Most people who drive to and from work every day dread the lengthy commute of bumper-to-bumper traffic and delays. They may try to make the most of the practically static highway by checking their email or putting together to-do lists for the day.

But Maria Gonzales, author of Mindful Leadership: The 9 Ways to Self-Awareness, Transforming Yourself, and Inspiring Others, has a better idea for how to take advantage of the commute: Live in the moment.

In Harvard Business Review, Gonzales explains that practicing mindfulness on your daily commute can be extremely beneficial for your workday. She doesn't mean meditating and ohm-ing; she means embracing the delays and focusing on the present. That will not only make you a safer driver, but it will also significantly improve the rest of your day.

"By practicing mindfulness throughout your commute, you can develop focus and create calm and relaxation, arriving at the office refreshed and ready for the day, and at the end of the day, arriving at home ready to enjoy the evening," she writes.

Practicing mindfulness can help you concentrate more at work and make better decisions throughout the day. By focusing on the present moment instead of the "what ifs" of memory or fantasy, you free up a ton of energy and become more creative and efficient, Gonzales explains. You are left with more mental power to make more intelligent decisions when you get out of the car.

Mindfulness might not be second nature for most business people, so Gonzales walks you through the steps:

  1. First, get into the car and acknowledge your intention to be mindful.
  2. Then take a few breaths and become aware of your body. "Feel your hands on the steering wheel, the contour of your body on the seat, your foot on the pedal," Gonzales writes. "Make an effort to be aware of the body and feel present."
  3. Once you start to drive, be aware of the fact that you are looking through the windshield or at the mirror. Be aware of the fact that you're listening to the sounds around you.
  4. Continue to stay present throughout the drive; continue to be aware of your body, what you see, and what you hear.
  5. Your mind will wander to other distractions, but try to pull yourself back to your focus.

As is often the case, practice makes perfect. You'll become more comfortable with mindfulness as you continue doing it. As you get more comfortable, you may want to add in music or a podcast, but make sure that they remain secondary to your driving and the road ahead of you. Don't let those take you away from the present moment.

"When your mind controls you, it is very stressful; but when you are able to control your mind, it can be very relaxing," Gonzales writes. "A mindful commute will help you become more focused, relaxed, and effective once you get to your destination."

Published on: Nov 14, 2014