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On Dec 10 2019 / by Wyoming Paul

8 simple ways to improve your morning commute

That turn wasted time into time well-spent

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...

1. Transition into your next role of the day

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.

2. Switch to an active commute

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.

3. Make your commute more social

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.

  • While the commute has been found to create more negative feelings than any other daily activity, that negativity is significantly reduced when you travel with another person
  • In one study, even people who said they prefer to sit in solitude during their train commute actually had a better experience if they connected with a fellow passenger
  • A series of studies from the University of Chicago found that people reported having a much more positive public transport commute when they spoke with strangers

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.

4. Use the time for something you love

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.

5. Practice some self care

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:

  • Try out some gratitude journaling. Here are a few prompts to get you started
  • Practice simple meditation or deep breathing exercises
  • Read for pleasure
  • Put everything away - your phone, music, reading material - and just sit quietly

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.

6. Wake up early and take your time

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…

  • Make yourself a coffee or tea and sit quietly while you enjoy it, or even pop into your favourite cafe and take fifteen minutes to read the paper
  • Absorb the interesting and lovely aspects of your surroundings, especially as you walk or cycle
  • Literally smell the roses (it’s a cliche for a reason)

For more of our tips on how to create less stressful mornings, click here.

7. Reserve your parking spot

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!

8. Get on top of your work

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.

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