Traffic to Work? Here's How to Have a Better Commute
Dec 3, 2021 · 5 min read
If you, like the vast majority of American workers, commute to the office, you’re probably familiar with the everyday frustrations of rush hour traffic to work. This daily experience torments 95% of American workers, at least according to the 2016 census.
Commuting likely eats up nearly an hour of your day—which is nothing to scoff at, considering that eight of your hours are already being claimed by your employer. According to more recent census data, the average American commute totals 27.6 minutes one-way, an all-time-high recorded in 2019.
Whether your commute is short, long, or non-existent (which may be the case for an increasing number of Americans post-pandemic), chances are you’re not a fan of it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, your commute can become one of the highlights of your day, if you approach it from a different angle.
Tired of your traffic to work? Here are some tips for optimizing your commute experience.
Make the most of your time in traffic to work
With modern technology, there’s no reason to spend your commute sulking in bored silence. According to The New York Times, you can use this half-hour drive to get in some entertainment or education, or even to check something off of your ever-expanding to-do list.
The easiest thing to do is hook up your device (phone, tablet, etc.) to your car’s Bluetooth speaker and listen to a podcast. Something funny or suspenseful—true crime, anyone?—can be a great wait to pass your time on the road. You can also listen to an audiobook and catch up on the reading you’ve been neglecting.
Your commute can also be a great opportunity to learn something new. Plenty of podcasts are educational, with specializations in history, science, tech, social justice, and more. You can stay up-to-date on topical issues or on whatever you’re passionate about just by dedicating your hour-a-day commute to learning.
You can also use this time to catch up on the news, since most newspapers offer companion podcasts. Get a dose of top stories from a daily news podcast or listen to a deeper dive on an issue of interest.
A final tip: use your commute to check items off your to-do list. With in-car wireless phone connection, this could include booking appointments, taking work meetings, or even catching up with a friend or family member who you’ve been meaning to call. Of course, make sure that you’re doing this in a safe and responsible way, and that your attention remains focused on the road at all times.
Minimize your time in traffic to work
If optimizing your commute doesn’t work for you—you may not be good at multitasking or perhaps aren’t an aural learner—you can always try to minimize your commute time.
Think about alternatives to your current commute habits: maybe you’d prefer to take public transit, where you can sit comfortably and read a book or watch a pre-downloaded Netflix episode. Maybe you’d prefer walking or biking, so that you can get exercise and spend some time outdoors during your commute. Try out some new ways of commuting, and you might be surprised to find that driving isn’t for you.
If you decide to stick with driving, consider mapping out a new commute path. Traffic to work could be better if you take side streets instead of main roads, for example, or you may discover a scenic route that brightens your spirits in the morning.
You can also try carpooling with a colleague, which can be both more sustainable and more enjoyable—and can mean less time spent behind the wheel for you. If you’re interested in making your commute more sustainable, some tips from The New York Times include regular car servicing, inflating your tires, reducing your air conditioning, using cruise control, and pressing more gently on your car’s brakes and gas pedals.
Some final tips on bettering your commute
Still frustrated about the traffic to work? Try changing up what your commute looks like week-to-week. There are plenty of interesting ways you can spend your drive to work, and if you switch things up, you’re bound to stay engaged.
Forbes offers some ideas for activities that can liven up your daily commute. For example, you can try learning a new language, doing lessons through an app or podcast or listening to a foreign language audiobook.
You can also try out a meditation app or podcast for some mindful driving. Obviously you won’t be able to close your eyes while meditating, but mindful driving can actually be a rewarding—and not to mention highly safe—way to spend your time in traffic to work.
Finally, you can use this time to practice some self-care. Sing along to your favorite songs, buy a pleasant-smelling air freshener, or curl up with a fuzzy blanket for a more joyful commute.