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7 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Commute

7 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Commute

On average, we spend over a year of our lives getting to and from work. That’s over 13,000 hours that we will spend stuck on a crowded train, struggling to ignore people blasting their music and clenching our fists when the person sitting opposite us whips out a stinky tuna sandwich.

We spend a huge amount of time commuting, and it’s time to start making the most of it, but you don’t have to complete the world’s hardest crossword puzzle or slog through the entirety of War And Peace to accomplish something on your journey.

Here are 7 easy ways to make the most of your commute:

1. Meditate

Meditating is one of those things we know we should do but sometimes struggle with — a bit like drinking more water, eating more broccoli or spending less money on overpriced coffee. Luckily, your journey to work opens the doors to another journey towards a calm and focused mind. Just 10 minutes on your morning train can transform your mindset for the day, helping you to feel more focused, energized and ready to take on whatever the day throws at you.

I use the app ‘Calm’ to do my morning meditation, and it honestly does transform my day. The app contains an entire section on commuting, and the meditation times vary from 2 to 90 minutes, so there is something to suit even the shortest of journeys. Calm also includes meditations for anxiety, gratitude, and a deep sleep.

Meditation has a whole host of benefits, and your daily commute is the perfect opportunity to take 10 minutes for yourself, and see how it impacts the rest of your day.

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2. Start a gratitude journal

Writing down the things in your life to be thankful for (no matter how small!) can lower stress levels, increase empathy and improve sleep, among so many other benefits. A good place to start is to simply write down 3 good things about your day. It only takes 5 minutes, and it can help you feel so much more appreciative of what you have.

Gone are the days of getting frustrated because someone bought the wrong milk. When you welcome gratitude into your life, you will start to see the best in difficult situations, while also appreciating the good things in life – a good cup of tea or the sun on your face in the morning. Gratitude makes us happier, healthier and just a general dream to be around!

3. Learn a language

I’m sure many of us were forced to learn either French, German or Spanish at school and, if you’re like me, these lessons were the definition of hell. Hours slogging away at French grammar that will still be useless to me when I do finally visit France isn’t the most rewarding of tasks.

Now, thanks to podcasts, language apps and YouTube, there are so many ways to start learning a new language and your commute is the perfect time to get started. My favourite app is DuoLingo, and I also listen to the News In Slow Spanish podcast.

Let’s face it; the British don’t have a great track record when it comes to language learning, so let’s forget the ‘everyone else speaks English excuse’ and start practising. Not only is it extremely rewarding, but you might even be able to bargain and get better deals if you visit the countries whose language you can speak. Add in being able to chat to locals while challenging Britain’s reputation as terrible language learners and you’ve got yourself an invaluable skill.

4. Fall in love with reading

My mum has commuted 2 hours into London every day for the past 14 years. After falling asleep at 8:30 pm for the fourth night in a row, I asked her how she did it. She replied that she would never have been able to if it wasn’t for her love of reading.

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Reading is something so many people would love to do but claim they don’t have time for, so spend your commuting time getting stuck into a great book. It doesn’t have to be anything difficult; my favourite genres are psychological or murder mystery thrillers like Gone Girl (or anything by Gillian Flynn) and Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. They are so gripping you may find yourself looking forward to your train journey.

So switch off your phone and dive in.

Once you’re home, you are free to binge watch Game of Thrones to your heart’s content–you’ve earned it.

5. Set daily goals

It goes without saying that a train journey is a great time to get yourself organised. For this reason, I always keep a journal handy so I can jot down thoughts as they come into my head. I usually make a list of things I want to accomplish that day – including what I’ve already done just for that little ego boost (we’ve all done it).

I list my tasks into high priority: things that I will do as soon as I get to work, and low priority: things I do when I have time. As well as tasks, I also write down things I want to focus on that day. These usually involve staying present and mindful, alongside a rough plan of things to do when I get home from work – something that doesn’t involve watching TV while eating half a loaf of bread,

My journal is the one thing I couldn’t live without so try taking 10 minutes at the start of your day to write down all your plans and daily goals, then put it away and relax for the rest of the journey.

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6. Get inspired

Whether on the train, bus or tube there is always inspiration to be found. Instead of gazing mindlessly out of the window for the entire journey, try taking a few minutes to notice the people around you. Notice their clothes, the books they’re reading, the general vibe they give off. Perhaps you like their shoes, have never heard of the book they’re holding, or you’re wondering how they’ve managed to eat a BBQ chicken wrap so neatly.

There is always value to be found in simply noticing what is around you, so next time you feel your thoughts running away with you, try tuning into your senses to see if there’s anything that sparks your interest.

We zone out so often throughout the day and do the majority of our mundane tasks on autopilot (remember how you brushed your teeth this morning?). By simply taking the time to notice what’s going on around us, we can ensure that we don’t just let life pass by unnoticed.

7. Practise tolerance

People are annoying. We all know it. We can probably be annoying ourselves. But the simple fact of life is that we have to deal with people we don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with on a daily basis, and disputes are rarely solved by losing our tempers. When I first started commuting, I would raise my eyebrows if anyone so much as blew their nose in my vicinity, and God help anyone who put their bag down on the seat next to them.

It sometimes feels like there are more commuting faux-pas than there are commuters, so there are ample reasons to get frustrated on long journeys. Add to the mix a delayed train during a heatwave and you are looking at a seriously angry group of people.

But we all know getting angry is a waste of time and energy. Practising tolerance, or at least learning to recognize when you feel frustration rising, will help you in all areas of life.

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So, next time you are on the train, and someone takes their shoes off or scoffs down a bag of cheese and onion crisps, take a few moments to control your emotions before they begin to control you. When you feel angry emotions starting to take over, try not to react, just simply be aware of your anger. Notice the physical sensations that arise with it, whether you start to feel hot, out of breath or getting tight in the shoulders. Take a moment to notice where your anger is stored in your body and try to imagine yourself breathing into that specific area, and allow the tension to soften as you exhale.

This does not mean you are suppressing your anger. Instead, you are choosing not to react. You are simply observing what the emotion feels like and allowing it to pass. By practising this on the train or bus, you will be far better equipped to handle difficult people throughout the day.

For many of us, commuting is an unavoidable part of our working lives, but there is no reason for it to become something we dread. These little hacks will help you to make the most of your commute, and soon your journey may become a positive start (and end) to the working day.

Featured photo credit: Charles Forerunner via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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