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12 productive commute activities backed up by science

productive commute to work

Commuting is one of those things in life which you just can’t avoid.

As much as we hate being lodged in a queue of traffic or being stranded at Crewe train station because Arriva Trains Wales can’t get their act together (not bitter), we have to do it to provide for ourselves and others.

But what if we viewed the commute as time gained, not time lost?

Here’s the situation at the moment:

If you commute by car, you probably spend most of your commute middle-fingering buffoons in the German saloons who keep cutting you up because they’re middle managers and therefore apparently of higher importance on the road than you.

If you commute by bus, you’ve just downloaded a Megadeth album to combat the screams of a baby who just wants his mother’s attention, only for her to reply with “shut up”, all while your face is rammed into some guy’s armpit.

Train commuter? You’re still waiting for it to turn up. When it does, the message over the tannoy will simply read, “oops, sorry about that buddy” and fail to offer any sort of reimbursement for your already dwindling time.

Stop. You need to turn your commute into the best part of your day.

You can start by enacting some of these simple activities to achieve a productive commute.


1.  Read/write something

Science shows that if you read regularly, you’re a better person than someone who doesn’t. Not only do you have vastly improved vocabulary and comprehension skills, but you also have improved empathy. So there you go; the more Paul Neiman you read, the more emotionally deep you become.

While you’re at it, why not finish that abandoned screenplay you started? You were convinced at the time that you could write a better computer-centric love story than Her, so prove it!


2.  Catch up/Get ahead on emails

If you’re one of the lucky few who really enjoy their job, why not use your commute to… do more!

It’s already a well-established factoid that emails consume time, digest attention and defecate an unproductive workday. Research from McKinsey & Company shows that emails already take up 28% of our day.

Why let them get in the way? Get a batch of them out of the way so you can focus on more pressing matters at work like water-cooler chat… or actual work.

Similarly, most people would rather defenestrate themselves than attend meetings. Well if they have to be done, web conference on a train?

For more information on how being unproductive can kill your workday, check out this infographic by Atlassian. It even has a timer at the bottom telling you how much time you’ve wasted reading it. IRONY.


3.  Meet new people/network

If you commute to work via car, the only things you have for company are Grimmy on Radio 1 and your brain telling you that you’ve left the tap on in the bathroom.

On a train or a bus, you have the opportunity to communicate with other humans who are also commuting to work.

Chances are you’ve seen them countless times, but because you hate the mere sight of other humans you haven’t spoken to them.

Surveys suggest that the majority of people who do network do it to build relationships (95%) and build business (80%).

Make today the day you talk to Les from accounting or Rhonda from development – you never know what could happen. You could even have your own 7:39 moment.


4.  Satisfy your video game addiction/complete Pokemon

OK, so the last bit is just me (never too old). But still, if you have a penchant for puzzle games, why not spend half an hour playing?

(DISCLAIMER: Don’t do this if you drive. If you do, we are not liable for your ruptured spleen).

Dailyburn has a great list of apps which work your brain out and Conceptis Puzzles has some cool web games.

Even Pokemon can be good for you if you take it seriously enough. Type match-ups and battle tactics all form apart of the world-renowned franchise. Handheld titles such as strategy series Advance Wars and daily workout challenges on puzzlers like Picross DS are also great for your brain.

Then you have games such as Halo, which are proven by science to improve your on-the-fly decision-making and your ability to learn from mistakes.

Video games get a bad public rep, and no matter how much bad press one can bestow upon them, remember this. SCIENCE. DOESN’T. LIE.


5.  Start blogging

Everyone has an opinion about something. Some people decided to express their opinions online. Sometimes, those opinions can turn into blogging empires like Gawker (which includes the likes of Lifehacker, Gizmodo and Deadspin).

I’m not saying that you’ll become the next Nick Denton overnight or anything, but blogging can quickly become an engaging hobby.

Blogging constructively and not destructively about your passions and areas of expertise can be very satisfying. It can also serve as an additional online presence for you, and a way of demonstrating your knowledge on topics at a theoretical level. Research from Pew shows that those who blog are wealthier than those who don’t, though this was conducted back in 2005 when the blog was in its infancy.

A great example of a blog that became extremely successful is howtogeek.com. Not only do they opine about all the latest tech topics, they also produce useful how-to’s to assist you in everyday life. You can learn about anything from viewing multiple pages in Word to defending yourself from identity thieves. Their Worldwide Alexa Rank is 982.

If you can find the right niche and give it enough love, you might have a moderately successful website on your hands.


