By re-thinking your commute, you can transform this generally boring and frustrating experience into a key part of your day – one where you can relax, learn and even come up with your next big idea.
If you get the train or bus to work, it’s easy to feel that this part of your day is swallowed up and gone forever. Perhaps you stare from the window, silently berate the bad behaviour of your fellow commuters, or fruitlessly scroll through your smartphone.
With spare time such a limited resource, there can be a lot of frustration at being stuck on public transport. But even though for many of us the commute is never going to be our favourite part of the day, there are ways you can make the most of it.
If your commute is spent dozing uneasily and wishing you were still in bed, you can get some far more energising rest by using the time to meditate. There are different ways to go about this – you could download a mindfulness app, which will prompt you to become aware of the moment, or you could use a simple mantra technique like transcendental meditation, which you can do anywhere. Just twenty-five minutes to and from work could boost your energy, sharpen your focus and reduce your stress – making your commute an opportunity to feel better for the rest of day!
Learning something new is a great way to keep your brain in tip-top condition, and getting to grips with a new language could help you immensely next time you’re travelling somewhere new. Apps like Duolingo won’t give you overnight fluency, but half an hour a day of practice can add up to surprising progress – even if you thought (like I did) that you are no good at languages.
As it all starts to make a little more sense, you can also use your commute to read recipes, short poems and stories in your chosen language, and listen to podcasts too. This can help to recreate the “immersion” effect of actually living in that country, helping you to learn more quickly.
Reading and listening to audiobooks on the commute is nothing new, and if you really enjoy getting stuck into the latest thriller or wrangling with a dense literary classic, then that’s a great use of time. However, if you wanted to you could also use your commute to introduce yourself to new skills and subjects, grow knowledge of your industry, or indulge an underexplored interest – just by shaking up your reading list.
Perhaps you could find out the reading requirements of a University course you like the look of, and see if you can work your way through the books in a year. You could even take a lucky dip in the guides and learning section of your favourite bookshop with something you’d never considered before. In a few months, you may know more about falconry, medieval architecture, or the finer points of quantum theory that you thought possible.
Challenge yourself to come up with three haikus in half an hour, or keep a sketchbook and pencil in your bag. Perhaps you could design your dream house, or fill a page with doodles of cats, or even sneakily sketch the people around you.
Maybe you can come up with a concept for an app, or a character for a book. You don’t have to be an artist or writer, and no one else has to see the fruits of your labours unless you want them to – but these little creative exercises will wake up your brain and maybe even spark ideas that you want to explore further.
Sometimes it’s the small changes that create the biggest effect, and something as simple as getting off the train or bus a stop early (presuming this isn’t miles away from your final destination) will give you the chance to stretch your legs and do a little wellbeing-boosting exercise.
Even if this only amounts to half an hour of walking a day, that’s an extra 450 calories burnt over the working week – something that’s hard to achieve in an evening gym session. So you can skip the gym one night a week and use that time elsewhere.
It doesn’t matter what you choose, really. But if you spend each day cursing your commute, any of these options should make it a little more enjoyable.