10 Smart Things to Do During Your Commute (Even If You Drive!)
If you take public transportation (or carpool and ride as a passenger) to work, you may feel that this is time wasted. So why not do something that can also improve your life? Even if you drive to work, there are ways to make your boring commute a smart commute. (See also: How to Make Your Commute Profitable)
1. Listen to a Podcast
I used to ride the bus to work before I got a car, and my commute was an hour and a half — one way! I used that time to listen to my favorite comedy podcasts, some of which were as long as three hours, which was perfect for the entire commute. But there are hundreds of podcasts out there about any topic you can think of — educational podcasts, history, language learning. If you can think of it, there's a podcast for it. You can check iTunes, or go to sites like podbay.fm for the top ranking podcasts. Mashable also has some excellent podcast suggestions. The Nerdist is one of my favorites from that list.
2. Read (or Listen to) Something Challenging
Reading is a classic commuting activity, but if you are filling your time and brain with nothing but romance novels or mysteries, try elevating your reading list a bit. Join a reading group that will help you stay committed to reading and for a nice mix of reading options. Unless you have an eBook reader, don't forget about the library if you don't want to buy the book. And if you're driving? Audiobooks! (See also: 13 Easy Ways to Improve Your Brain)
3. Pay Your Bills
If you are like me and forget to pay your bills sometimes because you have so many other things going on, this is a perfect time to do that. While many bills can be paid automatically online, there may be a few that still require a paper check. Phone apps can also make it a little easier to pay bills on your smartphone during your commute. (See also: 10 Monthly Bills You Can Slash)
4. Start a New Hobby
Because I'm a writer, people are always telling me that they really want to start writing but don't have the time. Commuting via public transportation provides the time and the perfect setting. "People watching" is one of the best ways to get inspiration for a story or even for a humor blog. As a writer, I'm also an eavesdropper, and I've heard some of the funniest and most interesting comments on the bus. Knitting is another hobby that is easy to do on your commute, and homemade scarves, hats, mittens, sweaters, etc. make excellent gifts. (See also: 10 Awesome Money Making Hobbies)
5. Get Some Work Done
Whenever I was under a strict deadline at my last job, I would bring my laptop home and work, and the next morning, I'd get a head start to the day by working on the bus. This helped ensure that I didn't miss my deadline. Or you can use your commute to do some of your own writing if you don't have time or the energy after work. I'm also a stand-up comedian, so I would sometimes write notes or my set list for a show while riding the bus.
6. Listen to Public Radio
For car drivers, listening to NPR is one of the best ways to keep up with the news while you are on your way to work. It also makes it less tempting to talk on the phone or text while you drive.
If you're more of a printed word person than a radio person, Umano will select the top news stories and articles from the press, as read by other app users, and play them back for you so that you aren't fiddling with the radio dial while you are driving. And it's free!
7. Organize Your Day
Planning your day is one of the most productive things to do on your morning commute. Write your to-do list, prioritize your tasks, or update your calendar. There are plenty of apps that can help you get organized. Or, keep it simple with a plain little notebook and a pen. (See also: 10 Productivity Apps for Really Busy People Like You)
Biking to work has become popular in recent years, especially in places that are truly bike friendly. Some offices have even installed showers for bike commuters. A couple of my coworkers who live nearby keep an extra set of clothes in the office and run to work. If you are biking, be sure to choose a safe route that includes roads with wide shoulders. And of course, familiarize yourself with how to change a tube and keep your bike maintained. (See also: A Guide to Becoming a Part Time Bicycle Commuter)
9. Practice Mindfulness
While the bus or metro may not be the best place to meditate, there are mindfulness practices you can do that are easy and can be done anywhere. Pocket Mindfulness has some excellent suggestions, such as observing a natural object as carefully as you can, or thinking about the significance five usually unnoticed things. Journaling is another positive activity. Even if you don't think you have anything to say, you might be surprised what comes out when you just start writing down your thoughts.
Be smart about your finances and the environment, and ask co-workers to carpool. Even though people find all kinds of excuses to avoid carpooling, there's really no excuse if you and your co-workers have similar schedules. If you don't live close to one another, look for a nearby Park and Ride or another central location with a large parking lot, such as a shopping mall, where you can meet and leave one car for the day. You would be surprised how much you will save on gas and the wear and tear of your car. And when it's your turn to be the passenger, you can break out your smartphone or your book and make the ride productive, just like commuters who take public transport.
How do you make your commute more productive? Pull off to the shoulder and share in comments!