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  • Carol Ann Wentworth

How to make your commute to work the best part of your day (really).

One of the top things people mention that causes them stress is their commute to work.

And according to the Census Bureau, 86% of Americans commute to work in private vehicles. The average commute time is 26 minutes (each way). Public transit commutes are even longer . . . an average 53 minutes.

With roads jammed and commutes often lasting over an hour, commuting can easily add up to ten hours a week or more. And that adds up to the equivalent of 12 weeks a year (or three months just sitting in your car driving to work every year).

That’s a LOT of time driving. Time that many commuters say is driving them nuts.

But it doesn’t have to be so.

My favorite saying is, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Apply this Zen thinking to your daily commute and you might even start saying “TGIM!” (Thank God It’s Monday!).

Too much? OK, but you can make your commute a rewarding and valuable time of the day with just a few commuting hacks.

Here are a few that have the potential to change your life.

CATCH UP ON YOUR READING.

The #1 excuse that people say is the reason they don’t read more books is “not enough time.” Well, commuting solves that problem. You can’t use time as an excuse when you’re spending up to 3 months a year of alone time (in your car), undistracted by kids and spouse and errands.

There are several ways you can read while commuting that don’t require a self-driving vehicle.

Perhaps the best way is to subscribe to Audible, an Amazon company that includes a library of thousands of books, including current best-sellers. Whether it’s reading for pleasure (remember when you did that?), self-help (don’t we all need some?), history (who knew Teddy Roosevelt was such a boss guy?), romance (try it out guys, if for no other reason than to understand women), mysteries and thrillers, you’ll find some great reading here.

There are hundreds of other audiobooks available. Your library has many they lend for free. Check it out by searching online for “audiobooks.”

WORK ON YOUR NEXT PROMOTION AND RAISE.

Most people are too busy at work to learn how to advance in their career. But with the extra time each year commuting provides, you can gain valuable skills and knowledge that can have a positive impact on your next promotion or raise.

There are hundreds of things you can learn, including some very industry and job-specific skills, through the many schools offering remote education. It’s even possible to earn credits and a degree from prestigious schools like UCLA and Yale.

Some places to begin searching for education courses are Coursera, Udemy, Khan University, Udacity, and iTunes University. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other sites you can download audio (or listen to video) learning resources. With your time commuting there’s no longer any excuse for not getting smarter.

See how changing the way you think about things changes the things you look at? With money and a better position as your incentive, commuting now takes on a whole new level of attractiveness. Those jammed freeways may be your career path to advancement and more money.

TAKE A SHOWER.

No, not literally. But you know how being alone and protected from the distractions of the outside world you are when taking a shower? When great ideas seem to pop into your head without any effort? It’s like that in your car, your little capsule of solitude rolling down the freeway.

Make use of this valuable “alone time” by doing something you aren’t allowed to do at work . . . think.

Starting when you roll out the driveway, decide on a subject you want to think about. Perhaps it’s how you can improve the solar widget you are working on. Or a new customer interface that could result in more sales and happier clients. Or a better way to lead your team. Or how to suck up to your boss without seeming like a brown nose.

Whatever it is you want to do some serious thinking about (maybe it’s just doing some erotic fantasizing) your commute is the best chance you’ll have to think about it all day.

LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE.

In our 21st century global economy, knowing how to speak a second or third language is a decided career advantage. You may even want to hedge your bets on the future by learning Mandarin. Or Russian.

There are many ways to use your commuting time to learn a language but one we recommend is Babble. It’s used by millions to learn a new language. But you can also check out Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, Pimsluer and others. They are all excellent.

You can listen to these instructive language courses in your car without any distractions, other than the jerk in the BMW who just cut you off. Your local library stocks language learning audio courses as well.

You might integrate learning a new language into the other valuable things you do while commuting. That way you can develop an entire curriculum of things to learn. Call it Commuting College.

PLAN YOUR DAY.

Every productivity article ever written includes planning your day in advance (preferably the night before) to stay on track and prioritize your work flow. BUT, since most of us don’t do that the time you have while commuting is a last chance to do it . . . your “Hail Mary” productivity opportunity.

Use your phone’s audio recorder or a separate device (for old school types) to record your plans and priorities for the day. Then take 5 minutes in the parking lot to write them down. You’ll be a  better man (or woman) for it.

LISTEN TO PODCASTS.

There’s an enormous world of fascinating content to listen to on podcasts. From politics (if you can stomach more) to humor to comedy to science to pure entertainment . . . and much more. One popular podcast, Serial, was able to garner 100 million downloads in just a few months.

Search online and you may be surprised at the breadth of podcast offerings that can add value to your commute and help the time pass quickly.

CHILL OUT TO MUSIC.

With Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Sirius or your local radio stations you can relax (or get energized) for the day with the million or so songs available to listen to while on your commute.

A friend has created his own commuting playlist that he swears puts him in an Alpha mood for the day, beginning with Rossini’s William Tell Overture (the stirring Lone Ranger part). He has a mellow light jazz playlist for his commute home (where a glass of Cabernet awaits).

And if music isn’t on your playlist, there’s always NPR for enlightening content. Or you can fuel your ideological rage with fake news radio talk shows.

LAUGH.

On long road trips we like to play Comedy Central on Sirius or the monologues of late-night talk show hosts. While you may look maniacal laughing out loud in your car as you cruise down the freeway it will divert your attention from the soul-sucking traffic. And if you arrive at work on Monday morning with a smile on your face, your boss will be convinced you really do love your job.

IT'S ALL RELATIVE.

Keep in mind that everything in life is relative. An hour-long drive in Los Angeles is, well, just part of living in L.A. while it will seem onerous and road-rage inducing in Topeka.

New York has the longest commute at 33.6 minutes one way and those lucky (?) folks in South Dakota have the shortest average commute in the country at just 16.6 minutes. But don’t plan your career based on commuting time. My guess is that the career opportunities in New York or L.A. are much better than Sioux Falls.

In the furtherance of your career success long commutes are sometimes something you just have to suck up and do, like cleaning up dog poop (you can listen to podcasts while doing that too).

So, go forth and conquer the day, beginning with your valuable hour-long commute.

TGIM!


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