What to Do During Commute: 16 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Travel Time
There’s a lot to love about going into the office: seeing your favorite colleagues, grabbing free snacks from the kitchen, not being distracted by your household chores. But if there’s one thing most people can agree on, it’s that commuting sucks.
Whether you’ve got a long drive, a busy train ride, or a tiring cycle, commuting can often feel like nothing but lost time.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! Below, we’ve rounded up some ideas for what you can do during your commute that doesn’t involve wishing the time away or wasting it scrolling through TikTok.
What to Do During Commute
Got a long commute? Here’s how to make the most of that time.
1. Read a Book or Listen to an Audiobook
Instead of mindlessly listening to the radio in the car or scrolling through Instagram on the subway, buy a book or download an audiobook to enjoy instead.
For added motivation, opt for books you’ve always wanted to read, but never had the time. You could also alternate between listening to or reading fiction books for pleasure and nonfiction books that could help improve your work, health, or personal life in some way.
2. Listen to Podcasts
There are thousands and thousands of podcasts out there, so you’re bound to find a few to keep you busy on your commute.
Find a few shows that talk about your hobbies, interests, and the industry you work in, so you’ll have something for every mood and every day.
3. Learn a New Skill
You don’t need to set aside a Sunday afternoon to work on a new skill, depending on what you want to learn, you may be able to do it on your commute.
For work, you could brush up on skills like leadership, graphic design, or storytelling by reading books, listening to podcasts, or doing an online course on the topic.
For your personal life, you might want to watch rock-climbing tutorials, read a photography magazine, look up new recipes to try, or practice your knitting.
4. Learn a Language
A great skill to learn on your commute is a new language.
If you’re driving, you could listen to language-learning podcasts like Duolingo, Coffee Break Languages, or News in Slow podcasts.
If you can be hands-free, like while commuting on the subway, you’ve got some more options. As well as language podcasts, consider language-learning apps like Duolingo, Babbel, or Memrise. You could also buy books for whatever level you are or spend the commute time reviewing flashcards.
This one depends on what your commute looks like, but you could look at ways to incorporate exercise into your journey. If you live close enough to work, perhaps you could cycle or run there.
Research shows people who walk or cycle to work are more satisfied with their commute than those who drive or use public transport.
If the journey’s too long, could you get off the subway a few stops early to walk or cycle the final part of the journey?
As a final resort, if you commute by train, consider standing instead of sitting.
Getting some exercise into your commute, no matter how little, can trigger your body into releasing feel-good endorphins and help reduce stress.
Plus, if you cycle or run to work, you can tick “work out” off your to-do list before you’ve even got to the office.
6. Connect with a Friend or Family Member
Consider calling a friend or family member for a chat while walking to the station or while you’re driving. You could also use this time to reply to all your messages and reach out to any friends you haven’t heard from in a while.
If you know a colleague who lives nearby, consider carpooling or catching the same train and using this time to chat and catch up.
Beyond connecting with friends and family, try connecting with colleagues and people in your industry.
Scroll through LinkedIn or Twitter and chat to people in your field, research conferences or networking events in your area, and send out a few cold emails to potential connections introducing yourself.
8. Write a To-Do List
If you turn up to your desk feeling frazzled before the day has even begun, use your commuting time to prepare.
Scan your emails to see if any urgent tasks need to be added to your to-do list, check what meetings you’ve got coming up that day, and then write up a to-do list of everything you need to do.
On your way home, you could write a to-do list for your evening. This ensures you don’t waste your precious time off being sucked into Netflix — unless binging your favorite show is on your to-do list, of course.
Think about any household chores you need to get done, plans you want to organize for the weekend, or personal to-dos you want to tick off.
9. Reply to Emails or Get Easy Work Tasks Done
If you’re hands-free, you could spend your commute time reading through your emails and drafting replies to any that are easy to respond to while on the go.
Beyond emails, you could use this time to get any easy work to-dos done ahead of time: read through a slide deck from a colleague, draft follow-up emails to sales leads, or compile figures for a presentation.
Even getting a little work done will make your commute time feel productive and take some tasks off your plate when you are at work.
Always wanted to try meditation, but never found the time? Your commute may be the perfect opportunity.
Meditating on the way to work ensures you turn up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day, and meditating on the way home can help relieve any stress or anxiety you might feel from the workday.
Download an app like Headspace or Calm ahead of time to get some guidance, or look up a mediation you’d like to try.
If you want to go it alone, try box breathing. Breathe in for a count of four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, exhale for four, and hold for four. Imagine working your way around the outside of a box. Repeat this for as long as you like to relax your body and mind.
