No one enjoys commuting. Commuting is one of the great horrors no human can ever truly get used to, and Americans spent a cumulative 1.8 trillion minutes commuting in 2014. That is long enough to write nearly 300 Wikipedia entries or build 26 Great Pyramids of Giza.
The average American typically uses the week he/she spends commuting per year doing things that are unproductive—listening to music, checking out their social media, reading, playing on their cell phones, and/or sleeping. But what if that time was used toward productive ends? What would this mean to your workplace efficiency, to your scheduling, and to your bottom line?
We have prepared a list of tips to help you make the most of your commuting time.
Tip # 1: Learn Something
Just because you have nothing from work to go over during your commute does not mean you need to waste this travel time. Download an audiobook or podcast on a subject that interests you. Listen to it during your commute and become knowledgeable on something new.
This could be a great way to brush up on your business skills or to expand your skillset in general. There are apps available that can help you learn a language, improve your business skills, learn computer programming, or do just about anything else you can imagine. You can also download e-courses such as The Great Courses, which are lectures taught by actual college professors.
Your commute—as long as you are not driving—is a great time to catch up on your reading. It can be difficult to squeeze in time to read recreationally; a commute is perfect for making progress in a book.
Finally, you can spend your commute networking with subject-matter experts in the field you are interested in learning more about. A long commute is an excellent time to chat with others and develop your understanding of the world.
Tip # 2: Owning the Power
We live in a battery-powered world. We would be lost if we did not have our cell phones, tablets, laptops, and smartwatches. However, considering this, it is almost comical that many people do not prepare for the inevitable: your batteries will run out when you least expect them to.
It is important to over prepare when it comes to your devices. Make sure they are all charged the night before. Carry extra charged batteries and a battery pack, if you have one. Make sure you have a car charger that can allow for two USB cables or multiple chargers if your power port cannot support charging two devices simultaneously.
The worst thing you can have happen to you is that you are racing to complete a report on a laptop with a dying battery. Preparation can help to make sure this does not happen.
Finally, know where you will have access to high-speed Internet and where you will not. If you need to do research to prepare for your meeting, do it before you start your commute. Download anything you will need while you have access to reliable Internet so that you will not have to make do with a slow mobile connection on the road.
Tip # 3: Bring Healthy Snacks
Eating on the road can be fun. Doritos, Big Gulps, and Ding Dongs can be tasty, but they are not the healthiest fare. Energy-packed, nutrient-rich snacks such as fresh and dried fruits, nuts, and fresh vegetables are needed to avoid a food coma and to boost your productivity.
Consider bringing an insulated lunch bag to carry bottled water and fresh snacks. Stay hydrated, and snack on a regular basis to maintain your energy. Nibbling every hour or so would suffice.
Tip # 4: Internet and Driving—Knowing When to Stop
Sometimes, timing is bad. You may get an important call while driving, or a flash of inspiration hits that you desperately need to write it down. If you have a mobile hotspot, you can make anywhere your home office. However, you must be cognizant of what you are doing; it is never okay to operate a cell phone or tablet while you are driving.
Pull over to a safe place, such as a rest stop, to take care of business. Avoid pulling onto the shoulder, however; in low light or heavy traffic conditions, such as the morning commute, this is very dangerous.
Tip # 5: Learn to Talk to Yourself
We have all seen the random person that talked to himself or herself in public. The popular perception is that such a person is delusional and possibly insane. However, it may be that they are just an expert in time management.
Everyone talks to himself or herself. This internal monologue is an essential part of the thought-management process. The key behind using this internal monologue to improve efficiency is to use it to prepare for the day.
You can spend your commute going over notes for your upcoming presentation or practicing aloud delivering your speech. Practicing aloud is useful because it not only helps you to master your delivery and tone, but it also improves your confidence in making the speech. There are apps that will allow you to dictate emails and to-do lists so that you can maximize your efficiency driving without taking your focus off the road.
Tip # 6: In a Hotel? Set Up Your “Home Office”
Sometimes, your commute extends to an overnight trip. If you are staying in a hotel, make sure it has WiFi. In lieu of this, you can check to see if the city you are travelling to have a coworking space. The idea is to have an area where you can set up a workspace that approaches what your regular workspace looks like. Make sure you pack everything you will need, including office supplies and necessary cords.
Find a desk or a table you can sit at comfortably, unpack your laptop, plug in your cell phone and computer chargers, and arrange your workplace as needed. It is easier to get to work faster if you have a ready place to work between meetings.
Tip # 7: Have Fun!
You should not look at being productive during your commute as adding more work hours to your day. The idea is to be more focused and productive throughout the day; sometimes, this means doing things that you like and that relax you.
It is okay to spend the time listening to an audiobook or podcast, enjoying music, or just being in silence with your thoughts. The goal is to be prepared for the day, and that preparation could take many forms.
Take Advantage of Your Commute
Approximately 143 million Americans 16 years old or older commute to work every day. On average, they spend 25 minutes on the road. This represents a lot of time that is typically spent waiting for something to happen.
This list gives you some ideas for how you can earn some of those minutes back. Using your commute to improve your productivity is not just a great way of improving your bottom line; it is also a great way to take control of your day. Ultimately, we are only as good as our beginning, and we owe it to ourselves to have a great start.