Commuting to work is a hassle for most of us, but one that’s mostly unavoidable. Unless you have the luxury of working from home, you likely face a commute somewhere near the average of 25 minutes each way, costing you nearly 5 hours a week just in travel time. During that travel time, you’ll likely be bored or annoyed on your best days and infuriated on your worst days, potentially ruining the rest of your workday based on such a bad morning experience.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your commute to work.
How to Improve Your Commute
These are just a few steps you can take to make your commute faster, more productive, or at least more enjoyable:
1. Take an electric bike. First, consider riding an electric bike to work. Traditional bicycles work fine for a similar purpose; you can squeeze in some physical exercise during your commute, while simultaneously taking bike lanes so you can skip the majority of traditional traffic. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the scenery much more, seeing shops, buildings, and landscapes you might otherwise miss if driving. But electric bikes have an extra advantage—a small motor so that you can spare yourself effort on especially long rides.
2. Use public transportation. Public transportation is underrated and underutilized. You’ll be forced to follow a fixed schedule, and it may not seem quite as convenient as driving your own car, but you’ll be able to commute far less expensively, you’ll skip traffic, and most importantly, you’ll get to dedicate your attention to work (instead of the road).
3. Carpool. Similarly, you can try to carpool with some of your coworkers. Again, the disadvantage here is convenience; you’ll need to coordinate a group so you all leave at the same time and manage driving responsibilities on rotation. But the tradeoff is you’ll only be driving a fraction of the time; you’ll have far less stress overall, and you’ll get more time to work on things that matter.
4. Listen to podcasts. Podcasts are experiencing a golden age, and your commute is the perfect time to catch up on them. Depending on your goals, you might listen to an industry podcast, or one focused on how to improve your career; this is your chance to improve yourself on the way into work. Alternatively, you could listen to a podcast you genuinely enjoy, so you have a chance to chill out and decompress right before your shift (or after you’re done for the day).
5. Address traffic jams with the right mentality. Traffic jams are one of the most stressful elements of any commute, but they’re not so powerful once you learn how to see them in the right light. Instead of seeing them as instances of bad luck, ruining your productivity, see them as inevitabilities. They’re completely out of your control, and they’re going to happen no matter what. Then, instead of thinking about how much time you’re wasting in traffic, think about how much time you have to enjoy the next track of your favorite album, or how you can get through an extra episode of your favorite podcast.
6. Adjust your hours. You may be able to avoid the worst traffic jams by adjusting your hours slightly. For example, instead of coming in at 8:30, consider getting there early, by 7:30, and leaving by 4:30 or sooner, so you can beat the rush. If that doesn’t work for you or your boss, you can try arriving and/or leaving later.
7. Learn to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation is all about focusing on the present moment. The idea is to block out distractions and bring your racing thoughts to a halt, while centering on the importance of the present moment, rather than the past or future. It takes some time to perfect, but once you have a handle on it, you can call upon it during your most stressful commutes, and learn to manage them more effectively.
8. Hold calls and meetings. Get more done on your commute by having phone calls and/or meetings on your way in (assuming you have a hands-free device). This is especially valuable if your team has regularly recurring 15-minute “recap” or “touch base” meetings. That way, by the time you get to work, you can get straight to work, and have a list of action items ready to go.
Obviously, you don’t have to adopt all these strategies to make a difference in your daily commute. Small changes to your habits and your mentality can make your commute much more efficient, and help you stay more positive about it in the process. Try applying them and see how much tighter and more manageable your mornings and evenings become.