Make the most of your commute

Do you also feel like you spend too much time on commuting to work every day? How can you make the most of your commute?  

The numbers state the facts very plainly. The Office of National Statistics has compiled data on how much time the average person spends on the commute to work. The world average commute time to work is around 40 minutes. This corresponds to 340 hours of commute per year (assuming 255 working days per year and same commute time back from work) for the average person.

And apparently the problem is becoming larger if you compare to the state of things a decade ago. E.g. UK has seen an increase from 45 minutes commute to work in 2003 to 54 minutes in 2014. Whether the increase is due to an increase in the distance to work or a decrease in the average speed of travel is unknown to me. But I’m guessing it may be a combination of both.

In addition to the obvious downside of reduced overall productivity of the economy; Psychology Today’s article Commuting: “The Stress that Doesn’t Pay” walks through some of the costs of long commute. Let me give you the gist of it. The commute to work…

  • …can be major cause of stress due to unexpected delays. A study at McGill University found that drivers budgeted an extra 21 minutes of travel time to account for these delays.
  • …is the least satisfying activity of all – even beating housework and working.
  • …takes away time from health-related activities, e.g. sleep and exercise.

So what can you do about it? Assuming you are not prepared to change jobs, move, or invest in, say, an airborne vehicle to get you to work; then the question becomes: How can you make the most of your commute?

My answer is to keep the mind busy with other things. If done right, I believe the commute becomes an opportunity – a time pocket to spoil yourself. If you use public transportation you are able to read today’s paper, read books, or work/play on your smartphone or laptop. However, if you are driving, walking, or biking you have to utilise other alternative. E.g. e-books, podcasts, radio, or music.

I am a fan of podcasts.

You can create a versatile feed with news, education, and entertainment. No matter what platform you are using you can access a wide and deep range of interesting podcasts that fit your interests. And I expect that the width and quality of podcast offerings will nothing but increase over the coming years. And all statistics point in the direction that more and more people are increasing their consumption of podcasts, according to PewResearchCenter and edison research.

Furthermore, they’re mostly free, downloadable to your device, and you can pick up where you left off last time. Allow me to provide you with three recommendations on which shows to start with:

  • Freakonomics Radio – the hidden side of everything. Looks at a wide range of subjects through the eyes of an economist. Steven D. Levitt explores topics through interviews with experts and interesting stats. Recently, he delved into self-improvement and focused on that for a whole month.
  • Stuff you should know. The best edutainment out there. Josh and Chuck walk you through seemingly boring topics and teach you everything you ought to know, while making it very enjoyable.
  • TED Talks – Ideas worth spreading. If you want to get completely polished and to-the-point podcasts by some of the world’s leading thinkers; this is what you’ll want to listen to.

I hope that these podcasts can help bring a little bit of enjoyment into your commute to work, so you feel energised when you enter the doors at work.

Note: I have no affiliation with the above podcasts.

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