The average commute in the U.S. is just over 25 minutes each way. In a year, that adds up to 204 hours. That means a commute, even of average length, can really put a crimp in your work-life balance and impact your happiness and life satisfaction. What you could do if you had that time back? You can probably think of lots of things — gardening, spending time with friends and family, hiking, reading that novel you’ve been meaning to get to for months…
One of the ways to handle work-life balance when you face a long commute every day is to re-frame commute time. Make it an opportunity, not a loss. If the average commute is more than 50 minutes a day, you have nearly an hour to put toward some kind of worthwhile activity. Commuting time doesn’t necessarily have to be time wasted for a Productivity Ninja.
Remember that 78 percent of car commuters drive alone. That’s a tremendous opportunity to fit in activities meaningful to you, such as these:
Listen to Some Tunes or an Audiobook
If you love music, don’t let a long commute translate into settling for the radio. Prep a couple of Spotify lists based on artist or how the music makes you feel, and use your solo commute to sing along with your favorites at the top of your lungs.
What about an audio book or podcast? There are tons to choose from, and apps like Audible and Podcast Addict can get you started. You can finally get through that novel you’ve been wanting to read by listening to the audiobook version on your commute. If you don’t know where to start, we recommend Beyond Busy.
Pack Healthy Snacks
Because commutes exert a negative pull on your health, fight back. Pack a healthy breakfast to eat in the car — power bars, bananas or apples are a good start. For the drive home, how about carrot sticks or fresh bell pepper strips? Don’t let a long commute make you neglect your health: it’s an essential part of work-life balance.
Your commute can impact your mental health. Combat depression and avoid spikes in blood pressure by listening to short meditations on your commute. Meditation lifts your mood and destresses you, which means you can take care of yourself and arrive to work, and home again, in a positive state of body and mind.
Taking Public Transportation?
If you’re on a bus or train, you certainly won’t be alone. However, you can still find ways to use the time efficiently, even with additional sound effects in the background:
Learn a Language
Perhaps part of your balance is planning a vacation to Italy or China. Don’t let a long commute deprive you of the time you need to learn the language. A commute is just the right length to work with audio lessons a little per day. Just plug in the headphones and practice in your head.
Stay Updated on a Show
Someone else will be driving that bus or train, not you. That’s a great opportunity to watch all the video you want on your smartphone. Car commuters can’t do that! Lift any stress by laughing.
Check out Amy Schumer, John Oliver or your comedian of choice. It’s a great way to schedule in some entertainment time and take your mind off work and your to-do lists. Watch and laugh for the duration of your commute.
Exercise on Your Way to the Station
Commuting is hard on your health — which is, after all, part of your work-life balance. A commute of more than 10 miles has measurable negative effects on a host of health measures, including blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, sleep, back pain and depression. Find methods to counterbalance these effects.
You may not have a comfortable space to eat healthily on a bus or train. However, there’s always space for healthy snacks. Park the longest distance possible from where you catch the bus or train. The walking will help maintain good cholesterol and blood sugar levels. On a train, if possible, you can also walk a car length or two before sitting.
Figure out things you want to achieve or need to do in the coming weekend and months. Does gardening or cooking soothe you, and you never have enough time to do it? Get to the library or bookstore or download a book, read it while commuting and start making a list of plans. Make calls and leave voice messages for vendors. Start planning for your holiday or the great breakfast you’ll whip up on the weekend.
A commute doesn’t have to upend your work-life balance. The time spent can restore it if approached in a strategic way. Utilize these tips to work favorite and healthy activities into your commute. Let us know how you spend your commute @thinkproductive
By Sarah Landrum