When you can’t escape…
The average travel time crept up to 26.4 minutes in 2015, and while that’s only 24 seconds longer than the previous year, when you multiply it out to two trips a day, five days a week, and so on, it’s actually three hours and 20 minutes longer than 2014.
What’s even more concerning, is longer commutes on public transport are on the increase, with trips over 90-minutes showing the most growth.
This is a problem. It’s not just because we all feel busy and time poor, commuting is actually bad for your health in a number of ways. Long trips to and from work every day can negatively affect your mental health, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, sleep, and overall life satisfaction, especially when they involve bad traffic and no air-conditioning.
Along with all of that doom and gloom, your trip to work each morning could determine how productive you are for the rest of your work day. It’s a subtle and overlooked source of stress, but it’s there. Just notice how the traffic on the road makes you groan, and when you get to the office that’s all anyone is talking about.
Maybe you can’t avoid the dreaded commute right now, but there are ways to make the most of that time. Instead of scrolling through social media, here are a bunch of ideas to improve your career game and overall wellbeing while heading to your day job…
1. Be early
One surefire way to start your day flustered is sleeping through your alarm, missing the bus, or just plain being late. Avoid this unnecessary stressor by always aiming to leave the house a few minutes earlier.
2. Read a book
Hands down my favorite thing to do to pass the commute time is chow through a book. Not sure where to start? Got you covered.
3. Set goals for the week
Make it your Monday morning ritual to go through your calendar and to-do lists, and set a few goals of things you want to accomplish by Friday. This will give you a little more purpose in each day instead of floating through through each day, letting precious time pass by.
4. Update your LinkedIn
I know, I know, I see you juggling a million things, but don’t forget your LinkedIn. Keeping your profile up to date can help you make new contacts or even land a new job – possibly one closer to home.
5. Fuel up
Seeing as you are getting up early anyway, whip together a healthy smoothie to slowly sip on the road. Nourishing your body is a good way to prep your brain for the work ahead.
6. Learn a language
If picking up Swedish or Swahili has always been on your list of things to-do, there’s nothing like being trapped on a train for the next hour to commit you to learning a new language. No excuses.
7. Start work early
Particularly if you have a long commute, bring your laptop along and start your day before you arrive at the office. Sort through the vortex of your email inbox so you are ready for action once you get to work.
8. Be grateful
Gratitude is finally getting the spotlight for how this perspective change can improve your day and overall health. Find something on the train to take note of and smile. Maybe it’s finally getting a seat away from the serial manspreader.
9. Listen to a podcast
The worst feeling is boarding the train and forgetting your earphones. Don’t do that to yourself. There are dozens of brilliant women podcasts to not only entertain but empower you on your way to work.
10. Get creative
To the handful of women I’ve seen on the train who plop down in their seat and whip out a ball of yarn to start knitting, I want to be you and wish I had your artistic flare. Turn your commute time into the time you do the things you like – the things you always say you want to dedicate more time to but never do.
11. Find a new playlist on Spotify
Music can inspire and influence your mood. Search for something peppy in the morning, but try relaxing for your trip home.
12. Prioritize your day
Avoid feeling overwhelmed with a million things on your to-do list by prioritizing your day. Start with five things that you need to do and want to accomplish and set the rest aside.
13. Review your day
On your way home, take a moment to go through your day. How did you do on finishing your priorities? Make this step a habit as it helps you see what you achieved instead of dwelling on the things you didn’t do.
14. Write to your family
Whether it’s a grandparent, sibling, aunt or cousin you haven’t seen in a few years, use five minutes of your commute time to send them a hello message.
15. Plan a food menu
I’m a big fan of planning meals. Otherwise I know I’ll come home and stare at the contents of my fridge for a few hours while I munch on chips and cookies. A menu even two days ahead of time keeps me on a healthier diet.
16. Inspire your career
When it comes to good advice or inspirational talks, I turn to TED Talks. There’s everything from how to make stress your friend, finding or not finding a true calling, and achieving your dreams.
Just how some of your best ideas come to you in the shower, the same thing happens when you’re staring out the window of your bus. Let your mind wander freely and see what it comes up with.
18. Keep a journal
This is a great way to get all of the thoughts swirling around in your brain out. Sometimes I prefer to write in the morning to stimulate some new thoughts or in the evening to dump whatever is left in my brain onto the page and (fingers crossed) sleep in peace. Try it out for a week to see which works best for you.
Beat the isolation and drive with a friend. It’s better for the environment and your mental health.
20. Take an alternative route
Sometimes your brain just needs a break from the monotony. It doesn’t sound that sexy, but you can spice up your commute home by taking a different route. Try the back streets through neighborhoods you’re unfamiliar with or get off the train a stop early and go for a walk.
21. Listen to an audio book
Yes, it’s a different experience to reading from a physical book, but audio books are growing in popularity for a reason. You can get through many ‘must reads’ on your list faster and honestly, when you get a good narrator it perks up your day.
22. Treat yourself
Stop by a cafe before your jump on the train. Enjoy a healthy breakfast to set you up just right for the day ahead. Go on and splurge on the avocado toast.
23. Call a friend
We all have at least one friend who still loves a chat on the phone. Keep in mind you are most likely commuting at the same time, making this the best or only time you can catch each other.
24. Catch up on the news
There’s a whole lot going on in the world besides Trump, but every now and then you may need to keep tabs on him too. Don’t forget your own industry news, which could spark some conversations at work.
25. Adjust your posture
I had a Pilates teacher who regularly reminded the class that to see lasting improvement, a one hour class wasn’t going to cut it. Instead she instructed us to get in the habit of re-adjusting your posture at every red traffic light.
26. Plan your next vacation
If you are simply desperate to get away from commuting, it sounds like a vacation is overdue. Use this time to plan a relaxing getaway.
Maybe what you need is a break from it all – the lists, goals, schedules, and promises to yourself that you’ll be more efficient than yesterday. Unplug and close your eyes.
Images via shutterstock, pexels, giphy.
Comment: What do you like to do during your commute?
Josie is a Paris-based writer who has a disturbingly large collection of socks and is a self-professed bookworm with a genuine fascination for the weird and wonderful world of beauty products.