In this guest post, Kyla Matthews tells us a few reasons why a commute doesn’t have to be so bad. I work at home, but reading this almost made me wish I commuted to work. Almost. Still, that says a lot coming from me. If you commute, this is a must read.
“Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.”
– William Feather
The average commute to work in the U.S. takes just over 26 minutes, according to the Washington Post. Well, but that’s the average. Many Americans are stuck in much longer commutes — especially if they live in one of the top nine worst cities for commuting.
What are these top nine? Drum roll (or horn honk), please.
- Washington, D.C.
- Los Angeles
- New York
- San Francisco
This means, of course, that your commute time could be way over half an hour if you live in a city or a ring of suburbs around one. Drivers in Washington, D.C., for example, are delayed in traffic an average of 82 hours every year — that’s a full three and one-half days just being delayed in traffic, not actually driving.
The top nine worst cities for commuting have enormous delay times, from second-place L.A.’s 80 hours all the way down to Dallas’s 53 hours per year.
What to Do if Alternative Transportation Isn’t an Option
All of these cities, of course, have public transportation such as trains and buses. Many people, though, don’t work in places where taking public transportation is actually a feasible option.
You may live and work in places where you can ride a bike or walk to work, but many people don’t work in places where that is doable option.
Ways to Love Your Commute
What’s a car-driving commuter to do? Learn to look forward to your commute. Believe it or not, you can make it a pleasurable part of the day. Here are six of the best methods:
1. Greet the day at a leisurely pace.
If you’re like most of America, your mornings are fast paced. The alarm clock sounds and you shower, dress, eat, and run to the car. Start to view your commute as a time to decompress from morning hurry. You can sip your favorite coffee, look at the scenery and prepare for the work day in a relaxed way.
2. Enjoy your alone time.
The contemporary demands of work cut into our personal life more and more. Your workplace may expect you to work late or check your email at 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., or both. Your friends and family may expect frequent phone calls or texts, and to see you every weekend. You probably have plans for the weekend — and the next two weekends.
The point is that you don’t have a lot of alone time. A commute can be a time when you enjoy some space to think your own thoughts and enjoy being solo.
3. Learn something new.
There is plenty of material available to play in your car, such as audiobooks or podcasts. Whether you want to learn Spanish, listen to sales techniques or check out the latest Stephen King novel, you can do it on your drive to work. If you commute the average 26 minutes and spend that time learning a new language, you’d probably know enough to travel to that country at the end of a year.
If you use your commute to gain knowledge, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish! You can also buy a text-to-voice reader, which converts existing printed material to an audio file and makes your choices of what to listen to virtually limitless. You don’t have to restrict your choices to existing audio or podcasts.
4. Bring in the fun.
If you love listening to music, you’re in luck with a commute. Blast your favorites at full volume. Techno-punk. Reggae. Classic rock. They’re all yours for the duration of the drive. You can also cast your net wide. Listening to faves is one way to do music. But the other is to listen to streaming services that recommend music like your faves, or introduce you to new sounds. Radio, too, can be a way of widening the music you like and discovering new artists.
Music listening is an especially great option if you’re the only one among your friends or family that likes techno-punk, reggae or even classic rock. A lot of social time is spent doing the agreed-upon thing. Fill the air during your commute with the music you love, but they don’t.
5. Meditate while driving.
It is definitely possible to meditate on your commute. There are many apps and audio files that will take you through guided meditation, complete with rushing water sounds, birds chirping, hypnotic ocean waves or a soothing voice. Meditation is a known reducer of stress. It also increases your focus, mindfulness and creativity — which help both work and life.
6. Vary your trail.
Surprisingly, changing up your route makes you less stressed. You’d think it would be the opposite, but it turns out that hours stuck in traffic trigger feelings of helplessness. There is no predictability, and humans are hard-wired to feel better when they know — and can change — their environment. Stress happens when you’re not in control.
The solution? Do what your ancestors did — hunt for new and unusual routes. If you usually head down a major highway, try the smaller county roads. If you always use the county roads, see if a combined major arterial and other roads allow you to arrive to work faster. What does the scenery look like? How’s the traffic? Plan a path that might be used in the future and counteract feelings of helplessness by trying a different route.
This is especially true if it looks like a traffic jam might be looming — or if you’re already in the middle of one. Apps like Waze combine GPS, maps and social media to give you real-time advice about traffic. They can plot a new route with folks already on it chiming in.
Whether your drive to work takes 10 minutes or two-plus hours, these tips will help you look forward to it every day. Savor your coffee and breakfast, enjoy your alone time and embrace audio media to its fullest. While you’re at it, take a risk and veer off the beaten path.
Kayla Matthews is a writer and productivity blogger based in Pittsburgh, PA. You can learn more about Kayla on her blog, Productivity Theory.