Your daily trip to and from work doesn’t have to be a complete waste of time. Experts say with some strategic planning you can easily use your commute to recharge and boost productivity.
Amy Hoover, president of Talent Zoo, says whether you drive, carpool, take a train, bike, or walk, making the most of that time can help set up the rest of your day. “If you’re interested in knocking out some work or simply relaxing, there are things you can do to turn a lengthy commute from a frustrating time-eater to a satisfying and productive time of day.”
Here are 13 productive things you can do during your commute:
1. Ramp up or wind down. The first thing you need to do is recognise what kind of person you are, says Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, a career expert and co-founder of SixFigureStart. If you’re energized in the morning and tired in the early evening, for example, use your trip to work to accomplish tasks and your trip home to relax and reenergize.
2. Bicycle or walk to work, if possible. While it’s unlikely to make your commute shorter, starting or finishing the day with some physical activity can keep your brain sharp, in addition to keeping your body in shape, says Rita Friedman, a Philadelphia-based career coach.
3. Reflect. “Taking time each week during your commute to check in on your goals is a great way to stay on track and make adjustments,” says Teri Hockett, chief executive of What’s For Work?. It’s also the perfect time to think about what makes you happy and what areas of your life could be improved.
4. Check emails and voice messages. If you’re not driving or riding a bicycle, your morning commute is a great time to get a head start on your workday. Attending to messages early in the morning will set you up for a productive day. However, the experts say you shouldn’t spend your entire commute doing work.
5. Listen to music or audio books. These activities support your ongoing learning and development, Hockett says.
6. Mentally prepare for the day. If you’d like to get a head start on your day, you can use your commute time to get ready for what’s on your calendar, Hoover says. “If you have a presentation, practice out loud and put the finishing touches on. If you have an important meeting, make sure you know what you’re going to cover and your position on the subject matter.”
You can also use this time to plan the rest of your day outside the office. “Perhaps you can finalise the dinner menu in your mind, plan what you’ll wear to an after-work function, or think about what you’ll do with your kids this weekend. A workday without distractions relating to after-work responsibilities or activities can be far more productive,” she says.
7. Create a to-do list. Your commute is the perfect time to create a to-do list or fine-tune the one you’ve already made. “By creating a to-do list and prioritizing the day’s responsibilities, you’re setting yourself up to have a more organised and focused workday,” Friedman says. If you can’t actually write a list because you’re driving, it can still be useful just to have a mental checklist. You might also consider using a voice recorder or memo app on your phone, just as long as it doesn’t require you to look away from the road.
8. Relax. Consider using your commute to unwind. “Practice calming your mind, or just enjoy the environment around you,” Hockett says. “The idea is to just be present in the moment and relax.”
Friedman says you can, and should, spend some time thinking about what you did or need to do during the workday, “but if you spend a majority of your commute doing some deep breathing and focusing on the other things in your life, it can be an excellent transitional time so you don’t walk in the door feeling wound up.”
9. Learn. Subscribe to a podcast or buy a language program. Your commute can be used to catch up on news, expand your knowledge in a particular area, or learn a new language.
10. Check in with your friends and family. You may have very limited time for this type of communication throughout the rest of the day, so use your commute time to call your parents, chat with your significant other, or text your friends (as long as you’re not driving).
11. Check in on your social networks. If you’re not driving, use your phone or tablet to interact with your network on social media by sharing information and engaging with them.
12. Sleep. Depending on your commute, you may be able to catch a power nap, which can give you a boost of energy, Hockett says. “Studies have shown that 10 to 15 minute naps can be very positive for the mind and body. Just set your alarm, and close your eyes.”
13. Play games that will sharpen your mind. If mindless games are what truly relax you, it’s ok to indulge from time to time, Thanasoulis-Cerrachio says. But you should consider swapping out games like Candy Crush for crossword puzzles or other brain games, “as these have been shown to help stave off age-related memory loss,” Friedman concludes.
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