategy. You can even dictate emails or blog posts. While talking on the phone, even hands free, is distracting, I find it's easier to keep my focus on driving if it's just me talking. Even if I don't have a specific task to complete, this is a good way to clarify my thoughts and come up with new ideas. This is a way to turn driving time into something creative and productive.” - Shawn Porat, Scorely
2. Listen to audiobooks.
“I've found that audiobooks are the most effective way to manage my time on the road. It certainly helps that the time you spend listening to audiobooks often takes place just before you step into the office so you can instantly reflect on what you're learning and see how you can apply that knowledge to your work. On top of that, listening to audiobooks means that you're preparing yourself to think critically right off the bat, allowing you to be on top of things from the get-go. With most books being about eight to 16 hours long, they can usually be finished within two weeks of commuting, and the ease of access that audiobooks have to offer lets you pick up where you left off from almost anywhere.” - Robert De Los Santos, Sky High Party Rentals
3. Do high-level strategy work.
“Many business owners ignore the importance of strategy. Without a strategy, there will never be execution. When you're commuting, the best thing to do is strategize your day and strategize the goals for your company. In order to take your business or career to the next level and embrace success, you have to be in alignment with yourself on what your goals are and strategize how to get there. When we arrive at the office or at a workplace, we immediately turn into doer and it eliminates our ability to strategize how to grow the business or how to achieve the goals within the company.” - Fred Lam, iPro Management Group Corp.
4. Catch up on the little things.
“Depending on the length of your commute and where you live, using ride-share services such as Uber or Lyft can give you that extra time to reply to emails, take calls and catch up with your team and projects while you're getting to your next important destination. As an entrepreneur, time is very valuable so maximizing it at every chance is worth every penny -- especially since this is a transportation expense for the business. If this is not an option, then listening to audibles and podcasts is another way to make great use of your time spent commuting. It keeps us informed and inspired. For short 20-minute commutes, I highly suggest Blinkist, which provides key, actionable takeaways of books so you can learn on the go.” - Stephanie Vermaas, THIS IS A LOVE SONG LLC
5. Conduct a daily review.
“A daily review is something you can do whether you’re stuck on a bus, train or in your own car in traffic. It's the perfect time to make sure the most important parts of your day are near the top of your to-do list. If they aren’t, mentally make the changes you need before you get to work and it’s too late to make meaningful changes. Your daily review could include a brainstorming session. If you’re on the train or bus, put your phone down and try looking out the window for inspiration or just to let your mind wander. Enjoy the silence and follow your thoughts and ideas. Who knows, you may wander onto a brilliant idea that could recharge your day or business. Commuting can be a downer if you let it, but with this one tip, your commute may just become enjoyable -- and even inspirational.” - Shu Saito, Fact Retriever
6. Listen to music.
“Sometimes there's nothing better than starting the day with some good, upbeat music. Don't feel like you have to be productive all the time during your commute; you can also take this time to enjoy yourself and relax. Sing your favorite songs, laugh at the morning DJ's jokes and just have a good time. Your good mood will carry on when you get to the office and you won't even know why you're so happy, but it was probably the high-energy car ride that got you pumped up.” - Jared Atchison, WPForms
7. Immerse yourself in industry-related materials.
“If you commute by train or bus, you can either read industry-related material or listen to audiobooks, podcasts and webinars. If you’re not fond of taking books or magazines with you, consider investing in an e-reader such as a Kindle. This gives you easy means to access a range of publications, and you may even carry your entire e-library with you. If you drive to work, you can put your car’s audio system to good use by listening to a variety of industry and non-industry related material. For instance, if you feel that stress is getting the better of you, listening to soothing music might have a calming effect. Alternatively, you can catch up on a webinar you might have missed or even attempt learning a new language.” - Derek Robinson, Top Notch Dezigns
8. Pause and self-reflect.
“It is incredibly difficult to establish work-life balance as a highly-motivated professional, but it’s important to remember that no matter how brilliant your ideas or how dynamic your work, you as an individual are the driver for every project you push forward. Thus, it’s important that everyone takes the time to align themselves and evaluate their own state. A commute can be a perfect time to reflect critically on your own personal well-being, acknowledge anything in your life (professional or personal) that is causing conflict and consider potential changes that could be made to improve your mental and physical wellbeing. Alternatively, listening to a non-work related podcast may be a great way to destress and have a moment to keep you from burning yourself out.” - Kevin Yamazaki, Sidebench
The Bottom Line
Your commute to and from work can be a great way to start your day off on the right foot and decompress as you’re returning home. Returning to the office can be your chance to reclaim your commute and make it something that you look forward to. Overall, it’s a great way to improve your work-life balance.
Want to learn more about the different ways to achieve optimal work-life balance? Go no further and check out this series, you’ll love it.
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