Many people around the world find themselves asking the same question each day: “How long will it take me to get to work?”
- In the United States, the average commuter spends 38 hours every year in traffic jams. In major cities like Washington D.C., Los Angeles or San Francisco this number can easily rise to 70 hours each year.
- A new study found that more than 3 million people in the UK spend two hours or more commuting every day. And those numbers continue to increase.
- 19% of Australian workers spend 90 minutes commuting every day, just seven minutes less than the population of China’s mega-city, Beijing.
- The worst traffic in Europe can be found in Belgium’s two largest cities, Antwerp and Brussels, where commuters spend an average of 83 hours each year, or the equivalent of two work weeks, in traffic.
This is an extraordinary amount of personal time dedicated solely to travel each day, and unfortunately for most people in the workforce, commuting is inevitable. So how can you make the most of this time, and use your daily commute to serve you in a positive way? Here are some ideas.
Tackle Your To-Do List
Why not take care of some undesirable tasks during your commute? Sitting on a train or bus can be ideal for getting all sorts of “paperwork” done, especially if own a smartphone or tablet. Many financial statements and account updates can be managed online and through mobile apps. You can take this time to pay bills, review credit card statements and set weekly budgets.
Create Plans and Schedules
Take some time to plan your days ahead – whether you write a to-do list, or simply dedicate some time to brainstorm about work projects, home projects or other important personal obligations. Dedicating some time to just think about your to-do list is a great way to prepare for the days ahead. And as a bonus, if you finalize your to-do list before you arrive home in the evening, you can separate yourself from any work-related thoughts or stress, and enjoy family or leisure time more fully.
Think about your commute as an opportunity to focus on enjoyment and relaxation. You can spend time sitting in a car, train or bus listening to music, an audio book or a podcast. And as long as you’re taking public transportation, you can also dedicate time to reading – books, newspapers, blogs and magazines – or perhaps doing some writing yourself.
If you’re looking for an “escape” from your daily commute, use this time to research different places you could travel. Read travel blogs and websites to learn about new places to visit, and use booking apps to compare flight and lodging costs in real time.
Learn a New Language
If you’ve ever considered studying a foreign language, either for pleasure or to expand your reach in the workplace, your commute might be the perfect time to finally make it happen. Finding time to learn a new language may be considered a luxury, but many new apps and services make the learning process easier and more accessible. Duolingo is a free app available on iPhone or Android that gamifies the learning process and offers quicker, “bite sized” lessons.
If you’re driving to work, tools like Rosetta Stone and Living Language provide audio services perfect for listening on the go.
Socialize and Network
As long as you’re not driving, walking or cycling to and from work, you can spend some time communicating with family, friends and colleagues. While it may not be appropriate to take phone calls while taking public transportation, you can easily catch up with others via text message or email. You can also take this time to network, utilizing services like LinkedIn to find new connections, or other companies and vendors to collaborate with.
If you are driving, see if you can find a neighbor or someone through work that you can carpool with. Alternating who drives each day gives you a much-needed break, and you’ll also have someone to talk to if you do end up getting stuck in any traffic.
Use these tips to start thinking about your daily commute as a new opportunity, and not just a nuisance. Make the most of this time each day, and you’ll find new ways to increase productivity and stay happier and healthier.