For many of us, the morning commute just sucks. Commuting wastes time, creates stress, deteriorates our health, and makes us less productive. They’re so bad that we leave jobs and turn down pay rises over them.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to improve your commute, and turn time wasted into time well spent. Here are our 8 simple suggestions for commuters of every kind...
We all juggle a number of roles - at home you might be a partner, a parent, a flatmate, or a caregiver, while at work or university you’re an employee or student. Because of that, one of the most positive ways of looking at the commute is seeing it as a transitional period between your home life and your work life.
The Harvard Business School found that people who use their commute to mentally prepare for their next roles - by planning what they would do that day or week, and thinking about how those actions would help them to achieve their goals - were less likely to suffer the negative effects of a long commute.
Try it out and see if you feel an improvement to your work-life balance. On your way to work or study, plan out the major work tasks of the day. On your way back home, think about personal plans that you want to achieve, whether that may be going for a workout, cooking something new, or spending time with your family.
Driving has been found to be the most stressful mode of travel, so one way to improve your commute (and help the planet) is to swap the car for a bike or a pair of walking shoes.
You may baulk at the thought of how much extra time walking or cycling would take, but research has found that about 90 percent of people overestimate the time it takes to cycle or walk to work by at least 10 minutes.
For those with long commutes, cycling to a bus or train station can give you the benefits of some morning exercise without the two-hour urban hike.
Most importantly, an active commute will make you feel more productive, energised, and satisfied - and that’s well worth the extra minutes.
A bunch of studies have found that the commute is better when you have someone to share it with, or when you make a social connection during your journey.
So, next time you take a bus, train, or ferry, why not strike up a conversation with someone new?
If you’re driving, you can also organise a carpool with colleagues who live nearby. You’ll get the benefit of being social, plus you only have to drive part of the time and save on fuel.
Regardless of whether you’re walking, driving, or taking public transport, the commute can be a great time to plug into some music, an audiobook, or your favourite podcast. Whether you want to relax, pep yourself up for the day, learn something new, or escape into a story, your stereo or earphones are there for you.
For those with available hands (aka sitting on public transport - please don’t SuDoKu and drive), it’s also a great time to break out the crossword puzzles, read, or get in touch with friends.
If you have a busy home and social life, your commute may be some of the only consistent quiet time you have. Instead of filling it with work or endless news articles, use that time to focus on your wellbeing and take a breath. Here are a few thoughts:
By putting yourself first, your commute could transform from another busy, rushed part of your day to a calming period that you (maybe) even look forward to.
The commute is way more stressful when you’re running late. By getting up a little earlier and preparing the night before, you’ll be able to add some enjoyable elements to your morning rather than seeing the early part of your day as a stressful ordeal.
Make time to…
For more of our tips on how to create less stressful mornings, click here.
The morning commute is always worse when you’re driving with the question ‘Where am I going to park?’ hovering over your head. It can also add precious minutes to your drive as you circle the block searching for a place to park - especially frazzling when you’re already on the late side.
Remove that extra layer of stress and uncertainty by reserving a parking spot 30 minutes in advance with an app like Parkable. Simply choose where you want to park and tap ‘Reserve park’. You can also get a Parkable parking subscription, letting you park in the same place every day. Then all you have to do is drive directly to the parking spot waiting for you!
It may be (okay, it is) less fun that reading the new Lee Child thriller, but sometimes the commute is the perfect time to catch up on some emails or think through the issues you’ll have to solve later in the day. You’ll get into the right mindset while you travel, plus you’ll make the rest of the workday more manageable if you get started early.
On your way home, however, try to use the commute to transition from your work life to your home life - yes, read that Lee Child! That way your head won’t still be full of accounts when you’re trying to enjoy dinner or ask your partner about their day. It will just be full of Jack Reacher.
If you're interested in a new side hustle and some extra income, the sharing economy is a great place to start.
Circling the block for a park, is also doing something else - polluting our environment. 30% of urban congestion in major cities is caused by searching for a park. That’s a lot of time & fuel spent on a totally joyless activity.
Not in all aspects of her busy life, but when it comes to parking, the ‘planned last minute’ approach works best.