Hack your commute: easy ways to start (and end) your day right
For whatever reason (geography, the economy, fate), my work life has almost always involved a substantial commute. My first job was on top of a mountain, which meant an extra 15 minutes spent getting to work via gondola – it was maybe the most inspiring commute I’ve ever had, actually. I’ve worked my way through jobs and opportunities that have proven incredibly rewarding, but they’ve often come at the expense of a short commute.
I’m not alone. I live in a city with the longest commute in Canada. That’s Toronto, clocking in at an average of 32.8 minutes each way, and I’m just one of the 15.8% of the population who are commuting more than an hour to get to work (this according to the most recent Statistics Canada data). Other cities aren’t much better: Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal are all close to 30 minutes commute time. If you really want to hack your commute, consider a move: Saskatoon, Regina, St. John’s, Moncton and Kelowna feature commutes that are less than 20 minutes, on average.
If you’re not ready to make a move, a few simple changes can make a big difference in how much you enjoy your commute (and even how much you enjoy the rest of your day).
Make your commute as pleasant as possible. This seems so obvious, but I can’t tell you how long it took before I sat down and really figured out how I could make my commute more pleasant (okay, I can – it was almost three years).
At the top of my own list of changes: I made the switch to an alternate (and more expensive) transit system. Instead of making my way slowly through the city, my new bus bypasses most of the stops I used to sit through. It hasn’t cut my transit time down by much (about 10-15 minutes each way, although that does add up), but the trip is so much more pleasant. A more enjoyable commute has proven to be so worth the added expense.
Another tip: when you take time in the morning to make a really amazing cup of coffee (or tea, smoothie… whatever you’re into), life just feels better. Have healthy grab and go breakfasts on hand, too, for days you’re running late (or every day). Delicious things make early mornings so much more bearable.
Map out your options, and consider making a change – some people hate sitting in traffic and will be happier taking the bus, even if it takes longer; sometimes biking to work can be faster (and more fun) than taking transit, or even driving; or maybe you love the feeling of control that comes with driving.
Find a travel mug that’s easy to carry when you’re juggling your keys (little things matter), make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes, and put on some great music; in short, do whatever you can to make your commute feel as good as possible.
Use your time wisely – spend your commute getting smarter. Whether you’re driving, taking transit, or biking (or walking, you lucky ducks), your commute time is the perfect opportunity to focus on something that might get lost in the shuffle during the rest of the day: you.
When I started my current job, my commute time doubled. Somehow, the number of books I read quadrupled. Suddenly I had these long, uninterrupted stretches, and books were the perfect way to fill them. A really amazing book can transport you to another world. Non-fiction is great, too, and counts towards personal and professional development (a couple of recent favourites of mine are Big Magic and You Are a Badass).
Don’t worry, drivers, I’ve got you covered. Audiobooks are an amazing way to fill your hours getting to and from work – you might even find yourself anticipating the next leg of your commute so you can find out what happens next. Audible (Amazon’s audiobook service) offers a free trial month, and libraries have downloadable audiobooks you can access from home (and your car).
I sometimes find myself wondering what commuters did before podcasts. Since podcasts can range from a few minutes to a couple of hours long, you can find something tailored to fit your commute time. If you’re not into podcasts yet, start by perusing some of the top podcasts, and see what captures your attention. Or if you want to jump right in, I have one word for you: Serial. Season One. You’ll thank me later.
Yes, you could use the time to get through a few more emails, but you’ll be in much better shape for the day if you focus on something more meaningful and enjoyable. I’ve even given myself a rule: no screens (of course this is already a law for all the drivers out there). I break this rule occasionally, but I notice a huge difference when I consciously use my commute as an opportunity to relax and ease into or out of my day at work.
I will admit, a long commute can be frustrating, especially when you’re staring down your alarm clock first thing in the morning. But because your commute takes up such a big chunk of your time, do what you can to make it enjoyable. Some small changes can have a huge impact. Happy travels!