By Alexandra Jane
With average commutes stretching over an hour and a half, we’re spending more and more time travelling to work. While it’s tempting to spend the whole journey half-asleep or playing Candy Crush, you can use these crucial minutes to get vital tasks done and improve your own skills. Here are a few things you can do to make the most of your travel time.
1. Improve your ability to empathize with others by reading more
Reading every day, whether it’s the day’s news or the latest best-selling novel, can have a drastically positive impact, improving your memory and vocabulary and making you more empathetic. If your commute lasts an hour, that’s 10 hours of reading you could do every week. Add that up and it’s 480 hours a year, the equivalent of 20 solid days of reading. By downloading books onto your phone or tablet, you can always have something to read close to hand that isn’t Facebook or Twitter.
If you don’t have an easy way to download books and want to avoid carrying around a heavy book, audiobooks or podcasts offer many of the same benefits as reading and could be a great alternative for you. Daily radio programmes such as Women’s Hour (which can be downloaded onto any smartphone) provide a brilliant insight into current affairs, focusing on issues from specific perspectives.
2. Add a skill to your CV and learn a new language
It’s been your new year’s resolution to improve your language skills for ages now, but finding the time to learn a new language has been tricky. Not any longer. The key is to integrate the process into your routine as a habit. If you associate your commute – or indeed any period of travel – with developing your language skills you’re more likely to stick at it.
3. Make a head-start on your day by planning your schedule
Utilising your morning commute to plan ahead and set yourself targets for the day will place you in the realms of the highly successful. Your efficiency will pay off at work, increasing your focus and allowing you to plan without the distractions of the office.
The morning commute can also be a great time to consider and draft any important messages or emails that you’ve been putting off sending to colleagues or clients. The relative lack of distractions and intermittent internet access provide you with the space to mull over your phrasing.
4. Improve your mental (and physical) health with some exercise
Get off the bus and get your trainers on. Not only will you be shedding the pounds and toning up in no time, being outside in the fresh air will also improve your mood and general sense of wellbeing. Running or cycling to work is a brilliant way of using your commute time, and will also cut back the number of hours you spend in the gym, making you even more efficient.
Alternatively there’s a variety of different exercises you can squeeze in to strengthen your muscles while travelling to work in the car or on public transport, although obviously these will have less of an impact.
5. Train your brain with the help of the newspaper’s puzzles section
Daily newspapers (which are often free on public transport) always contain a puzzles page, home to the trusty Sudoku, crossword and more. These puzzles will help you train your brain to think logically and could even help to improve your memory in the long run.
You could even bring your own, more complex, puzzles if you decide you’d like to face more of a challenge.
6. Find time for the hobbies you’ve always wanted to try
If you’d rather have a less cerebral workout in the morning, you could try using the time to indulge in a more traditional hobby like sewing or knitting. After all, there’s no better (or cheaper) present for a family member than a hand-knitted scarf.
There’s no end to the hobbies you could dedicate time to on your commute. Even if you’re interested in something which is too impractical to do on a cramped train carriage, you might be able to find an online tutorial you can download to watch or listen to on your way into work.
7. Build your social skills and chat to a stranger
It might feel awkward, but try getting out of your comfort zone by striking up a conversation with a stranger on public transport. Tube chat badges may have been ridiculed, but you can gain a huge amount of insight and perspective from talking to someone from a different walk of life, and might just make yourself a new train buddy.
Alexandra Jane writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specializes in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To browse their graduate jobs, visit their website.
Lead image: Daniel Lobo (Flickr)