5 Ways to Time Manage Your Commute

How long is your commute?

Have you considered how much time this adds up to over the course of a week?  A month?  The year?

Have you ever taken a job because of the commute?  Have you ever quit or turned down a job because of the commute?

This post is the result of a question I posed on Twitter the other day.  It got quite a bit of reaction.

The question was,

“How long would you commute for your perfect job?

Answers varied both in terms of commute and whether people already had their dream job.  One person said she would commute 2 hours each way for her dream job.  Another reported that they already had their dream job working at home for themselves.  (Commute Zero!)

How Long Is That Commute?

I am lucky.  (Or was it planned?)  I have a 5 minute commute to my current employer.  Yes, I commute only about 10 minutes each day.  That is both ways combined.

On the other hand, some of my co-workers commute 45-60 minutes each way.  It hits me sometimes after dinner that some of my friends are still driving home.  Wow.

Many people underestimate just how quickly their commute adds up.  Let’s take a simple example…

(We’ll use some basic assumptions: 8 hour workday, 5 day work week, 50 weeks a year)

This table that shows the difference between a short and long commute:

If you commute 45 minutes each way each day, you can see it adds up quickly.  You are commuting almost a full workday each week!

I ask, “What could you do with some of the 360 hours a year that you commute?”

Well, most of us cannot entirely avoid our commutes.  We need to go to work and earn a living.

So, then the question is… how are you using your commute?  Are you making use of and managing the time?

Time Managing Your Commute

Many people try to take advantage of their commute by either texting or talking on their phone.  I am not a big fan of either.  In fact, both are quickly becoming illegal in most states.  If you must talk on your cell phone, use a headset.

But, making lots of phone calls does not necessarily get much done.  In fact, most people that talk in their cars are not getting work done.  Let’s look at how you  can be more productive by managing your commute.

5 Ways to Time Manage Your Commute:

1 – Make Use of It

It amazes me that many people with long commutes do not use the time in any manner.  Even if you are driving there are great ways to use the time.

Audio books are a great way to learn something new while driving.  When I had a long commute, I used to listen to 3-5 audio books a week.  These days there are many easy ways to bring great audio with you.  You can rent books on CD, or you can download audiobooks or podcasts to your iPod.

If you commute by train or bus, you really do not have an excuse for not utilizing the time.  However, next time you are on the train, take the time to observe other passengers.  How many are doing anything productive?  If you ride the train you can read or even write.  You can do work while en-route your destination.

2 – Time Shift to Save Time

One of the best ways to time manage your commute is to avoid the rush.  If everyone else is driving to work at 8AM, what if you left at 7AM?  Would it cut your commute in half?  For some people it does.  Time shifting, or moving tasks to more opportune times, can save you considerably over the long run.  I know some co-workers who minimize their commute time by coming in at 6AM and leaving at 3PM.  Some companies not only support this type of schedule, they actively encourage it.

3 – Skip the Commute Sometimes

Another great way to minimize commute time is to skip it from time-to-time.  If your employer supports it, look at a partial work from home arrangement.  In today’s telecommuting world, more and more employers are doing this.  A word of caution, only do this if you can actually work from home.  If you do not have the proper environment or discipline, you are asking for trouble.

4 – Alternate Mode of Transportation

If you are facing a long commute and cannot get much done in the car, then consider an alternate means.  People who commute downtown have traded their drive for the train.  They now can reclaim many hours of productive time in their week.  Carpooling is another great option.

5 – Get a new commute

Some will call this one radical, but at what point does the great job become unbearable due to the commute?  If you are commuting over an hour each way, you may need to rethink your situation.  Maybe it is time to move closer to work.  Maybe it is time to find another job.  These extreme moves may not always be possible, but until you really consider them you will not know your options.

What About Your Commute?

So, what are you doing to manage your commute?

Are you happy with the amount of time you spend traveling each week?  Do you need to make a change?  Change what you do during your commute?

Or do you even need to change your location or job?

15 thoughts on “5 Ways to Time Manage Your Commute

  1. Couple of thoughts …

    – obviously the best thing to do is to take that commute time into a calculation of where you live
    – if you're trying to fit in an exercise programme, the commute can help you a lot. You can run or bike to work; if the distance is “too short” you can extend the work-out and still end up at work or home. Basically the half hour or hour of your commute has “disappeared” into your exercise time.

  2. i would like some more tips about what i can do during my long commute. does anyone have any? i found that using my netbook wasn't very good because i have to transfer a lot.

    i can't type much on my iphone for a blog post.

    so i listen to music, podcasts and i read books and magazines. looking into an e-reader.

    1. @Mr. Tunes I assume your commute isn’t in a car since you are talking about using a netbook. If you can afford the monthly fees I would recommend a cell card for your netbook, jail breaking your iphone to allow tethering or (god forbid) choosing a device that allow web access from the netbook. I found that this is the best way to stay productive during a long commute or any travel.

      Alternately look into a offline methods to work. For example you can use Evernote to sync your notes with the web. For blogging I use Word 2007/2010 for offline blogging and then edit when I am back online.

      I had a 3 hour commute for a while crossing back into the US from Mexico each day because custom lines were so long. I would us that time to do all the things you suggest plus the offline work that I suggest and sync via tethered device.

      I would also use the time to do conference calls, catch-up with family on the phone, edit document that I prepped with hard copy (i still like a red marker for edits), offline bill paying (planned ahead with my check book and bills I knew I need to write), and other offline tasks.

  3. I ride the Metro from my house in Virginia to downtown DC. Having to take a bus and then a train transfer adds up to around 45 minutes if not an hour of total transit time. But I’m not having to drive the entire time so I’m constantly catching up on tweets, emails, blog posts, reading a magazine or book, anything! Even though it can be uncomfortable and take longer than driving, I wouldn’t change it. I get way too much done!

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