Not many of us would rate our commute as the highlight of our day. Even if you love your job and can’t wait to get to the office, chances are those minutes between locking your front door and greeting your colleagues aren’t your favourites.
This feeling might be compounded if you face the gridlock of commuter traffic everyday. Studies show that commuters who choose public transport, walking or riding their bike to work are happier than those who go by car. And the reasons are obvious.
Rather than you counting your increased heart rate as the frustrations of static traffic build, a train journey can allow you to count the pages you have left of your current novel. Instead of the car horns soundtracking your morning journey, you can listen to the latest release from your favourite band. Rather than falling out the door into the driving seat, there is also the associated walk to the station. This allows you to get in some exercise and chip away at the recommended 150 minutes a week.
There are also many other ways to make the most of your commute when you are not behind the wheel of a car. With your eyes, hands and mind free to busy yourself with what you enjoy, or what is productive, commuting time can be elevated from your least favourite time to a period of the day when you can get lots done. Here are a few examples for inspiration.
Dive into podcasts
There is a podcast on absolutely everything these days. No matter how niche your interests, it is likely you’ll be able to find people who’ve recorded a conversation about it. Podcast providers such as Acast and Google Podcasts make it easy to search for the pod that appeals to you. There are gripping true crime series such as Serial, insightful film shows such as Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review or whole series dedicated to 1990s football like Quickly Kevin Will He Score.
Enjoy The Classics
Like a lot of people, you might get a gnawing guilt about not being knowledgeable on some of the accepted pillars of culture. That famous novel that everyone seems to have read and is constantly referenced or the album which has influenced a thousand artists, may have always evaded your radar. The average daily commuter time for a UK worker is 54 minutes. That’s nearly five hours a week you could be spending getting to grips with the classics. If you are dealing in 45 minute long player albums you can get can through six a week. You could do the whole western pop canon in a few months! And a book club with your friends could be really fun and productive with all that time devoted to reading.
The benefits of meditation are being promoted to us endlessly. From reducing our anxiety levels to extending concentrations spans, improving our memories to controlling addictions, this free, accessible-to-all activity really is life-changing. For many, the limiting factor to daily meditation is time and an ability to stay still when knowing there’s a to-do list as long as your arm shoving you into action. With a train-bound commute you only have time and the need to sit still. Apps like Headspace and Calm can help the process or you can combine it with another relaxing activity like writing a journal or listening to ambient music.
Keep In Contact
Despite the galaxy of social media now available to us and ubiquitous amongst our peers, we still manage to lose touch with friends who meant so much to us at various times in our lives. Instead of reaching out to dear ones we judge people we care less about upon seeing their latest vacation snaps or humble brag about their sports car. Make your engagement with social media positive by dropping a text to that friend you haven’t found the time to catch up with in six months.
Increase Your Productivity
When taking your seat on the train it is tempting to switch off, surf Instagram or just will the carriage to propel you back home as soon as possible. Just to be on the sofa watching the next episode of your current Netflix obsession or sit on the sofa and return to Instagram. These are all valid uses of your spare time and everyone needs downtime. However, wouldn’t it provide extra peace of mind, once you are back in your living room in your pants, knowing you used that commute to tick off some to-dos. You may even make a list for the next day so you can start the day running. Think about it.
Rediscover the joys of print media
If you do sit at a desk all day starring at a computer screen, leave work glued to your phone screen, then get home to connect with your television screen, you won’t get square eyes (a popular theory amongst 90s parents). However, overdosing on screen time can have detrimental effects on us such as sleep disruption and may even adversely affect your brain. Why not use your commute to take a break from the screen and reacquaint yourself with good old fashioned print media. This could be a monthly magazine on your hobby, a newspaper to keep you up-to-date on current affairs or a free magazine which can be picked up at lots of cafés in town.
Start a hobby
The five hours a week you spend on your commute could be used sparking a new interest. Your commute is the part of your day when you can really immerse yourself in your new creative writing hobby or slot in another piece of the jigsaw in an ongoing research project. There’s also the pleasures of puzzles and games like Sudoku to sharpen your mind and while away the time.