For most of us, the daily commute is a tedious (albeit necessary) part of our day. But it’s not just boredom we’re all dying of; studies show that those who take longer to get to and from work are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, wider waistlines and overall poor physical fitness. Considering that upwards of two million Australians undertake a commute of 90 minutes on a daily basis, there’s reason enough to consider exactly what you’re doing to make that time more worthwhile rather than considering Candy Crush as your only ally. Because Brita knows how to make life on-the-go better and easier, we pulled together a few ways to make your journey a healthier and more productive one, regardless of your mode of transport.
Here are seven of our favourite ways to use your commute to improve:
1. Your time management skills
Think of your commute as an introduction to your working day. What do you hope to achieve today – and in what order? Champions of time management are great at prioritising, fundamentally because they anticipate certain tasks where others don’t. Consider this time as your space to sort through the day’s to-dos. If you’re a train, tram or bus commuter, using a to-do app such as Wunderlist or Evernote is a useful tool for anyone with a lot on their plate as it actively encourages you to manage and prioritise your tasks. You can drag and drop your deadlines between different days and have the option to sync the app with any device you use: if you’ve had a fab idea on the train, you can later access it at your desk. Evernote also has a voice dictation function, which is perfect for anyone who commutes by car. Having an increased awareness of what’s heading your way for the day is the first step in being able to arrive at your computer with a few important tasks to tick off before you’ve even had time to be distracted by the chatter of nearby coffeemakers.
2. Your water cooler chat
The glory of the podcast is no secret but try using your commute as an excuse to diversify your listening list and broaden your mind, rather than just using as a Netflix substitute. Be the culturally clued-in commuter with a podcast like Monocycle by Leandra Medine, where therapy is served up with a side order of sass. While we know The Man Repeller founder has a passion for fashion, listen to her wax lyrical on subjects ranging from her fertility struggles, self-sabotage and confidence with hilarious consequences. Top tip; if time isn’t on your side, listen at 1.5x speed to squeeze more Medine into your journey. You can also brush up on trivia with No Such Thing as a Fish, delve deep into everything from foreign affairs to religion with Longform, uncover the fascinating almost-fiction like stories behind economics with Planet Money, satisfy your educational itch with Revisionist History and of course, check in with the famed This American Life for consistently top notch stories. Or, just be the go-to person for scary stories by tuning into Lore, using your new-found knowledge as an excuse to splash out on some new headphones (we love this pair from FRENDS x Swarovski, $259.95)
3. Your imagination
If you drive to work, we think it’s worthwhile downloading a program like Audible to your device and choosing from over 180,000 audio titles. While some assert that listening, as opposed to reading books is ‘cheating’, University of Virginia psychologist Daniel Willingham is in total disagreement: according to cognitive psychology, there’s no difference between reading and listening to books when it comes to the adult brain. While the decoding part of reading is specific to reading, that aspect stops becoming ‘work’ around the fifth grade, making reading a physical book second-nature and no harder than tuning in to audio. Allow yourself to be transported to Hogwarts, Westeros or Wuthering Heights even when you’re stuck in peak hour traffic on the highway, encouraging creativity, emotional intelligence and social perception (according to this study). You can also use it to stay abreast of current affairs if you’re less inclined to take a trip elsewhere; listen to the day’s top stories from The New York Times or BBC’s Newshour, for example.
4. Your abs
Our daily commutes generally range from 30 minutes up to two hours, which equates to a lot of extra time sat on our bums, especially for those who already sit at a desk all day. Combat this sedentary lifestyle by doing some subtle public transport-friendly exercises during your journey (don’t worry: no one will know). ‘Commuter crunches’ are a good place to start – sit in a neutral position, contract your lower abdominals before gently lowering your rib cage towards your hips, slowing rolling your back as you go. Hold for 8-10 seconds while continuing to breathe normally. Repeat 8-12 times (and try not to make eye contact with any fellow commuters, just in case).
5. Your health
It’s a cheaper, healthier and usually faster option, but if you need further encouragement to cycle to work, it’s worth speaking to your employer to see if they have any company incentives or programs to support your decision. Would-be cyclists living in the UK, Europe or North America are able to rent a brand new bike for an agreed amount of time through the Ride To Work Scheme, with the option to purchase it at a fraction of the bike’s original cost at a later date. Be sure to keep your fluids up with a totally commutable piece of functional fancy like Brita’s water filter Fill&Go Active bottle, which does the filtering itself so there’s no prep necessary – it’s just fill and go.
6. Your life goal-kicking
Instead of viewing it as an inconvenience, use your commute as an opportunity to take stock of your life. Coach.me is a great way to set and track both personal and professional goals, be them relationship, fitness or otherwise. Studies show that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down, so think about what you would like to accomplish and tap it into your phone. If you still need a bit of help reaching your goals, you can hire an actual coach through this particular app for the AU$15 a week.
7. Your mental health
If your commute is one that involves public transport, spend the time by topping up mentally. Try simple meditation exercises with an app like Headspace, collect some thoughts on gratitude in a journal (like the one above from Kikki K, $12.95) or even take the time to daydream: studies show that those who are adept at daydreaming are also pretty great at recalling information (say hello to being that person in meetings), not to mention being a little more together when you finally do arrive at your desk.