Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Make Use of the Commute

Photography by: Osvaldo Gago
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution - Share Alike
2.5 Generic License
I used to have a forty-five minute to one hour commute to and from work, every day for five years. That also coincided on my timeline with working alongside several East coast coworkers who scheduled meetings starting at 8:00 AM Central on a fairly regular basis (if that doesn't seem early to you, recognize that in Texas, lots of businesses start around 9:00. Not sure why, but that's not uncommon.). As it turned out, 8:00 AM was also the time when I would generally get in my car and start heading towards the office. So, speaker phone in the car as my cell phone rested on the center console converted my vehicle into a rolling office of sorts, with ongoing conference call taking up much of my commute.

Since then, I've moved, and my commute is about half of what it once was, and now I take more surface streets than I do long stretches of highway. Couple that with school zones where I am not allowed to use my cell phone and the rolling conference-call-mobile is severely limited. That said, I still consider my commute time to be working time and incoming work calls still trump everything else I am doing (unless I am in said school zone).

But when I am not fielding phone calls, the commute time has a potential to be a completely wasted thirty minutes of the day. What I try not to do is listen to the radio. I used to listen to nothing but the radio when I drove and over time, you will not have much personal growth listening to Taylor Swift's Blank Space or Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass. I save that time for when I am chauffeuring the kids around.

For the past several years, I have primarily utilized this downtime in a few activities. The predominant activity is listening to podcasts. Whether financial advice from folks like Dave Ramsey, or writing advice from Mur Lafferty (albeit focused towards fiction), or entertaining myself with Scott Sigler novels, or learning about all kinds of facts from Josh and Chuck at Stuff You Should Know, podcasts fill close to 80% of my morning commute. The remainder falls into a couple of categories - checking email (only at red lights nowadays given how dangerous that can be otherwise), reading Twitter or Facebook (which is not mentally stimulating but gets me out of the daily rut that a commute can put you in), or doing some daily planning. If nothing else, the commute is an excellent time (even if you are listening to something else along the way) to decide what you are going to do next. If you are taking the one-thing-a-day challenge, you likely need to find some time to organize your thoughts and prioritize activities. A commute is perfect for those opportunities.

Don't waste it.