1. Listen for Inspiration
Whether you’re a podcast devotee, an audio book aficionado, or an NPR loyalist, listening to something that makes you happy can do wonders for your mood when you arrive at the office.
Depending on your industry and position, you may even find listening a source of inspiration for your creative work. But, if that doesn’t describe you, that’s OK. Chances are that an enjoyable commute will have you putting your best foot forward, and that’s bound to make for a productive day.
2. Draft Emails
I don’t love sending emails from my phone. I’ll write the occasional two-liner or will follow up with someone if I can do so in a couple of sentences, but the ones that merit bigger paragraphs? I used to leave them until I was in front of my desktop.
That is, until my commute started to deteriorate. I needed to fill the time (at least some of it) with something resembling productivity. So I began drafting long messages on my ride and saving them for later. Try this: You may find that you’re at your most articulate when you have time to go back before you press send.
3. Track Accomplishments
You know those small wins that feel good in the moment but are soon forgotten as the daily grind takes over? You will forget them if you let them sit untouched for too long.
Your commute’s a fantastic time to take pen to paper or finger to screen (whatever you prefer) and start making notes of all your many achievements, from the seemingly insignificant ones to the bigger ones. Biking or driving? Get in the habit of making a mental note and as soon as you get where you’re going, write down whatever you comes to mind.
4. Absorb Company News
From new company press to the CEO’s weekly email, we could all use some extra time in the day to read and process everything getting thrown our way. If you’re anything like me, you have good intentions to do it before you head out for the day, but you never quite get around to it.
If you drive in, consider trying out an app, like these five options that reads your emails aloud to you. And if you’re sticking it out on the subway or bus, bookmark these reads for easy access as soon as you board.
5. Refine Your To-Do List
I strongly suggest you use this time to evaluate today’s or tomorrow’s to-dos. What must you prioritize? What needs attention? What can wait? Not having to devote an ounce of energy to this when you start your day can save you time and stress. You know what awaits, and you can focus predictably when it’s time to start working.
If you can (because you’re not driving), jot it down. And if you are behind the wheel, consider putting Siri, or a similar app, to work for you.
That’s not a typo. You read that correctly. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious about the work that lies ahead (and a long, slow commute isn’t helping), use this time, approximately six minutes of it, to fill your brain with worry.
Really allow the anxiety to rear its ugly head and once you’ve taken the allotted time, return to normal. It’s called scheduling time to worry, and it’s not so unlike this trick for solving problems while you sleep.
Unless you’re willing and able to move down the street from your office or you get a job that’s 100% remote, the truth is, commuting to work is a reality for most of us, but it doesn’t have to be so harsh. When you can get in a better mood on your way into office and on your way home, you’re more likely to approach your work with enthusiasm and interest.