Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How to: Make your commute worthwhile!

Alternate title: how to make your commute suck less (read on to find out why it doesn’t really suck at all).

Since I began commuting to Chicago, I always get a similar version of the same comment: oh, that sucks. That must be so boring/such a drag/etc. And that is usually followed by: how do you deal with it?

Initially, I would respond with: yeah, it is pretty exhausting. And initially, that response rang true.

However, after a few weeks I began to see the positive side of commuting. I discovered the upside of my time spent in the car, so to speak.

Now I consider it my “me time.” My time to decompress and de-stress after a long day. My thinking time. My podcast time. My music time. Sure, it is two hours (round-trip) spent in my car (sometimes idly sitting in traffic). Yet, it’s necessary. Of course I would like to live closer to campus to avoid the commute – but my current situation isn’t conducive to that. So why not see the bright side – right?

I figured that if I was going to invest time in something (and a time investment it is) then I might as well make the most of it!

So from my experience, here are 5 tips to making your commute worthwhile!

1. Reframe the way you view your trip. Sure, a long commute may not be your favorite way to spend the morning/evening. However, if it is necessary – then why not make the best of it? I am a strong believer in the power of positivity and in this case, positivity wins.

So think of your commute in a way that elicits positive emotions – call it your thinking time, your time to listen to podcasts that may usually just clog up your queue, call it whatever you want – just make certain it puts a happy spin on things.

2. Curb the road rage and embrace your “Zen driver” side. You have one, I promise. For anyone who has driven in a big city (ah, Chicago traffic), you know that it can be very challenging at times. People are in a rush. Everyone has somewhere to be. And that results in haphazard driving. You will get cut off, you may get flipped off, and I can guarantee that you will be stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic more times than not (hello, rush hour).

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Here’s the key: keep your cool. Take a few deep breaths and don’t give in to knee-jerk reactions. If you react negatively to unavoidable traffic situations (key word: unavoidable), you are expending energy that could be funneled elsewhere. Why get all bent of out shape about something that already happened and furthermore, was out of your control to begin with? Don’t do it. It may take some serious relearning to actually implement this tip – but you’ll be happier for it in the long run.

Smile. Just wave and kindly smile. Even if you get the finger in return, at least you can drive away knowing you dealt with the situation in a positive way. After all, you can only control your own reactions.

3. Find a few favorite podcasts and start from the beginning.

This has been the BEST THING ever. Before commuting, podcasts weren’t even on my radar. If I was listening to anything (on the treadmill, while cleaning, etc.), it was music. But for an extended period of time, I needed something more stimulating. Insert podcasts. Uh, amazing.

I have found podcasts that perpetuate my love for health and fitness (Jillian Michaels Podcast), stimulate my mind (HBR; Harvard Business Review), and strengthen my passion for veganism and animal rights (Our Hen House). This has allowed me to absorb so much information that otherwise would have just gone unheard. Podcasts aren’t new, but they are definitely my new favorite thing.

The best part? They are all FREE via the podcast app on the iPhone. I’m not certain if this is applicable to other devices but did you read that last sentence? FREE. Can’t beat that.

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4. Create a new playlist and rock out. For me, this is harder to keep up with as I have to manually find songs to download. However, a fresh playlist always gives me a boost of energy – so I need to do it more often. Download songs. Press play. Sing your little heart out.

5. Use the time to educate yourself on something you would otherwise not make the time for. Download an audio book, learn a new language, or seek out podcasts that are applicable to work or school – that way, you won’t feel as if the time commuted is wasted time. Rather, it will be educational time where you can feel productive.

The single most important tip (in my opinion) is reframing the way you think about your commute. Rather than dreading it, make it something you look forward to. When I see a new podcast pop up, I actually get excited about my commute because I know good listening awaits.

Adopting a positive outlook is pretty much my solution for everything. Because no matter what the situation is—a positive attitude can only help. A negative attitude, on the other hand, will simply make things worse.

Any tips for making the time pass while in the car?

Favorite podcasts/music/ways to stay positive?

33 comments:

Carrie @ Season It Already! said...

I had no idea that Podcasts on the iPhone were free! I am going to try downloading some now. Thank you!

Meri said...

I have definitely used number 4 before! These days I have a walking commute so its pretty zen and happy!

Hilary @ The Big Weight said...

I live in the DC area and can totally relate to a long commute. It's been the bane of my existence since living here and I've had commutes up to 1 hr 40 min one way. Soon my office will be moving back downtown and thus my commute will lengthen again significantly. I'm a big reader and I do enjoy the time I get to read while being on the train. I like your positive approach to your commute and I'd like to try to implement that mind set when I have to go back downtown again. Great post!

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