Let's face it, commuting sucks. Sure, there's the odd eager beaver who pounces on the opportunity to squeeze another few hours of work into their day, but most of us just want to get to work and home in one piece. Yet whether you're driving, carpooling, taking the train, cycling or powering yourself to work with two feet and a heartbeat, your commute doesn't have to be lost time.
Instead of trying to fit more work in, use your commute time to enhance your productivity throughout the rest of your work day. This is what we call working smarter, not harder.
I don't want you to spend your off-work time checking emails or organizing your calendar. You can do that at work--and do a better job of it if you spend your commute time working on things that will make you more focused and productive in general.
Use these tips to help you make the most of your time in transit:
1. Give Yourself a Moment of Silence
When is your life ever really intentionally quiet? Observing silence doesn't mean catching a rare minute of quiet between the kids yelling, the constant ping of smartphones, and the TV blaring. It means that at some point in your day, you really focus on silence to the point of near-meditation.
Ph. D. Bruce David, author of Simple Peace, is a huge proponent of silence for its sanity-saving qualities. He told Huffington Post, "The level of noise that we live with really closes us down. People have very little peace and quiet... When you find peace and quiet, you think more clearly, feel more clearly and the body heals itself."
Give it a try. Just not if you're the carpool driver.
2. Load Up the iPod
Podcasting is huge--last year, podcast subscriptions on iTunes topped 1 billion for the first time. Podcast listeners also tend to be heavily engaged, spending more than 25% of their audio listening time on podcasts.
What are you listening to, though? It may seem like a smart idea to listen to relevant business content by way of seminars, industry radio shows, online courses, etc. However, if you're finding yourself feeling burnt out at the end of the day, is it really helping your productivity to make that commute time an extension of your workday?
Instead, load up your iPod with music you enjoy, or audio versions of the books you haven't had time to read. And don't feel guilty about not working that extra few hours. Burning yourself out with a super long workday is a sure productivity killer.
3. Become a Blog Junkie
A lot of the activities we do in public transit are designed to shut us off from the rest of the world. We put in earphones so people don't try to talk to us. We hold a newspaper close to read, so we don't have to look at the people around us.
Unless you're walking or driving, you might choose to use your commute time to connect with people online. How much better could you be at your job or in your business with an extra 30 minutes of industry-specific news and commentary each day? Take time during your commute to news-scan industry blogs online and read your favorite business blogs. Go further though and become a part of those communities. Leave comments and engage in the conversations happening around these topics that interest you.
You'll gain knowledge that will make you a more productive person in your job, but also feed your human need for conversation and connection.
4. Get Social
How would an increased social presence help build your personal and professional brand? Make a conscious effort to get active on Twitter and LinkedIn during your commute. Don't just lurk and read--and don't think of social as Facebook-only.
On Twitter, you could get involved in Twitter chats on topics relevant to your business. GnosisArts has a pretty sizeable directory of Twitter chats to help you find one that may be happening during your commute.
Over on LinkedIn, head to Groups and join a bunch that interest you. Make a commitment to participating in discussions there each day during your commute. Head over to answer questions on Clarity and Quora.
All of these activities have real reputation and visibility benefits, but shouldn't feel like work. If you enjoy what you do, participating in social channels can be fun, too.
5. Take a Hobby on the Road
What's wrong with actually enjoying your commute? Take a book to read for FUN. Bring your iPod and sing along for fun (as loudly as you can without being obnoxious). Take a small craft you can manage without making a mess and keep it in an oversized bag. Maybe you're not ready to become that person on the train kitting yet--that's fine. Take a notepad and try some fiction writing exercises.
Being more productive on your commute doesn't have to mean cramming more work into your day. Sometimes, it means participating in things you enjoy and cutting yourself some slack so you can be more focused and productive the rest of the day.
Seriously, don't be so hard on yourself. Give it a try!