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7 Growth Hacks for Commuters

7 Growth Hacks for Commuters

Commuting could be physically and mentally tiring. I can see why you and many hate being stuck on a crowded train and in slow-moving traffic. Commuting seems like a massive waste of time, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

A team from the University of the West of England suggests that multitasking can be beneficial for commuters: If you try to listen, read, brainstorm, and get things done while sitting on a train to work, you are likely to feel more worthwhile. You can also learn new things, improve your skills and grow.

Here are some tools and tips to help commuters grow while enjoying their daily travel more and more.

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1. Plan your day

Try to use your morning commute to plan the day. To-do list apps like Wunderlist and Any.do are free and can be synced across all your devices: phone, tablet, and laptop. You can sketch out your day, using your mobile phone on the train, then tick tasks off later while sitting in your office in front of your laptop. It sounds great, doesn’t it?

2. Get your dose of industry news

Keep yourself up-to-date with industry news on online magazines and blogs using Feedly. In case you want to avoid an eyestrain (or if you are driving), a tool using “text-to-speech” technology can help. Softwares like Panopreter read words, phrases, and articles, and convert them to audio files that you can listen to on the road. The technology enables multitasking and helps save time.

3. Listen to Educational Podcasts

Podcasts are a great way to expand your knowledge base. You can find free podcasts on almost every topics on the planet: from language history to money management. Use free mobile apps like Podcasts (for iOS) and Stitcher (for Android) to subscribe to your favourite podcasts, and tune in for some education time during your commute.

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4. Learn a new language

Being bilingual or multilingual opens the door to many new opportunities, from getting a better job to making new friends. Why not learn a new language using your travelling time? Duolingo is a fun and effective tool for learning language on the go. Give it a try and maybe you can have a conversation with a stranger on the train in her own language. Another option is to listen to podcasts in the language you try to learn.

5. Brainstorm ideas

This might sound strange but taking public transport can be distraction-free. There are no colleagues knocking at your door for all sorts of question. Nobody would expect you to answer emails while you are supposedly travelling. You can just turn your data off, put your headphones on and keep your head down to brainstorm the next great idea. Don’t forget to take notes because “your mind is for having ideas, not holding them” (David Allen).

Evernote (free) is a great tool for jotting down thoughts and organising them into lists. You can also tag notes, attach links and upload photos. It’s easy to share your notes with others via emails, even if they don’t use the app themselves. The app also have a recording feature, especially for the ones who think and speak much faster than type.

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If you happen to hate transcribing or are simply too busy to do it, try Dragon Dictation – a free voice transcription app that turns your thoughts into written notes.

6. Enjoy a good book

Check out Audible, seriously! They offer 30-day free trial for new users. You can also choose a free book in 180,000 audio titles. Besides, some narrators are so good that they give new life to the story.

If you prefer reading, bring a paper book with you at all times. Want to travel light? Then get a Kindle or even a Kindle app for your smart phone (iOS version vs. Android version).

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7. Play games to train your brain

It is the end of the day and you travel back home after a long day at work. I can understand if you don’t want to read any more news and if you feel too tired to learn new words or phrases in a foreign language. However, sitting still and doing nothing might just be the way to give yourself up to complete tiresomeness. Try to keep your brain active with mind-engaging, fun games from Lumosity.

I hope these tips will help you be more productive and grow with your commute. However, don’t force yourself to be on all the time. It is just not possible. Let yourself have some off days when you can sit back, take a deep breath and enjoy the ride.

Featured photo credit: Eutah Mizushima via unsplash.com

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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