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How to make the most of your commute
Whether you’re returning to the office or never stopped going, these tips will make your walk, drive or train ride (almost) fun
Whether you’re fully back in the office or working from home on a flexible schedule, there’s a good chance you’re commuting to work more than you were a year or two ago.
This, for many people, is … not fun, especially if you have a long commute. But it can be! (Trust us.) In the same way that the human need to eat several times a day evolved into an opportunity for pleasure (eating something tasty), so can your daily trip to and from the office.
There are plenty of things you can do on the way to work — some practical, some fun, some good for your health — to help you make the most of your commute. Here are some tips, broken down according to how you get to work.
In this article:
However you get there (including driving)
Leave 15 minutes early
If you don’t enjoy your commute, leaving early might sound like a weird idea. Why give more time to something you dislike?
But we’re here to turn commuting into something you do like (or at least make good use of), and leaving early means you’ll actually be able to use your commute as planned. If there are delays but you left early, they won’t distract you from what you want to do.
Also, if you leave early you won’t start your day stressed out and preoccupied by whether you’ll get to work on time.
Get ready the night before
It’s easier to leave early and stress-free if you don’t have to frantically run around the house before running out the door.
If you can organize your work bag, set out your clothes, and organize your kids’ school stuff the night before, then the morning-of will be more pleasant and you’ll be in the right headspace to make the most of your personal time in transit. It might sound ambitious, but you’d be amazed at what you can accomplish in five minutes before bedtime, when you’re not struggling to get everyone in your household out the door on schedule.
Have a backup plan
Stuff happens. Kids refuse to put on their shoes. An unexpected construction project creates a surprise detour. The train gets delayed.
Embracing the chaos (to the extent possible) can help, or at least accepting that these are things you can’t necessarily change all on your own. But so can having a backup plan.
Permit your child to put on shoes in the car. Double-check your route to work on Google Maps before you drive. Ditto the train route. (It’s amazing what real-time map updates can offer these days.)
Choose the nicest route…
…within reason. We’re not suggesting you should take an extra hour to get to work just to see a river, but you may find it’s worth adding some time to improve the journey. If you drive to work and it’ll take you an extra 10 minutes to pass through tree-lined roads as opposed to traversing a car-lined freeway, that could be worthwhile.
If you take the subway and there’s an overground or over-bridge section that takes a little longer, you may find that the benefit of not being stuck underground makes it worthwhile. And if you live in a city like New York, which has expanded its ferry service, you might even want to make your journey home from into a full excursion, complete with strolls to and from the ferry terminal.
Listen to audiobooks, check out new music, or listen to the radio
We’re not going to suggest podcasts — you’ve already thought of that — but audiobooks are often unappreciated. Modern life can make it hard to properly read a novel, but if you don’t mind doing it in chunks, commuting is a great way to do it while a professional does the actual reading for you.
For music, sure, your commute is a great time to listen to old favorites, but why not use it to check out new things on your favorite streaming service, to see what you want to add to your playlist or maybe even buy? And oftentimes a drive is just the right amount of time to throw on a new album and give it a proper listen.
As for the radio, we spend so much time on our devices, perusing things we’ve chosen (or things the algorithm has offered us which we think we’ve chosen) that we’re not exposed to much random stuff anymore. So choose a radio station in your car or on your phone, and see where that journey takes you. You’ll come across new ideas and new tunes.
Learn a language
This is one of the few activities that is arguably better if you drive. You can listen to language classes on public transport, of course, but you may feel less comfortable mispronouncing Italian in a crowded bus than you do in the privacy of your car. There are any number of services, including Duolingo, that you can try for a nominal fee.
Call friends and family
Studies show that connecting with our loved ones helps us live richer, fuller personal lives. The occasional text or email is nice, but a (hands free) phone call can often accomplish a more meaningful connection in just as much time.
Best of all, you might even be doing double-duty: Helping someone else achieve work life balance by making the most of their travel time as well.
If you don’t drive yourself to work
Leaving the car at home opens up a world of commuting possibilities. Your commute can become a form of exercise if you walk or cycle to work. And if you take public transport, there are even more activities available.
Read a novel
Yes, audiobooks are awesome (as mentioned above), but there is a wonderful, tactile pleasure to reading a book that’s made of paper, and your commute is the perfect place to do that. You spend a lot of time looking at a screen; here’s a structured chance to not do that.
Tackle your to-dos
Instead of using your commute for fun, you can use it to tackle drudgery, so there’s more time for fun later. Schedule appointments, shop for life insurance, pay bills, do grocery shopping… The list of small but important tasks you can tackle on your commute is long.
Deal with emails
In the spirit of getting tasks out of the way, you can use the journey to sift through your inbox, respond to easy emails (beware the in-transit typo) and generally be prepared for when you get to the office. This is not the most “me-time” approach to commuting, but if it’s a choice between dealing with emails here or at home the night before, this seems better in terms of work-life balance.
This is a perfect time to do something that can help you reduce stress, focus on a healthy work life balance and build personal and professional resilience.
This will be easiest if your commute involves a seat, not too many vehicle changes, and relative quiet. If you’re new to meditation, there are numerous apps that can guide you, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Aaptiv, the fitness and wellness app which is available at no cost for eligible Haven Term policyholders via the Haven Life Plus bonus rider. It’s well worth getting for anyone working on their physical and mental health.
It is very, very hard to do nothing (meditation, mentioned above, isn’t really doing nothing), but it’s worth attempting. Why not try using your commute to just sit (or stand) quietly, enjoy the view, and see what happens.
See where your mind goes, see what thoughts and ideas come into your head. In the same way that some people have good ideas in the shower, when they’re not specifically doing much of anything, the same can happen if you approach your commute as an opportunity to just be for a while, and to look at your surroundings.
Take a notebook
If you do zone out, you may find you have some ideas. To document them, don’t pull out your phone — doing so will make you zone back in, check emails and doom scroll. Just jot your thoughts down on paper, then go back to thinking them. Commuting time is your time; you’re not obliged to be productive.
About Michael DavisRead more by Michael Davis
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.
Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.
Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.
MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.
Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus
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