January 7, 2014

Make the Most of Your Commute

According the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 90% of Americans commute to work. A full 8% of workers commute more than an hour each way to their place of employment. While that last statistic is mind-blowing to me, the simple fact is that even average commuters spend a large part of their waking life getting from home to work and back again: 38 hours per commuter per year!  

How many times have you put off starting a new habit, practicing an old one or taking the time to relax, because you're just "too busy"? Well, it might be time to "Treat Yo Self"!

Learning how to multitask during a long commute will not only take your mind off the traffic, unexpected delays and smelly passengers beside you, but will also give you a head start on feeling great about the day (or help leave work stresses behind as you head home). Here are a few suggestions:

The old standby. Worried that you'll never have the time for Anna Karenina? LibriVox has a ton of free audio books available, searchable by author, title or genre. Also, check out Audible, where you can download a free book when you sign-up for their membership program. Commuter Bonus: did you know that you can rent audiobooks from Cracker Barrel? (However, I do not recommend stopping for the Double Meat Breakfast everyday on the way to the office.)

In just a few seconds, you can download some pretty incredible podcasts to your iTunes account, computer or smartphone. Some of my favorites include: Marketplace Money, This American Life and Radiolab. Most podcasts can be pre-set to download new episodes every time your device is near WiFi and it's a great, on-demand way to stay entertained or informed while trapped in a car, train or plane.

For all you public transportation commuters out there! Knitting is the perfect way to pass the time, make something cool (or uncool, depending on how experienced you are) and also keep obtrusive people at bay with big metal weapons needles! Need help? You don't need a fancy class to get started. YouTube and KnittingHelp.com are excellent resources: from step-by-step beginners instruction to advanced skills and everything in between.

Learn a language
Thanks to a killer hour-long commute in law school, I now claim basic French* as a skill. Try it for yourself. Most local libraries offer lots of language courses in various formats, plus there are some amazing free classes online. I love Learn French with Alexa, Learn French by Podcast and my all-time favorite: Notes in Spanish

Mindfulness is not defined by sitting on a pillow surrounded by Tibetan chanting. A commute is the perfect time to let the mind wander, use your imagination, brainstorm for a project or to practice deep breathing. If driving in silence seems overwhelming (or too hippy-dippy) check out these tips or these for ideas and inspiration.

Lastly, don't over do it. I don't care how agile your texting fingers are, typing into any device while driving or walking on a crowded subway platform is a terrible idea. (And it's totally not worth it to prove me wrong.)

For more facts about commuting, check out this fascinating study from the Texas A&M.

*Defined as the ability to order croissants, find a bathroom and order wine with ease.

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