The average American professional spends over an hour a day commuting. For most, that time involves listening to music, reading the paper, staring out the window, or sleeping. However, whether you drive or take public transportation to the office, your goal should be to leverage your commuting time so that you can spend fewer hours working. Here are some recommendations to that effect.
1. Listen to industry podcasts or webinars.
There’s no end to the professional development options available online for instant download, and many are low-cost or free. Instead of taking time out of the office to attend a course or workshop, fire up an audio recording on your smartphone, iPod, or tablet and learn about a new skill or trend while you travel.
2. Replace your entertainment or daily newspaper with a relevant trade.
Reading about celebrities is fun, and it’s certainly useful to keep up with the news in your area. But how about taking along one of those industry-related publications that has been sitting on your desk for weeks? If it’s the only piece of reading material in your bag, you’ll be more likely to at least peruse it, and a hard copy won’t hurt your eyes, like squinting at the type on your phone or tablet can. However, we do think The Fast Track looks pretty nice on a mobile device.
3. Hold on-the-go conference calls.
If you are in a situation where talking aloud won’t disturb fellow passengers, schedule calls during your commute so that you don’t have to do them at the office. Just be careful that you aren’t too distracted by the conversation to drive responsibly.
4. Sort through your paperwork.
Go ahead, grab that stack of dead trees that has been cluttering your office. On the train home, read through everything, pluck out the gems, and deposit the rest in your recycling bin when you get home. Even better, scan the gems into storage so you don’t have to tote them back to the office the next day.
5. Find a train buddy.
Scout out a mentor, senior leader, colleague, or other respected professional who lives near you and takes the train to work around the same time. Ask if the person would be amenable to sharing one commute per week talking shop on the train. A new mentor, by the way, will probably be more willing to give you her time if it’s not going to take a chunk out of HER work day.
6. Install new software or update your devices.
This stuff takes time, and spending hours of your work day on device maintenance isn’t smart. Provided you can get a network connection, let your hardware do its thing while you are stuck in a train or car and aren’t trying to actively communicate with anyone or get a critical task done.
7. Plug in at the airport.
When you have to travel for business, don’t allow airport and flying time to eat up an entire day of productivity. Arrive early, speed through security, and set up a mini-office at your gate. If you’re lucky, you can finish a report, a presentation, or a few lengthy e-mails during time you’d normally spend watching CNN or reading US Magazine.