If you’re traveling on the subway and get a seat, you can even close your eyes to really enjoy the mental quiet time. If you’re worried about falling asleep and missing your stop, set an alarm.
If you’re driving, you can still use this time to quieten your mind. Focus on your breath and your surroundings and put on relaxing music or calming sounds. Think about things you’re grateful for and looking forward to in life.
11. Work on Your Personal Brand
Having a strong and up-to-date personal brand is becoming more important in the work world. Use your commute time to brainstorm what kind of image you want to portray to the world.
You can use your commute to:
- Update your LinkedIn profile.
- Update your social media profiles — including cleaning up any old posts.
- Update your website or portfolio.
- Research networking events to attend.
- Reach out to connections, old and new.
- Respond to connection requests or cold emails you’ve received.
12. Think About a Big Problem
It’s no coincidence that people often have their greatest ideas while in the shower or out on a run. Sometimes it takes closing the Google doc and stepping away from your desk to find inspiration.
Use your travel time to think through a tricky report you’re writing, a big decision you need to make, or a problem you’re trying to solve at work.
Being in different surroundings and having the mental space to toy with new ideas may be just what you need to make a breakthrough.
13. Work on a Side Hustle
Whether you’re freelance writing, starting your own app, or selling your art, your commute is the ideal time to work on a side hustle.
You could send pitches to magazines and brainstorm article ideas, reach out to designers and review bugs, or update your Etsy page.
Plus, if you have any easy admin to do, like responding to emails, paying taxes, or posting to social media, you can do that on your commute.
Writing is a great thing to do on your commute, whether you’ve always wanted to write a novel or you’ve got a report you need to get done and your commute is the one time you don’t have colleagues distracting you.
You could try your hand at writing poetry in your phone notes, planning your novel in a notebook, or recording yourself speaking in the car to write up a script for a presentation.
15. Get Personal To-Dos Done
After a long work day, the last thing you want to do is tackle personal errands when you get home. So, use your commute time to get them done.
- Schedule dentist appointments.
- Book flights.
- Renew your car insurance.
- Order new kids’ clothes.
- Buy birthday presents.
- Organize your phone.
- Pay bills.
- Look up recipes to make in the week.
- Plan the upcoming weekend.
- Plan an upcoming vacation.
- Order a grocery delivery.
16. Relax and Enjoy
Your commute doesn’t have to be productive or career-advancing, you can use it to simply get some much-needed “you time.”
Download a few episodes of a Netflix series, make a playlist of songs you love, grab a newspaper or a magazine to flick through, or even a book of crosswords or sudokus.
Plus, there’s nothing wrong with staring out the window (if you’re not driving) and letting your mind wander.
How Can I Make My Commute Better?
Other than doing more interesting things on your commute, there are a few other ways you can make this travel time more enjoyable.
1. Prepare Ahead of Time
Take some time to prepare for your workday before you leave the house. This doesn’t just mean meal prepping and laying out your outfit, though. You can prepare for the commute itself.
This could include downloading a few episodes of your favorite podcast or buying a new book or audiobook for the week.
By thinking through how you’ll spend your commute, and making sure you have everything you need to do it, you’ll be much less likely to waste it on social media or glaring out the window angrily.
2. Look Up Better Routes
The quickest route to work isn’t always the best. Look up alternative routes you could take and see if any offer you other benefits over speed.
You might be able to get a different train that takes a little longer, but it’s quieter, meaning you’ll always get a seat. Or you might find a more scenic drive or cycle route.
You might even be able to add some exercise to your commute by getting off a stop or two early and walking the rest of the way. That 20-minute walk through tree-lined streets might be just what you need to offset the stress of rush hour subway travel.
3. Invest in Better Tech
Of course, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to improve your commute, but if you do have some spare cash, there are some purchases that will make your journey more enjoyable.
- Noise-canceling headphones.
- An e-reader, so you can download books rather than carrying heavy print versions.
- A tablet, so you can do work or personal tasks on a screen that’s bigger than your phone.
- A power bank, so you can recharge your devices on the go.
4. Give Yourself Plenty of Time for the Journey
Nothing will make your commute more stressful than not having enough time to do it. Swap running for your train or racing through traffic for a more relaxing trip by giving yourself more time than you need to do the trip.
Yes, this might make your commute a bit longer, but by adding on a small amount of time, you can cut out a large amount of stress. You may even find you enjoy it more.
No matter how long your commute is or how exactly you get to work, you’ve now got a list of things to keep you busy and help you use that time in the best way possible.