How to Make Your Commute More Enjoyable and Productive
Let’s face it: Long commutes are bad for everybody. Research shows that commutes of greater than 60 minutes not only negatively impact productivity, but also increase commuters’ risk of depression and work-related stress, and negatively impact overall health.
Figure out what works for you
This seems obvious, but it’s always worth the reminder to use your time in ways that most benefit you—and this is especially true when it comes to something (like a commute) that can easily become a dreaded part of the day.
If you love podcasts, for example, listen away—but if they’re not your thing, move onto something more enjoyable. The same goes for reading books, listening to music or the radio, or any other mid-commute activity you might use to keep yourself entertained.
While your colleagues might rave about the latest VC podcast or NYT best seller, that doesn’t mean you have to occupy your commute times doing the same things if you don’t find them interesting. The commute itself isn’t likely to bring you joy, so the least you can do is to find the type of content or activities which inspire you along the way.
Don’t rush it
While this may require you getting up earlier or streamlining your morning routine, ensuring your journey to the office is leisurely can have a big impact on your mood throughout the day. Starting off the workday with the stress of running to catch a train, being stuck in traffic, or arriving late to a meeting can really throw off your attitude—and is often easily avoidable with appropriate planning.
If you always find yourself in a hurry in the mornings, re-evaluate what’s making you late. Perhaps you snooze your alarm five times, insist on making elaborate breakfasts, catch up on emails before leaving the house—or simply underestimate the time it takes to get out the door. Whatever the reason, come to terms with it and adjust accordingly, even if it means setting a louder alarm or swapping waffles for eggs.
In addition, do what you can to adjust your travel plans to better fit your schedule. For example, if you have an early call, ask if you can take the call from home and come into the office after rather than rushing in at the crack of dawn.
While some people may relish commute time as a chance to catch up on emails or news, it’s just as valid to use it as a time to unplug. If this is you, do so intentionally—put your phone on airplane mode, or at least out of site, so that you can actually use the time to clear your mind, rather than just waiting for messages, calls, or whatever might pop up on your screen.
And you shouldn’t feel guilty for not being more “productive” on your commute. In fact, the unconscious mind can sometimes solve problems, and particularly complex ones, more effectively than by conscious thought, meaning you might actually come up with some of your brightest ideas while zoning out on the way into or out of the office.
On the other hand, your commute can be a good time to chat with family, friends, or even strangers. If you drive to work, consider using the time to make phone calls you won’t be able to make once in the office—trust us, your mom will appreciate it! Even if you take public transportation, you might use the time to email friends who live far away, text your siblings, or write a letter to your grandpa (only half kidding).
In addition, making small efforts to connect with others along your commute can boost your happiness. According to one study, even participants who said they’d prefer to sit in solitude reported being happier after connecting with a stranger. That connection doesn’t have to be anything life-altering—maybe ask the barista how his morning is going, or smile (in a non-creepy way) at the woman who always takes your train. Think of it as a public service—it’s not only your morning that will benefit, but the other person’s too.