Time spent commuting has increased significantly for Americans over the past few years, with more and more people spending long periods of time in their cars and on public transportation traveling back and forth from work.
More than 36% of Americans commute between 20-44 minutes each way to get to work, while 17% of workers commute 45 minutes or longer, according to the Census. For the latter group, that daily hour and a half in transportation means that by the end of the year, they have spent more than 15 full days commuting.
For most people, that drive or ride is inevitable. So how can we make the most of it? How can we put that time to the best possible use? Improve your commute with some of these recommendations and strategies.
For your listening pleasure
One of the easiest activities with the greatest possible variety, consider listening to something interesting on your commute. If you’re driving, remember to get everything set up before you go, and avoid messing with your phone on the road.
So many to choose from, but here are some of our top choices:
- Top legal podcasts – Not long ago, One Legal rounded up the best podcasts for lawyers, so if your commute is a chance to check-in with your industry, this list is for you.
- TED Talks – All the inspiring and intriguing discussions about Technology, Entertainment, and Design in a series of fantastic podcasts.
- NPR’s earbud.fm – The sheer number of podcasts can be utterly overwhelming. This site is great for when you just need someone to recommend something good.
Whether you prefer fiction or non-fiction, narrated stories are a great way to engage your mind without distracting you from traveling safely. Here are a few ways to find audiobooks for your trip.
- Overdrive – Have a library card? This is the app for you. Connect to your library and access a ton of audiobooks (and eBooks) that you can download for free and listen to straight from your phone.
- Audible – All the latest and greatest audiobooks and the go-to source if you want to choose exactly what to read and when.
- Audiobooks app – Perfect if there’s a classic novel that you have been meaning to find for a while, this app has thousands of books in the public domain, all for free.
Podcasts and audiobooks are both ways of learning something that you don’t already know, but what if you were to consider a more educative-based approach to entertainment on your commute?
- Speak a foreign language – Listening to another language is one of the top ways to learn it, to notice the vocabulary you know and start to put the context together. Pick a favorite audiobook or podcast and listen in the language you want to learn.
- iTunes U – It’s not only a tool used by professors and students in traditional university, this app also has a full catalog of recorded lectures that are free to the public. Subscribe to “From Planets to the Cosmos,” “Copyright in the Classroom,” and more.
For the car
Always, always set up what you’ll need before you start driving. Fiddling with your phone can be distracting and dangerous, with one University of Utah study showing that talking on a cell phone was as dangerous as driving drunk. 14 U.S. states prohibit any use of hand-held devices while driving.
Here are some tips and tricks that make a difference if you drive yourself from home to work and back again.
- Leave on your phone’s voice recorder and talk out loud. Get out all the thoughts and ideas that come to you when you have no way to write them down—of course. Then review when you reach your destination.
- Level up from the strange odor swatches that hang from your mirror with an aromatherapy diffuser for a truly refreshing atmosphere.
- Singing releases endorphins, improves cognition, lowers blood pressure, tones facial muscles, and so much more. Turn on your favorite Pandora or Spotify station before you leave, and use your alone time to belt it out—sing like no one’s listening because no one is!
For public transportation
If you’re carpooling or taking a bus or train to work, you have more flexibility with how you spend your time.
- Give your Spanish or Mandarin a boost with all or some of the language learning apps that help gamify the experience
- Plan out your day and schedule your time so that when you do get to the office, your day is organized
- Go analog. If you’re headed in for a day of working at your computer, try putting away the screen on your commute. Pick up a physical book, spend some time people watching, meditate, or even take the opportunity to try journaling. Make this you time.
- Take a nap. Really, you could if you wanted to. And this hoodie pillow would (mostly) hide you while you snooze.
These are only a few of the ways to improve your commute, but we know there are even more ways to creatively hack your morning and evening commute.
How do you spend your commute? Share your strategies in the comments!