Do you commute to work? You are not alone. Every day millions of people travel long distances and spend a lot of time getting to and from work.
No matter whether you commute by car, train, bus, underground, scooter, bike, or on foot, or whether it is a 5-hour haul or a 15-minute door-to-door ride, it doesn’t have to be a curse.
In this post, we are going to highlight some ideas you can start implementing today to make your commuting as productive and enjoyable as possible.
As a result, you will stop looking at it as a burden and a waste of time, but as an opportunity instead, and you won’t get stressed by it.
Before we dive into some tips that will change the way you look at your daily commute, let’s examine some interesting statistics.
SOME NUMBERS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD
According to the U.S. Census Bureau report:
“the average one-way commute in the United States increased to a new high of 27.6 minutes in 2019”.
According to the Apartment List report:
“the number of American workers who bear the burden of a 90-minute or more ride each way grew by 45% from 2010 to 2019”.
According to research published by the TUC:
“in the Uk commuting is taking longer than ever before – with the average journey lasting 59 minutes (both ways combined)”.
According to a report published by Eurostat:
“In 2019, people in employment in the EU had an average commuting time of 25 minutes.
Employed people in Latvia had the longest average commuting time (33 minutes), followed by Hungary and Luxembourg (both 29 minutes).
The largest share of Member States had a commuting time between 24 and 28 minutes (17 countries).
The shortest average commuting times were found in Cyprus (19 minutes), Greece (20 minutes), Italy and Portugal (both 21 minutes)”.
According to a survey published by the University of Melbourne:
“in 2017 Australians spent, on average, 4.5 hours a week or just below one hour per workday, traveling to and from work. This is 23% higher than in 2002”.
COMMUTING IS MORE STRESSFUL THAN A JOB
According to a report published in the Harvard Business Review:
“When Ford Motor Company surveyed 5,500 people in six European cities - Barcelona, Berlin, London, Madrid, Paris, and Rome - many ranked commuting as more stressful than their jobs, moving into a new house, or a dentist’s appointment.
In a 2006 survey of 909 working women in Texas, conducted by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues, respondents said the morning journey between home and the office was, on average, the least enjoyable activity of their day; the evening trip home was the third-worst.”
Bottom line: commuting for most people is extremely stressful.
Yet, you can turn the long and boring hours you spend going to and from work into a positive experience.
Below you can find 10 tips that will maximize what you can get out of your commute.
1) LISTEN TO CLASSICAL MUSIC
Do you suffer from anxiety?
If so, you’d better know that the calming effect of classical music takes away all jitters.
Thus, it can help decrease your anxiety level.
You don’t have to pay for an expensive spa or massage to reap the benefits of a little rest and relaxation.
Listening to some smooth tunes rather than your regular loud rock or metal music will help you relax and calm down.
What’s more, numerous studies have shown a correlation between listening to classical music and an improvement in cognitive performance.
These findings suggest classical music can help boost your memory.
Thus, you’ll learn new information easier and quicker.
As a result, you will worry less about an upcoming interview, exam, or assignment.
2) LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE
If you have always wanted to learn a new language, out of simple curiosity, to have career opportunities, or to travel more, commuting is the right place to start from.
Learning a new language is no longer so difficult, there are numerous apps that make the learning process much easier and more accessible.
For example, Duolingo is a free app, both for iPhone and Android, which simplifies the learning process by making it similar to a game with quick lessons tailored to your needs (based on the user's starting level).
If you drive while you go to work, you can use some programs such as Rosetta Stone and Living Language.
They offer a perfect audio service for listening in the car.
Repetition is the mother of mastery!
So if you listen to audio lessons while commuting to work and then rinse and repeat the same lesson on your commute home, the information is more likely to be “locked-in” to your long-term memory!
As a result, over a few months, you'll have picked up a strong vocabulary and some grammar.
3) READ BOOKS
We have seen how classical music is a great cure for commute-induced stress, so are books!
A study shows how bibliotherapy, apart from increasing our emotional intelligence, can also help reduce stress.
When Warren Buffett was once asked about the key to success, he pointed to a stack of nearby books and said:
“Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”. - Warren Buffett
Although successful people read an awful lot, it doesn’t mean they read anything.
On the contrary, they are highly selective about what they read
They believe that books are a gateway to learning knowledge and skills that will change their life for the better.
As author Steve Siebold writes in his book on self-made millionaires - How Rich People Think - "the world-class would rather be educated than entertained.”
He states that on walking into a wealthy person’s home one of the first things you notice is an extensive library of books they’ve used to educate themselves on how to become more successful.
"The poor and middle class read novels, tabloids, and entertainment magazines instead", Steve Siebold said.
Investing in an Amazon Kindle e-reader may be a smart move.
The device is so light and you can take your entire library with you.
Plus, if you get a wish for a new book, you can buy and download it right on the public transport you are using.
It’s the ideal solution to have all the books in the world just a click away.
Don’t you like reading or do you have to keep your eyes on the road?
No problem, you can access a plethora of audiobooks and podcasts to develop new skills and knowledge that in time will make you a successful person.
Audible.com is a great source you can start from.
