Imagine a future where cars drive themselves. Accidents are a thing of the past, all automobiles on the road communicate to move in perfect synchrony. Travel distance between the workplace and home is almost a nonfactor because you can sleep or do work while your car takes you to where you need to be.
Alas, this future is still a ways off, at least until Google’s cars can figure out how to deal with rain and snow. Until self-driving cars become mainstream, we’re stuck with spending hours behind the wheel wasting precious time and raging at poor drivers around us. Commuting often turns out to be torture, but it doesn’t have to be.
Here are seven helpful tips to make the most of your commute:
1. Maximize Your Time
I’m sure you already have a way of passing time during your commute, but morning radio and picking noses aside, have you ever taken the time to figure out whether you were maximizing your time in the car? You could become familiar with virtually anything if you simply set your mind to it, and follow through with downloading everything you need. You could finally read – more like listen to – that book you have been meaning to get around to, or check out the song all your friends have been singing that you pretended to know the lyrics to.
If those aren’t up your alley, you can always use your commute as a time to collect your thoughts. Stop trying to switch lanes all the time, or race the car next to you. Try focusing on your thoughts wholeheartedly and enjoy the moment you have to yourself.
2. Study Your Route
There’s an app for everything; the mobile world has established that already. Waze, a community-based traffic and navigation app, and the Inrix Traffic app which shows live traffic, could help you figure out if there is a faster route you didn’t know about or if certain times are better suited to avoid traffic.
Even 10 minutes could make a significant difference to your commute time. Leaving 10 minutes before or after your usual time could be worth it, unless you’re really embracing the tip mentioned above. If you don’t mind a long commute, more power to you.
3. Public Transportation
The convenience of public transportation isn’t the same for everyone. Some people choose to drive their car instead of using public transit simply because they prefer the privacy of their own car, or because it could take longer. Even so, using public transportation could be a wise choice. It saves you gas money and gives you the free hands you need to do even more important things, like respond to emails or play Trivia Crack.
Maybe you can engage in a triathlon commute and drive for a bit, take the bus and then walk. Even if you can only use it for a part of your journey, you don’t have to rule public transit out completely. You can relax without the stress of having to keep your eyes on the road.
4. Request a Flexible Schedule
Bringing up your long commute to your boss might not be a bad idea. This shouldn’t be taken as a cue to whine about your long commute, however. Just explain your situation to your boss, and ask if he would be open to giving you little more flexibility in your work schedule. You may be able to come in an hour later and leave an hour later, or work four days a week for 10 hours instead.
Remember to keep an open mind and be honest about how the long commute is affecting your work life. Productivity is key, after all, and if there is a better schedule that you and your boss could both agree on, it will help you start off your mornings less stressed and fatigued.
At most workplaces, being a full-time telecommuter isn’t an option. However, if you have demonstrated to your boss that you are a capable and determined individual when it comes to work, you might be granted the privilege to telecommute on occasion. You could work out a system with your boss where you could telecommute if the roads are too bad, or if you have a meeting closer to home that day, or if an emergency arises that would prevent you from getting to work on time.
Try not to request this on Mondays or Fridays, though, or risk looking like you’re just vying for a long weekend. Telecommuting should never be an excuse to slack off. The key is to be extra attentive and focused if you want to prove that you deserve the privilege.
6. Become More Efficient
Everyone has their own reasons to conceding to a long commute. While moving closer to work might not be an option for you, it might be a good idea to switch to a more fuel-efficient car. The costs of commuting can put a serious dent in your wallet, mostly thanks to gas prices. With the volatility of gas prices, it is a sound strategy to invest in a vehicle that will save you money at the pump. The satisfaction from knowing that you’re saving money, and the environment, may be enough get you through the commute.
If you can’t switch cars, use apps like GasBuddy to locate the cheapest gas stations near you.
Try actively seeking out a carpool buddy if you haven’t already. You never know who might be making a commute that is similar to your route. Other than saving on gas, carpooling also allows you to drive only half of the time. Plus, your commute might be a lot more fun with a companion. You can take turns pretending to be uber drivers, or play punch buggy – the possibilities of fun are endless.
Whether it’s 30 minutes or two hours, if you think your commute is too long, it probably is. If it’s taking up a significant portion of your day, you have every reason to make it less painful.
Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping others find happiness and success in their careers and live life to the fullest. Follow her for more great tips @SarahLandrum