Commuting between work and home can be a frustrating and inefficient experience. But it does not have to be. There are many productive (and safe!) ways to make the most of your time while you’re behind the wheel. For example:
Learn a new language
Burn some CDs with language lessons (you can easily find them on the Internet, even for free!) and listen to them again and again. Repeat the phrases out loud. Burn some more when you feel the level has become too easy for you. You will be amazed at how quick you progress in a week of commuting.
After doing this for several months, I filled out an online Italian language test and found out I already had an intermediary level… Without taking any formal lessons!
Listen to podcasts
Subscribe to podcasts dealing with the subjects that interest you and listen while driving. This is a surefire way to always be up to date. Another hint: If you podcasts are spoken in the language you are trying to learn, you will advance much faster!
Reading while driving is surely lethal. But try audio books. If the book is interesting, chances are you won’t be bothered by traffic jams, you will even beg for some!
One example: I never could finish reading Don Quixote. Its old-fashioned Spanish made me fell asleep after a couple of pages. I felt so guilty. After all, that is THE book every Spanish speaker should have read! Then I tried the audio book. Not only was it easy to follow, it was even compelling! I listened to it during a round trip between Brussels and Paris I did one summer. The blue sky and the wheat fields made me feel it was ME who was riding thru La Mancha!
Going to Harvard or Stanford may be expensive, but listening to their professors lecture while you drive is…free! Nowadays, most universities offer a number of free courses, from sciences to liberal arts. I have particularly appreciated a course about European history I downloaded from the Stanford website. And another funny coincidence: I was driving by Waterloo when the teacher spoke about Napoleon’s defeat!
Listen to news
This is an obvious one, but worth mentioning. If you listen to the news 10 minutes a day while driving, you won’t need to browse the news websites while at home or work.
Listen to music
This is another obvious one. But I include it after I heard – in an Italian podcast, of course – about a study conducted by researchers from the University of Florence that found that listening to classical and other soft music for 30 minutes a day during one month can significantly reduce mild high blood pressure. Very convenient for those suffering from work or traffic-jam-related stress!
Ok. You are too upset/tired/worried to listen to anything. Then just be Zen. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do the lotus position or close your eyes. That is not very wise on a highway. Just breathe in and out slowly. Don’t think about anything, just see around you. Feel the vibration of your car. Forget yesterday and tomorrow. Just live in the moment, even if the moment isn’t very exciting.
I commute by car, but all these suggestions can be practiced on the train or on the metro. If someone else is controlling the driving, you can use your iPod, your laptop, or your tablet PC so you can add a visual component to any of the ideas above.