Imagine a world in which you actually look forward to your time getting to the office.
The average American spends 26.9 minutes commuting both to and from work—and this figure only continues to rise annually. Still, that must sound like a dream to those in metropolises like New York, where the average one-way transit time is 37 minutes. For 14 million Americans, that time can clock in at over an hour.
“Many clients find that long commutes adversely affects employee happiness and productivity,” says Phil Sofia, VP of Sales at SquareFoot. “That’s why we advise clients to heavily weigh convenience and ease of access as they consider where to set up shop.” But unless yours is a virtual office, getting to work likely requires some time in a vehicle. We’re here to tell you that time doesn’t need to be unpleasant. Rather, it can give you an opportunity to do the following:
Think of the morning commute as a chance to get a jump on the day: List daily goals and to-dos, respond to emails, and make your shopping list. If you’re having trouble getting started, reward yourself with some downtime (Candy Crush, social media, etc.) after accomplishing a task.
Devote this enforced alone time to a little self-improvement. Learn a foreign language to set yourself up for your next work trip abroad—or to stand out at your next interview. The app Duolingo, for example, offers digestible, engaging lessons.
Want something a little less interactive? There’s a seemingly endless array of podcasts to choose from. Or you can kick back with an audiobook (download them for free with a library card and the Libby app). Can’t find a book you want to listen to? Start working on your own; you wouldn’t be the first person to write a novel on the way to their day job.
The stories in NPR’s “Driveway Moments” collections are so compelling that listeners have been known to sit in their car after they’ve arrived at their destination to hear how they turn out. Or finally catch up on that show everyone won’t stop talking about—as long as you are not driving, of course. (Here is a useful list of suggestions of what to watch based on your transit time.)
It’s been shown that commuters who walk or bike to work are less likely to be overweight. Research shows it’s also a boon to mental health. Obviously, not every commuter has the luxury of skipping mass transit or car-time, but if you do, take it. Or, if your full route is too long, hop off the train or bus a few stops early and walk from there.
What better place to practice mindfulness than stuck in traffic? Instead of quietly seething, train yourself to stay in the present moment, which will help you clear your mind and remain calm. This is no small thing: a AAA Foundation study found that 56% of fatal accidents are linked to aggressive driving behaviors. If you’re a rush hour passenger, breathing exercises or, as New York Times meditation expert David Gelles suggests, a loving-kindness meditation, can serve you—not to mention those around you—well.
These tips will ensure that your commute time isn’t just not unpleasant, but that it’s actually enriching, making you more productive and ready to tackle your day.