Another resource you will love is Blinkist.
This is a service that identifies the key insights of books or podcasts and summarizes them in an easy-to-digest, 15-minute long written or audio format.
In a nutshell, more knowledge for you in less time!
Blinkist suits people eager to learn, who are short of time, and also people who are not into reading.
4) INTERACT WITH STRANGERS
Most studies about the benefits of social relationships focus their attention on close family and friends.
Yet, according to research carried out by Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago and Juliana Schroeder of the University of California Berkeley, even talking to strangers can improve commuter well-being.
Epley and Schroeder recruited 200 people at a train station and randomly divided them into two groups.
One with a mandate to make contact with a travel companion, another to stand on their own.
Although the participants had forecast that the more enjoyable trip would be the solo one, the researchers actually found the opposite.
Those who were asked to have a conversation reported a more positive experience.
Bottom line: talking to strangers makes us happier whether we think we have anything in common with a person or not.
So, think about how to enhance the social side of commuting!
If you travel by public transport, remove your headphones and chat with your seat neighbor.
If, on the other hand, you travel by car, call a friend, invite a neighbor who works not far from you to share the trip.
Another option may be to use an app like Sluglines that helps connect commuters.
If you use Uber, don’t choose UberX (where you travel alone), but UberPOOL, which allows you to share your journeys with strangers.
5) CONNECT WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Commuting is a great time to get in touch with the people who matter the most to you or even with the ones you have not been hearing from for a while.
You would like to get in touch with them, but there is always something else that comes first.
Well, with a short or long commute at your disposal you no longer have excuses.
You can find the extra time to nurture and rebuild your relationships.
6) PLAN YOUR SCHEDULE FOR THE DAYS AHEAD
Spend your commute time planning your days in advance.
You can write down a short-term to-do list or you can simply reflect on your work plans or other important personal commitments.
Devoting some time exclusively to thinking about what needs to be done can be a great way to prepare for the future.
Plus, if you finish your to-do list before getting home, you can leave all your work-related stress and worries out of the door, and fully enjoy your free time and family.
Bottom line: preparing for the days ahead will relieve stress and make you far more efficient.
7) PRACTICE MINDFUL MEDITATION
You don't have to sit in a meditative position, nor do you have to close your eyes, to reap the benefits of meditation.
Commuting is a great time to practice mindfulness and active meditation.
This is when you focus and relish the present moment instead of allowing your thoughts to wander into the past or the future.
Even if at the beginning it might feel frustrating and lead you to become even more stressed, over time, you’ll get good at it and your stress level will collapse.
8) UNPLUG AND TAKE THE TIME TO BE WITH YOUR THOUGHTS
Many of us spend most of our waking hours plugged into technology - either because of our job or for entertainment.
Yet, it could be raising our stress levels and negatively affecting our health.
Spending some time tech-free can benefit our mental and physical health.
Instead of checking your email and Facebook, texting friends, or making work calls, you can think about things you have neglected over the years.
This is the time to think about the business you have always wanted to start, the book you have always wanted to read, or the places you have always wanted to visit.
You may be surprised at what comes from this time you spend with your thoughts and it could take your life to a whole new level.
9) START A SIDE HUSTLE
Do you dream of starting your own business? Why not work on your business idea during your journey to and from work?
It is much easier if you travel by bus or train - you could write a business plan, brainstorm a marketing plan, or even research your potential niche.
If you ride or walk you may also consider buying a digital recorder and recording your business ideas as you brainstorm on the road.
Or more simply you may get a notebook.
Carpooling could also help here.
If you find someone to carpool with every week, while they're driving, use that time to work on your budding business.
If you have not a clue where to start from, check it out: WHY AFFILIATE MARKETING IS THE ULTIMATE BUSINESS MODEL.
10) MIX IT UP
If you struggle to decide what to do during your commute, you may try a bit of everything. There are no rules!
But, if you still need a bit of guidance, this is what your “stuck-in-traffic” schedule could look like:
- Monday - listen to your playlist of classical music, build up your vocabulary in the language you are interested in,
- Tuesday - meditate, and write your to-do list for the day ahead.
- Wednesday - read or listen to chapter(s) from your educational books.
- Thursday - unplug, get inspired, and work on your side hustle,
- Friday - interact with strangers and get in touch with friends.
If your commute is a long one, you may even have time for all of these activities.
LAST CONSIDERATION - LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING
Whether you're driving, taking public transport, walking, or even cycling to and from work, your commute doesn’t need to be a waste of time.
Use downtime to be productive and do things you normally wouldn't have time for.
Spending your commute time wisely not only allows you to make the most of otherwise dead time; it also takes the stress away as you know you have been productive.
How do you get to and from work?
How long do you spend commuting every day?
What do you do to make the most out of this time?
Be inspired by the above 10 tips to stop considering commute time as a burden, and start considering it an opportunity to expand your horizons, to relax, reflect, and get more work done.
Try to follow at least one of these tips every day, and you'll discover new ways to optimize your time and stay happy and healthy.
Feel free to add your own tips for maximizing commuting time in the comments below so that you can be an inspiration for others too.
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