Commuting to work isn’t particularly fun. Still, it’s necessary for most—while remote work continues to increase in popularity, the majority of the workforce still work in-office. And while hybrid employees aren’t commuting to work daily, they still have to make their way to the office on a regular basis.
With the average U.S. commute to and from work being nearly an hour, any sort of in-office commitment can account for a huge amount of your time as the days, weeks, and months go by. If you’re not careful, that can be a lot of wasted time. But it doesn’t have to be.
Whether you have a short commute or a long commute, whether you’re commuting to work by train or car, here are three simple ways to start making the most of your travel time.
1. Focus on learning something new
Your morning and evening commute can be the perfect time to learn something new. Between books, podcasts, and YouTube alone, there’s a wealth of educational information at your fingertips, just waiting to be accessed. So, access it.
Commuting to work by train? Pull out a book. Stuck standing in a subway car? Pull up that article you’ve been meaning to read or listen to a podcast. Driving to work? Listen to an audiobook or NPR. Staying active and walking or biking to work? Listen to that speech or explainer video you have queued up on YouTube.
If you’re balancing work and school, don’t hesitate to study on the go. Learning a language? No one on the bus cares if you capitulate to the Duolingo owl. All in all, just learn something. Unless, of course, you want to maximize your time a different way.
2. Relax your mind and body
If your work situation is a stressful one, it may be best to let your mind and body relax a bit during the commute. Especially if, between family and other responsibilities, your travel time is the only time you have to yourself. So, don’t hesitate to let yourself do nothing, whatever that looks like for you.
Do whatever it is you need to do to get in a better headspace and keep your body from being tense. If that’s driving in silence, do that. If it’s listening to your favorite artist’s new single on repeat, do that. If it’s using the Calm app to meditate, re-reading your favorite novel, or playing that super addictive smartphone game, do that. And don’t feel guilty about “doing nothing” either.
Everyone needs a break from life’s madness, and not everyone has a set time and space in which to do so. Take what you can when you can. Relax how you can where you can. Give yourself permission to prioritize your well-being, even when your to-do list isn’t finished yet.
3. Mentally preview the full day ahead of you
Let’s be real: work is work. It’s taxing, mentally and physically. But it can be a whole lot more stressful if you don’t know what the day has in store for you—or what you should be working on throughout the day. So, think about how your day should go.
Commuting to work is the perfect time to mentally preview the full day ahead of you. Depending on the day, this preview might take a few seconds. Other days, it might take a few minutes. Yet every day you walk into the office with an understanding of what needs to be done, and a plan for how you’ll navigate things, you help yourself stay focused. And in staying focused, you stay more efficient.
Thinking about work before you get there might not be fun, but it can be extremely beneficial. Who knows? If mentally previewing the workday helps you be more efficient in the office, that one moment on your commute to work might help you start you commute home before rush hour.