During 2015, the average worker spent a total of 200 hours getting to and from work.
That’s about 45 minutes each day. Most commuters settle back: dozing, resting, unwinding and generally taking it easy.
That’s fine for those who need to relax, but, for some, the time seems wasted, frustrating, boring or unproductive.
If you’re fed up with your commute, you don’t have to “sit back” and take it. Consider alternatives that address your commuting concern.
Almost 80 percent of commuters use their own cars. This factor may be non-negotiable for you because of location, hours or personal preference. That doesn’t mean you’re without options.
- Take the Long Way Home: Does it seem like every commuter in the world has chosen your highway? Change your route significantly, and you could notice a drastic drop in traffic. Stay off the most direct and crowded roads.
- Though taking “blue highways” often adds to mileage, the trip not be noticeably longer time-wise. Lack of congestion could counterbalance extra distance. An unexpected but pleasant bonus: When you’re off the commuter path, you’re more likely to experience great scenery.
- Stay on Top: Accidents and weather extremes can drastically alter daily commute times. You can learn about delays with radio traffic reports if you hit the right station at the right time. It’s an old-school approach. Get more help with modern technology, which accurately calculates travel time.
- Use your vehicle’s GPS to keep you up-to-date on traffic conditions and projected arrival times. Google maps and navigation apps provide information that lets you adjust your route from day to day. Not only does this save time, but travel variations also force you to pay attention. This makes you a more engaged and less bored driver.
- Shift Gears: If you have the flexibility, switch the time you hit the road to avoid rush hour traffic. Being stuck in a gridlock or having a long-distance commute makes blood pressure soar. Your pressure might drop to normal when you’re out of the mess, but you could also be facing a spiking trend. Don’t automatically assume a schedule change is impossible. It could be useful to have someone it the office a little earlier or a little later.
If you’re not committed to being behind the wheel, riding frees up your hands and mind for a while. If you’re reluctant to hang up your car keys, use this option once or twice a week. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
- Park the Car: If you live in an urban area, use mass transit and let someone else steer. Depending upon traffic, commuting by subway, bus or train might not even take longer. Walking, even part of the way, like to or from the station adds fresh air and exercise. So does biking to work, though these commuters face the “sweat in the workplace” issue. However, a change of clothes and a little privacy fixes that.
- Share and Share Alike: Though carpooling is less popular than it once was, it’s still a way to save money and get a break from the driver’s seat. However, some commuters don’t want to deal with the reduced freedom and privacy. More couples, though, are sharing the ride to work regularly. Sometimes they even tack a date onto the end of the business day.
- Just Stay Home: In some fields, telecommuting is a possibility. For certain jobs or places of business, this is out of the question. But don’t assume the worst until you’ve considered all the angles. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Even one or two days at home impacts your commute.
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Use your commute to start or finish your workday. You might be surprised at how much you can accomplish. However, many options aren’t practical or safe if you’re driving.
- Reach Out: Handling emails and making calls on the commute saves you a lot of time once you get to work. However, even though hands-free calls may be legal, they’re not necessarily advisable for drivers. When you’re on the phone, your brain can handle fewer moving images, and your field of vision narrows.
- Get Write On It: If you can balance your laptop, you can work on reports or projects. Use headphones to shut out distractions. If it’s still not quiet enough, just get your thoughts down. Worry about style and format later.
- Say What? Here’s something that’s best to do when you’re alone in a car. If you’re preparing for a speech or presentation, make a recording and play it while you’re driving. Using the commute for memorization frees up more valuable time later.
Related Article: Make It Count: How To Kill It On Your Next Business Trip
Settle Back Strategically
Some commuters need absolute quiet to prepare for the day ahead or relax on the way home. However, if you’re bored of just sitting, plan some entertainment.
- Listen Up: Committed to using your own car? Drivers don’t, and probably shouldn’t, have many options to amuse themselves. Music, podcasts, and audiobooks provide diversions but be ready to turn them off if traffic or weather becomes intense. Commuters who use mass transit or carpool are free to scroll through options, but drivers should prepare playlists before hitting the road.
- Crack a Book: They’re not archaic. Actual paper books are alive and well in the digital age. Some people prefer them. For transit commuters, books provide shields from interruption in a way that ear buds don’t. Choose a book for pure entertainment, to learn something new or to keep up with business texts.
No job is perfect. For some, the worst part is the commute. However, if you’re dissatisfied with getting there and back again, you have some choices. Changing your routine, your mode transportation mode, your attitude or your downtime makes the process more bearable, and more productive.