Trains, planes and automobiles (and bikes and buses and our own two feet). If you’re like most working professionals, you currently spend a significant portion of each day commuting to and from work using any one (or two or three) of these means. When you’re walking and biking you’re at least sneaking some exercise in, but the rest of them? If you’re not careful, they can become the most wasteful part of your day. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, to the savviest life hackers among us, your commute is actually a blessing. It’s a great time to get things done and grow your career. Let’s take a look at a few key strategies for turning daily commute time suck into the most productive part of your day.
1. Set Up Your To Do List
Your commute happens at the beginning and the close of your day. What better time than now to really think about what comes next? If you’re driving, you can take a quick glance at your calendar before you go and make a mental checklist or say it aloud into your smartphone’s memo app as you drive. On public transport, take the time for a more in-depth look at your calendar, or use a cloud-based app like Basecamp or Trello to check off what you’ve done and create new task lists for the week and day.
2. Do a Little Learning
Driving to work doesn’t have to mean depending on talk radio for entertainment. Instead, download podcasts and audiobooks that are related to your industry, cover an interest area, or are just get you to think in a new and interesting way. (You never know, after all, when an idea totally unrelated to what you do will revolutionize your thinking). Of course, if you’re riding public transport, books and eBooks are a great way to go. Collection sites like Pocket will keep any articles you want to read organized for you, while big publications like the NY Times can deliver digests right to your eReader. Many of these publications have text-to-speech options, making them viable even for drivers.
3. Make the Most of Mobile Apps
There are so many mobile productivity apps available today, it would be silly not to take advantage of a few. Apps like Remember the Milk, for instance, will get your to-do list ready to go, while apps like Shifu function as a helpful personal assistance — a great “person” to check in with as you get your day organized. Also helpful: Grexit, a mobile email app that allows you not only to easily check what’s come in (another great thing to do on your public transport commute) but also easily assign tasks across a team, right from the interface. How’s that for getting organized on the go?
4. Get Ahead on Work
With mobile devices and mobile accessories at your fingertips, that train or bus can even become your complete mobile workspace. Okay, maybe not a run of the mill city bus, but definitely a company commuter’s bus — all the more so if it offers Wi-Fi. On your tablet or laptop, you can finish that presentation, offer feedback on a colleague’s blog post, read the latest industry news or, really, do just about anything you would do at your desk. If your smartphone offers hotspots, you can connect to the internet and navigate through your company’s cloud computing system. Who knows — maybe you’ll get so much done, you can cut out of work early.
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5. Carpool With Your Mentor or a Colleague
Sure, they may live a little out of the way, but carpooling with a mentor or colleague can really make that commute fly by. Plus, this is a great time to solicit expert, personal advice that your mentor might be too busy to give during the day. Or just to swap gossip with your work friend. Yes, swapping gossip is actually productive. This is just as long as it helps you work through any stress that your work relationships might be causing you, and you also strategize resolutions.
6. Center Yourself
Of course, productivity is most often about what we’ve discussed so far — getting more done. But sometimes, focusing solely on your ever expanding task list isn’t actually all that productive. In fact, it’s overwhelming and a quick route to burnout. If you’re feeling this way, try taking your morning commute to center yourself, and your evening commute to unwind. Listen to some breathing exercises or calming music, or simply look out the window at the scenery and try to let your stress go. Doing so will give you the rest and relaxation you need to feel energized at work, as well as that recentering that’s so important as you pivot back into your personal life. Your family and friends will thank you for taking the time to do this.
The One Thing You Should Never Do on Your Commute
Calls. Don’t make them, don’t take them. On public transport, forcing your fellow commuters to listen to you is just bad form (plus, you won’t be able to discuss anything sensitive). In cars, studies have found even hands-free calling technology is dangerous, as it still focuses your attention on a conversant that exists far away from the road to which you should be attuned. So: save the call for the office or home, and live to see the next day.
How do you use your commute to enhance your mobile lifestyle? Let us know in the blog comments.