Did you know that the average daily commute (round trip) in the States is just over 50 minutes? For the 10 largest cities, that average increases to right around 2 hours. Over the course of a year, that’s approximately 500 hours. That can be depressing! But it doesn’t have to be.
If you purposefully take advantage of that time and put it to good use, it can become one of the most productive parts of your day.
For me, my round trip commute is 120 miles, which translates to a 2 ½ hour trek. (Thankfully, I have the flexibility to work from home 3 days a week.) I realized how much time I was spending in the car on the days that I do commute daydreaming about nothing in particular and decided to reclaim those hours.
Here’s 11 ways you can reclaim yours.
1. Carpool/Mass Transit
If you can afford a little bit longer of a commute, joining a carpool or using some kind of mass transit could help you use that time more productively in addition to saving money (not to mention reducing the wear and tear on your car). And, the number of people you carpool with can significantly increase the amount you save. Every city or state organizes their carpooling initiative a little bit differently, but here’s a look at Georgia’s Clean Air Campaign.
Podcasts: For me, my commute consists primarily of listening to podcasts on my iPhone. Currently, I alternate between three podcasts: the EntreLeadership podcast (Dave Ramsey), This Is Your Life podcast (Michael Hyatt), and The Lede podcast (Copyblogger). iRecorder is a great app to record quick audio notes on the go so you can apply what you learn during the commute. (Thanks to Lynford Morton for introducing me to this app.)
Books: Audible is the world’s largest producer of downloadable audiobooks. Although Audible is a paid service, you get one free audiobook download when you sign up. Also, urban legend has it that some local libraries still offer books on CD!
Bible: I listen to the daily chapter of Proverbs during my morning commute. It helps me “calibrate” my thoughts before I really begin my day. The Bible.is app works really well and is available for iOS, Android, and Kindle platforms.
Spoiler alert: this only applies if you’re not the one driving!
Books: If you prefer e-readers over printed books, Kindle is the most popular e-reader. And, if you have a mobile device that operates on an iOS, Windows, Android, or BlackBerry platform, you can download the Kindle app, which essentially converts your device into a Kindle, giving you access to the Kindle store on Amazon. (Personally, I prefer reading printed books – not while I’m driving, of course.) If you’re not sure what to read next, Amazon just released its list of 100 books to read in a lifetime.
Bible: I use the Logos app (available for iOS, Android, and Kindle platforms) for reading the Bible. It has multiple translations and many useful tools for studying and note-taking.
Phone: Bluetooth devices like the Blueant Q2 bluetooth headset sync with your phone’s address book and have built-in voice-activated dialing commands that facilitate a handsfree phone call without taking your eyes off of the road (that’s the plan, anyway).
Kids: If your kids are with you for part of your commute, you can use the time to catch up with them. Outisde of the car, the world is usually going 100 miles an hour, but inside the car, the world stands still (or at least slows down!). Check out this list of fun activities to do with your kids in the car.
For me, one of the best places to think is in the car when I’m driving by myself. The iRecorder app I referenced above is a good one for helping to record your ideas to build on them later. You can also record a quick audio note with Evernote and sync it with your computer later on (although, the app takes a little while to load, which makes it difficult to use while driving).
6. Have breakfast
There is nothing I enjoy quite as much as drinking my coffee on my morning commute. There’s just something about that hot, caffeine-infused awesomeness to get my day started. By the way, many people make fun of me for it, but when I drink coffee in the car, I use a straw – it’s a nearly fool-proof way to keep from spilling. You should try it next time you have coffee in the car. It’s also not bad idea to drive with your knees while chowing down on a breakfast sandwich!
This may be a little difficult if traffic stresses you out. But, your commute can be a great time to decompress. There are some days when I’ve had a stressful meeting or just an overall frustrating day that I use my evening commute as a buffer zone between my work life and my family life. Music or talk radio can be a great way to get your mind off of the insanity of the day so you don’t carry your work frustrations through your front door.
I always try to start off my day with prayer. I need God’s leading and blessing on my life every day. And I can be sure of one thing – once I get to work and the emails start flying, I’ll rarely have the opportunity to slow down and spend a few minutes in prayer.
9. Beat the traffic
If you have a job that allows flex hours, it’s never a bad idea to take advantage of traveling during off-peak hours. Some mass transit systems will even give you up to a 50% discount for commuting during non-peak hours. Although, if you live in a large enough city (like Atlanta), the off-peak hours for commuting are few and far between. In my experience, it’s not always easy to work around the peak hours of 6:00 – 10:00 AM and 3:00 – 7:00 PM for both my morning and evening commutes. I usually manage to beat the traffic on my morning commute, but not my evening commute.
The ultimate commute is working from home. Three days a week, my “commute” is walking up a flight of stairs to my home office. Nothing beats that!
11. Drive faster
Who doesn’t like a shorter commute? (Just make sure you don’t use the shoulder too often!)
Question: what do you do on your commute to make it “better” or use that time more efficiently? You can contribute to the conversation here.
P.S. I’d love to connect with you on twitter: @Derick_Kopp
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