6.  Cycle instead

Because you spend so much time commuting, changes are you still haven’t worked off the excess turkey from Christmas yet.

Fear not, for there is a solution: buy a bicycle.

Cycling is one of the best forms of all-round exercise there is. It’s fantastic for cardio, and you can burn 650 calories in one hour. As an added bonus, if your place of work is the other side of a giant hill or small ford, you can go off-roading and build serious upper body strength.

Now you have no excuses to not get hench, guys.


7.  Plan how your day will pan out

At university, we were all pros at planning out days of revision… and then not really acting upon them.

Now that you’re older, you should seriously consider diarising everything you do in advance. Plan your time in blocks of 50 minutes with a 10 minute break every hour for maximum productivity. Prioritise important stuff. You can even schedule when you’re going to chill at the office water cooler if you really want (don’t).

Scheduling your tasks or working from a list can improve your productive output by up to 25%.

While you’re at it, why not plan what you’re going to have for scran later? Or even call your parents and plan a visit? Or plan to meet friends? Nothing is better than scheduled, compulsory fun.


8.  Study

Want to seek enlightenment without trekking to the summit of the Himalayas to meet the knowledge Gods? Well thanks to your commute, you don’t have to!

The couple of hours you spend on that train lend themselves perfectly to increasing your intelligence and learning new skills. You could do a part-time masters degree or professional qualification to specialise in a certain aspect of your role.

Alternatively, you can get audio books and learn a new language. This can be done in the car or while cycling too!

Pimsleur’s audio books come at a cost, but are fantastic. Use these in conjunction with Duolingo’s innovative app and you’re on to a winner.


9.  Stare out of the window

If you hate talking to people and revising the French inflection system, you might want to try staring out of the window with all your focus.

(DISCLAIMER: Doing this while cycling may result in your brain being splattered across the pavement. Wear a helmet).

On a more serious note, looking at the scenery and reflecting on your life in a melancholy way (and possibly in sepia tone) is inherently relaxing and allows you to clear your head and fill it with other mundane things.

This is something that the Journal for Psychological Science proves, so stop being so focused and hard-working and daydream once in a while. Jeeze.


10.  Sleep

“Just one more, just one more.”

Now that you have binge watched every season of Archer in one night, it’s time for bed… oh wait, it’s half 6?

Best use that journey to catch up on some much needed Z’s!

(DISCLAIMER: Again, I wouldn’t recommend doing this if commuting by car or bicycle if you value your limbs).

According to NHS Choices, most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep a night, though that number can often be lower. In short, you need enough to feel refreshed, and that varies on a person-by-person basis.

And sometimes you just need that extra half an hour to feel completely refreshed and raring to start your day. I’m sure your boss would appreciate you doing it on the bus than hunched over your desk wearing wide-awake glasses. You don’t even wear glasses, your sight is fine!


11.  Listen to an Audio book/Podcast

As an award-winning student podcaster and paperback Antichrist, I love recordings of things I would otherwise have to read or listen to live.

If you aren’t much of a reader, you can read without the reading with an audio book. This also shuts out the sound of crying babies, so you’re killing two birds with one Sebastian Faulks-shaped stone.

Audio books carry the same advantages of reading without some of the drawbacks. Often, you can also get through the book quicker, which means you can “read” even more.

Podcasts are always hugely insightful and very entertaining. If you’re a techie, then you’ll love Lifehacker’s podcast, which was updated weekly (unfortunately it has been discontinued, but all the episodes are still available for your enjoyment). Spark with Nora Young is an alternative which discusses how technology is changing our culture, and is an unparalleled listen for anyone interested in the human impact of technology.

However, there are podcasts for pretty much every hobby out there. If you’re a wrestling fan, for example, OSW Review, Stone Cold Podcast and Ross Report are all brilliant, insightful and funny.


12.  Exercise

Believe it or not, there are several exercises you can do on your commute which don’t result in irritation for all your fellow passengers.

(DISCLAIMER: *sigh* If you commute by car and want to do sit-ups, please hire pedal pixies to control the brake, accelerator and clutch, or just buy one of those self-driving cars everyone is making right now for the small price of your soul).

This scientific journal confirms that exercise is good for you (wow, way to spend research money guys), and this WikiHow guide details some of the exercises you can do if you are unfortunately confined to tight spaces such as public transport seats. If you travel first class, the extra room can really aid your exercise mission.

If your commute is being marred by a strong dislike for your job, contact us and we’ll help you out!

Do you have a question?

We only want the best for you and are here for you every step of the way.