Can commuting be good for you?
According to a 2012 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine
, people with longer commutes had higher blood pressure, bigger waistlines, and were less fit than those who worked closer to home. Swedish research from the year before found that couples in which at least one partner commutes long distance are 40 percent more likely to separate than other twosomes. What to do? We turned to time-management guru Laura Vanderkam
, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast
, and other experts for advice. * This writer has a 120-minute commute each way. She is very grateful for e-books.
They set that day's goals.
In a LinkedIn blog post
, Thomas Oppong, author of Building Smarter Habits
, notes that successful people begin with the end in mindâthey know what they wish to accomplish. âStart your day by working on the projects that inspire you most and you will be more productive and achieve your goal faster whilst minimizing procrastination,â he says.
They make time for personal growth.
Instead of defaulting to checking work email, Vanderkam recommends asking yourself, ââWhat do I want to accomplish? What can I do now that Iâm having trouble making time for elsewhere?ââ she says. âUse your commute for personal time.â She frequently hears people miss reading for fun, and recommends audio or e-books. âYou can âreadâ the entire Odyssey in three weeks,â Vanderkam notes.
They use the time as exercise.
One Archives of Internal Medicine study a few years ago found that the 16 percent of commuters who walked or biked to work were less likely to be overweight and had healthier levels of blood pressure, triglycerides, and insulin. Work may improve too: In one British study, employees reported being more productive on days they exercised compared to days they didnât. If you can only swing it once a week, thatâs better than never. For rail or bus riders, get off a few stops early for a bonus 15-minute stroll.
They take their time getting from A to B.
It sounds counter-intuitiveâwouldnât you want your travel time to be as short as possible? Productivity coach Hillary Rettig has a surprisingly different perspective. âWhen people are commuting, theyâre most likely rushing,â she told FastCompany.com
, and that act will lower happiness and increase stress. âLeaving early is empowering,â says Rettig. âYou have more of a sense of control. For example, you can stop and pick up coffee on the way if you wish. Youâll immediately feel a sense of relief.â
They network and socialize.
Carpooling isnât just about saving on gas and tolls. Although scheduling may be challenging, âdriving to work with a friend turns wasted time into a date,â says Vanderkam, noting that even a little inconvenience may be worth the mood-boosting effects youâll reap. If your fellow passenger is a mentor whose brain you can pick, or a colleague you can discuss work projects with, Vanderkam noted on Oprah.com
, your commute can even improve your work productivity.
They get smarter.
Successful commuters seek mental enrichment from downloaded university coursework; Vanderkam likes the accessible lectures from The Great Courses
, which are taught by credentialed college professors. âLanguage has been around longer than writing. Listening is how we originally learned,â notes Vanderkam, who once listened to most of Shakespeare on a filing job at a reference library.
They actively seek inspiration.
Listening to and observing those around you generates ideas that could help your workâespecially for creative types. âBy simply keeping your eyes and ears open while you travel, you can get a grasp of what people are reading/wearing/listening to,â notes Paul Ellet on the popular Successful Blog
, adding that âthis kind of rough insight can also help your approach, simply by giving you tips for conversation to break the ice.â
They boost their romance.
No time for date night? If you and your partner can drive to work togetherâand again, it doesnât have to be every dayâthen that quiet time helps you two reconnect away from the kids, errands, and housework.
They bond with their kids.
Does your commute start with dropping the children off? Celebrate that time instead of treating it like another To-Do in the daily grind, says Vanderkam. Enjoy having random conversations (when neither of you is on the phone), singing along to the radio, or really listening to them without being distracted by schedules or chores.
They work out the details for the big picture.
What's the next major move coming up in your life? The solitude of a solo car commute when successful people practice an important presentation, or prepare for a tough conversation like negotiating for a raise. âYou only get one chance, so carefully rehearse what you want to say,â says Vanderkam. While commuting, you can also think up and articulate responses to potential questions or problems to cut down on surprises.
They plan for inevitable delays.
âWhat makes us stressed is not having a plan,â says Vanderkam, noting that the worst parts of commuting are those out of your control, like traffic or a stalled train. Successful people email an assistant or colleague that they're running late; if you do, too, it can make you feel less tense and anxious as the minutes tick by. If youâll be really late, mentally re-prioritize what needs to get done immediately so you can get to it as soon as you reach the office.
They organize the night before.
Instead of sprinting to the door in a morning panic ("where are my keys?"), successful people carve out 15 minutes at night to prepare for the next day. Set up breakfast, pack lunches, get your work bag organized, pick out your and your kidsâ outfits, and track down your keys. If you leave the house feeling organized and calm, your commute will be smoother, too.