The daily commute to and from work can be a major headache. It’s not uncommon for the average Aussie to spend an hour commuting to work. That’s two hours lost every day just getting to and from work. And that adds up to 40 hours a month – an entire extra work week lost to commuting each month.
Not only is there the lost time to think about, but your daily commute can add an extra level of stress to your workday. You may have to get up extra early to avoid traffic or deal with delays getting home at the end of the day. Additionally, you’ve to think about car security when parking your car in a parking lot. All in all, your commute can end up affecting your mood, your mental health, the quality of your work and your relationships.
And then there’s the cost of fuel, wear and tear to your vehicle and the environmental cost of the daily drive.
The good news is that there is plenty you can do to improve your daily drive to work.
If you have a lengthy commute each day, the first thing you want to do is make sure you’re set up for the drive so you can use your phone in the car safely and legally. Whether you want to listen to music or an audiobook, learn a language or practice guided mindfulness while you drive, your phone will be your best friend on the road.
So it’s worth Investing in a good Bluetooth handsfree car kit and a quality mobile phone holder or cradle.
You also want to make sure that you have all the necessary changing cables for your phone or any other useful devices.
Listen to podcasts or audiobooks or learn a new skill
For a lot of people, the daily commute can end up feeling like wasted time. Instead, use the time to take in a bit of culture, find some good entertainment or learn something new.
Dig up some good podcasts or download some audiobooks by your favourite authors. Just because you’re on the road, doesn’t mean you can’t get some good reading done!
You could even use the time to learn a new language, enhance your work skills or develop new life skills.
Make it family and friends time
Whether you’re commuting part-way with the kids before dropping them to school, or you’re driving on your own, you can use the time for a bit of family bonding. If you’re traveling with your kids, make it a no-phone zone and use the time to talk to your kids or play a fun game in the car.
If you’re on your own, use the time for a phone catch-up with a family member or friend. Call your parents or that friend you don’t see as often as you like. This way you can use the time to catch up with a loved one with added bonus of not feeling so alone on the drive.
Discover new music
Do you find yourself listening to the same old music every day? Or are you sick to death of the inane chatter and rubbish music on the radio? Use your drive to discover some new music. Build yourself some road trip playlists or do some online research to find new albums or artists to listen to.
You can even use your music to help get you prepared for work by listening to calming or intellectually stimulating music.
Practice calm and mindfulness
Obviously, you don’t want to try full-blown meditation while driving. However, there are a range of meditative and mindfulness techniques that you can practice while driving. Of course, these don’t involve closing your eyes and drifting into a deep meditative state.
Instead, try practicing mindful driving. Mindfulness is all about focusing your attention on what you’re doing in the present moment. It limits focus on future stresses or past regrets, helping you to focus on what you can control in the here and now. Practicing mindfulness can help to reduce stress and promote acceptance of the world around you.
Other techniques include breathing exercises, driving yoga and mental yoga.
Change things up
Part of the problem with the daily commute can be the routine of it. Try changing up your route to and from work. Trying a different route can help to alleviate the tedium of the everyday routine and make your daily drive a little more interesting. As well as your route, you can also change up any stops you make on the way. Try getting your morning coffee or juice from a different coffee shop. This may sound like a pretty minor change up, but even a minor change from the everyday routine can be enough to give your mood a bump.
Use the time to brainstorm
Instead of trying to distract yourself with music or podcasts, use the time to do some constructive thinking. It’s rare that you get quiet time at home or work to just sit and think. Use the driving time to brainstorm or troubleshoot problems at home or at work. Make a list of issues that require your attention and spend some time strategising and actively thinking about solutions. Download a voice recording app for your phone so you don’t forget any of your breakthroughs!
Try to skip the commute
Finally, have a serious think about how necessary it actually is for you to commute every day. If you’re lucky enough to be able to work remotely from time to time, then it might be worth making the case to your boss. Cutting out the commute, even for one day a week, could help to improve your productivity and your mental health, while reducing the time you have to spend on the road.