7 Relaxing & Productive Ways to Spend Your Commute

Commuting is one of those things people have a love-hate relationship with. Sometimes your travel time is quick and consistent, and other days you’re delayed and frustrated. Whether you’re driving into the city, taking the commuter rail or braving the masses on public transportation, we understand your struggle.

Although you may have gotten into a routine, it’s never too late to start using your commuting time differently. You’re committing at least a few hours a week to traveling back and forth, so you might as well make the most of it! We spoke with a few commuter-savvy people to see how they stay productive and relaxed during their commutes.

1. Study or prepare for work

If you’re not the one driving, you can use this time to study for exams or finalize details at work. Re-read a brief, catch up on the morning news or finish up last minute details before a presentation. Although you shouldn’t be focused on work 24/7, you can make simple to-do lists and map out what you need to accomplish so you can feel better prepared once you arrive at the office.

Studying is also a great way to utilize your time, whether it’s for grad school or an upcoming presentation you may have. Anthony Cibelli, an audit associate in Boston, says “I’ve been studying for the CPA exam on my train rides to and from work. It’s less studying to do at home (making me more relaxed) and makes me more efficient during my idle commuting hours.”

Staying on top of your work and having more time to relax at home? We’d say that’s a win win.

Related: How to Get a Job Where You Can Work from Home 

2. Listen to podcasts

This seems to be one of the most popular ways people use to relax and make their commute more enjoyable. Podcasts or radio shows are accessible no matter what type of transportation you to take work.

Rachel Petty, a graduate of James Madison University, says “Podcasts are my lifesaver! There are so many to choose from whether I want to laugh, learn or just listen to music,” she continues. “Guys We Fucked! is one of my favorites. It’s hilarious, educational and keeps me entertained.”

Podcasts range from being informative and enlightening to hilariously entertaining. This gives you plenty of topics to choose from and, depending on the day you’re having, you can switch it up to help change your mood around!

3. Play a game or use apps on your phone

It’s always good to take a break from your phone, especially if you’re staring at a computer screen all day, but games are an easy way to unwind if that’s what you need.

Desiree Bourque, graduate of the University of Southern Maine, says, “My two favorite games that I play on my phone are sudoku and solitaire. I’ve played solitaire since being a kid, mostly with cards but using the app on my phone is pretty convenient especially when traveling.”

An easy way to pass the time and indulge in favorite past times. If you’re driving and don’t have the option to look at your phone, try trivia games or brain teasers that only use audio. This way you can still challenge yourself and have some fun while staying safe.

Similar to podcasts, apps made for quieting the mind are becoming more and more common. Use your commute to relax by finding a meditation app or listening to feel good songs. Having the ability to come back to a calm state of mind is a gift and this is the perfect time to practice learning to center yourself, especially amidst the hustle and bustle.

4. Read a book

Mostly everything has gone digital these days but there’s still something satisfying about holding a book in your hand and reading. Reading makes the commute go by quicker and allows your mind to drift off from the stressors of the day. Books are the perfect escape if your commute doesn’t require a lot of standing or driving.

If you’re unable to hold a book during your commute—we don’t want anyone getting sick or driving off the road—then perhaps audiobooks will spark your interest. Audiobooks can also be even more relaxing, as if someone is personally telling you a story. The voices of many audiobooks, especially those that contain characters, are intriguing and can make hearing a story that much better, too!

Meghan Shaffer, a sophomore at College of the Holy Cross’, says, “I love to listen to audiobooks on long drives or commutes! I usually do books that I want to read for pleasure but you could also listen to reading for school.” This is true as well. Many required readings can be found on audiobooks, making your life a lot easier if you can pay attention.

5. Call your loved ones

Why not catch up with your family and friends on the phone when you have this much free time? They’ll help you clear your mind or make you laugh, leaving you ready to take on your day or relax after work. Hands-free phone calls are the way to go. This way you can safely balance yourself on city subways or pay full attention to the road while driving. You don’t want to be overly loud and annoy other passengers, especially in the morning, but a quick phone call never hurt anybody!

6. Get some exercise in

Exercising while commuting? How? Well, it’s easier than you think! If the weather permits, you can plan to spend some of your commute walking to work. Park farther away from your building or get off a couple stops before you have to on the subway and give yourself time to get a quick walk in.

Kinga Irzyk, an administrative coordinator at Lesley University, says, “When the weather is warm enough, I'll get off a stop or two early to walk the rest of the way and justify it as exercise.This is great time to catch up on a phone call home to mom or with a friend you haven't spoken with in a while!”

Plus, this means you won’t be stuck in traffic or surrounded by other commuters for as long. Alone time plus light exercise to clear your mind? We’re in!

7. Make a gratitude list

As we mentioned, commuting isn’t always ideal. It can put you in a bad mood early on or be the last thing you want to do after a stressful day at work. Making a list of five things you’re thankful for will help to turn this around!

Type it on your phone, think it in your mind or write it down if you have the luxury of finding a seat. The act of thinking about things in your life you have to be grateful for will uplift your spirits and relax you more than you realize. This process will give you a greater appreciation for your everyday life, especially if you continue to incorporate into your routine.

You’ll learn what works best for you during your commute to make it a little more bearable! Who knows, you might even end up enjoying this part of your day. Use this time to do what makes you feel best so you can conquer everything you take on. Cheers!

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