The average American drives 26.4 minutes—each way—in their commute to work. And even though telecommuting, flexible schedules, and alternative scheduling options were supposed to fix the commuting problem, we’ve ended up with a commute that’s actually longer than the average commute was in 1990—when it was less around 22 minutes. And that’s average. If you live in a big city or have a long commute, you can travel for more than an hour each way, five days a week. That’s a lot of time to spend in the car.
Until teleportation becomes a reality, commuting is here to stay. So instead of looking at work-from-home opportunities as the way to save all yourself from the daily trek down the turnpike, try and utilize that time in the car in the best possible ways. Here are five suggestions.
Learn New Skills
Do you want to expand your skills but don’t have time? Well, if you’re the average commuter, you have about an hour a day to spend in the car where you can learn anything you’d like through verbal instruction.
It’s probably not the best way to learn graphic design, but to learn about marketing, health, family relationships, or just about anything else, you can use your commuting time. You can find a podcast that specializes in your area of interest, or you can take an online class with recorded lectures. You may not be earning your next degree, but you can gain a great deal of knowledge during that commute. You can also spend this time learning a foreign language. You can listen to formal lessons through instructional recordings, and as your vocabulary increases, listen to books or podcasts in your target language.
Relaxing may seem impossible if you are driving through urban traffic, but you can use this time alone to decompress. Working and driving can be stressful independent of one another, so the combination could have dangerous effects on sleep, mood, and productivity.
To make this commute a practice in self-care, pick music or an entertaining podcast to accompany your drive. Get an Audible subscription and listen to novels—don’t worry about learning something; just focus on making your trip relaxing.
If possible, take back roads with less traffic. This may make your commute a bit longer, but it will reduce the stress you experience and reduce unnecessary stimuli.
Don’t connect your phone to your car’s BlueTooth. Yes, answering calls and sending voice to text messages can help you get work done, but this isn’t giving you the break you need to lower your stress.
Zip your phone into your bag and put it in the backseat. Take deep breaths. Let people merge in front of you. Focus on staying calm to better prepare for your day or evening.
Keep Up with the News
68% of people get at least some of their news from social media, even though 57% of these consumers find that the news they receive via social media is inaccurate. Listening to the radio during your drive still provides news and entertainment, and while what you hear on the radio is rarely perfectly unbiased news, it is generally provided by professional reporters and has a smaller margin for error than news spread via social posting.
Try listening to your local National Public Radio (NPR) station or the major news radio stations in your area. You can then compare what you learn there to your preferred social media sources, and you’ll have a multifaceted understanding of what is going on in the world.
Switch to Public Transportation
Public transportation is not a solution for everyone in the United States; rural and suburban areas often don’t have convenient public transportation. However, if you live in a big city, consider leaving your car at home and riding the bus or taking the subway. When you don’t have to drive, you can read a book, watch online videos, or chat with your commute partner.
Another benefit of public transportation is how it reduces stress in bad weather. Sure, it may take you longer to get home in a snowstorm, but you can let the professionals do the driving.
Like public transportation, people often advocate for forming a carpool as a way to help the environment and save money on gas and tolls. If you’re an extrovert, you may enjoy your drive much more with a companion.
Not only is carpooling a great way to save money with the added benefit of companionship but—in some metro areas—you can also use the carpooling lane to decrease your commute time.
Your plan to make your commute enjoyable can pay off in the end. You can learn something, have fun, or even make a friend; all of these opportunities can make your life better. This means that when you get to work, you’re ready to work, and when you get home, you’re not unnecessarily stressed when you walk through the door.