Ways to Make Your Commute Fly By

The average one-way commute in the D.C. metro area is 34.4 minutes long, according to U.S. Census data released in December 2017. Multiply that by five days a week, 52 weeks a year—give or take a few days off—and you're spending about 12 days a year on your daily drive. Ouch. But there are multiple strategies you can employ to make your commute more bearable.


Determine What You Need From Your Commute

Short of moving or getting another job, you can't make your commute shorter, but you can put the time to good use. What will benefit you the most? It's probably not flipping the radio dial if you're driving or scrolling through Facebook on a bus or train. Think about how you'll feel most fulfilled. Do you want to tackle extra work without interruption, pursue a new hobby, or simply wind down? Whatever the answer, plan accordingly. You might want to spend the trip to work and your journey home on different activities—just determine what will put you in the best frame of mind for your destination.

Tips For Better Driving Commutes

First and foremost, your priority when commuting by car is…driving the car, and it should go without saying, but we'll say it again: this is not the time to check your email or send texts. That said, you can use your car time to do work if it involves light brainstorming, thinking through a problem, or returning a few phone calls via Bluetooth.

But before you permanently extend your workday, consider whether your commute can be a bit of previously untapped personal time. It's one of the few times you're inaccessible via email or text. And you can make the most of it. You could:

  •  Listen to audio books to catch up on the great literature you missed in high school—or devour a juicy thriller. Check out audiobooks from your local library for a free option.
  •  Learn a foreign language.
  •  Download podcasts about any topic of interest.
  •  Catch up with friends and family by phone.
  •  Listen to comedy shows—laughing is a great way to start or end the day.

If you choose to listen to music, think about how your musical selection will affect your mood upon arrival. Hard rock can provide the "loud music therapy" you need after a tough day, but your spouse and children might prefer you listen to soothing classical music on the way home.

If you're the type of person who gets bored easily, consider mixing up your commute with a new route. Perhaps you want to detour to that cute new coffee shop once a week as a treat—or maybe you want to use a reliable traffic app to discover new shortcuts through architecturally significant neighborhoods.

Tips For Improving Commutes By Public Transportation

About 5 percent of Americans commute by public transportation, primarily in New York, San Francisco and, of course, D.C., where 14 percent of workers use bus or rail to get to the office. Public transportation with a good Wi-Fi connection opens loads of commuting options, particularly if you want to knock out some emails. But perhaps you could us this is the time to:

  •  Write your novel or screenplay.
  •  Sketch or journal.
  •  Take up knitting, crochet, embroidery, or some other form of handwork.
  •  Meditate using an app such as Headspace or Stop, Breathe & Think.

When you commute by bus or rail, you have an easy opportunity to add exercise to at least one end of your journey. Use this time to meet daily activity goals. (Perhaps you could even set up a step challenge with interested coworkers.) Consider jumping off the bus or train a stop or two early to amp up your step count.

Given the rising cost of living and increasing populations in metro areas, commuting is just a fact of life. But with a little effort, it doesn't have to be a negative.

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