How to Make the Most of Your Morning and Evening Commutes

1. Make your trip to work a trip down memory lane.

WAYHOME studio / Shutterstock
WAYHOME studio / Shutterstock

Commuting can be annoying and tedious — yet many of us do it twice a day. Research has found that commuting can lower mood, heighten stress levels, and have a “spillover” effect. In other words, our commutes can impact how we perform and feel at work, at home, and in other facets of our lives. It’s no wonder employees are seeking out more flexible work schedules or, at the very least, ways to make their morning and evening journeys less irritating and more productive. 

We asked members of the Thrive community to share their tips for optimizing their commute time. Their strategies may even make you want to take the long way home. 

Take a trip down memory lane 

“I don’t have long commutes every day, but on the days I do, I like to scroll through pictures of my kids and loved ones. I take my favorites and write a little note about why they are memorable moments for me. Once a month, I batch all the pics, print them, and mail people the pictures with my memory note. Many times, I don’t even need to mail them. I just leave the picture and notes on the kitchen table for my kids and husband to see in the morning.” 

—Anjali Bindra Patel, lawyer, McLean, VA

Set a positive attitude 

“My commute is approximately 40 minutes each way by car. The usual suspects — traffic, rude drivers, people driving at parade-float speed — don’t rattle me because I begin my day by setting a positive mental attitude. What we put into our minds manifests into the world. I fill my commute with podcasts, too. Dr. Tony Evans’ Impact Theory podcast and The Vic Feazell Show are some of my go-to sources for mental stimulation. By spending my drive time productively, I’m ready to face my challenging work day with calm energy.” 

—John Harrell, author and inspirational speaker, Austin, TX 

Journal about the day ahead 

“Each morning on the subway, I journal. I get out any anxious feelings I have about the day ahead, reflect on all the things I am grateful for, and put down a mantra to repeat when things get stressful. My commute is an hour, and it’s all me time.”

—Lindsey Benoit O’Connell, editor, New York, NY 

Dive into a good book

“My previous job was demanding. Besides long working hours, my commute was a long, arduous one. I spent a total of two hours a day on the bus. At first, I would aimlessly skim through my Facebook newsfeed — a mindless activity just to pass the time. After a while, I realized I had to spend my time doing something more productive. I started downloading novels to my mobile phone, and I am proud to say that throughout that year, I read 25 books. I would say 90 percent of them were read on the bus. Reading made me look forward to my commute, because I wanted to know what happened next.”  

—Basma Fawzy, freelance writer, Alexandria, Egypt 

Find your inspiration 

“My biggest advice is to focus your thoughts and attention on what gives you inspiration and pushes you to thrive. For more than two years, I would take a train on Monday mornings at 6:30 for over three hours. Reading inspirational books about entrepreneurship and listening to business podcasts helped lift my mood after such a long train ride.”

—Diogène Ntirandekura, information technology consulting, Montréal, QC, Canada

Throw on your favorite podcast

“Depending on my mood, music or a podcast can save my commute. I have learned so much from the podcasts I subscribe to — they make me look forward to hopping in my car. The first podcast I listened to was The Thrive Global Podcast. I was having a hard time in my job, and Arianna and her guests made it better by offering tools to deal with extreme burnout. I eventually left my job and did not look back. One guest on the Thrive podcast, Maria Menounos, really made an impact on me, so I started to listen to her podcast, Better Together With Maria Menounos, and I now look forward to Mondays!” 

—Cristina Daniels, program manager, Woodland, CA

Set a soundtrack

“I have an hour-long commute to work, so I’m in the car for at least two hours every day. My best strategies for making this time pass is putting on a great soundtrack and carpooling when I can. Find a radio station with promising music that you can jam out to, or create your own on a site like Spotify or Pandora. My husband and I carpool and take turns driving, so neither of us becomes burned out, and we actually get to spend some quality time together this way.”

—Emily Woodruff, assistant project manager, Deford, MI

Connect with yourself

“For me, commuting is a time to connect with myself. It’s a time and place where there’s minimal distraction that allows me to think about areas of life that need my attention, or just de-stress. By the time I reach my destination, I have solved at least one or two of my mental dilemmas.” 

—Aakriti Agarwal, coach and facilitator, Hyderabad, India

Prep on the way there, unwind on the way back 

“I am blessed to be able to work from home most days, though one day a week, usually on Mondays, I go to a client site that is 90 minutes away. I use the time to do calls and mentally plan my week. On the way home, I turn up the music and spend the time completely letting go of the day. It is pure bliss!”

—Cindy J., executive search and HR consultant, Boston, MA

Rediscover storytelling through audiobooks 

“I have fallen in love with audiobooks! Unless I’m on vacation, I’ll usually read non-fiction personal growth books. I used to love reading fiction books, but struggled to find the time over the last few years — then I found Audible. Now, I fill my commute with the works of my favorite fiction mystery and thriller writers. I can’t wait to get in the car and hit play!”

—Tammie Kip, author, Toronto, Canada

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