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Time Management

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Originally posted on Time Management Ninja

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?

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Two commutes a day, ten a week, forty a month, about 440 times a year. If you commute 45 minutes to work, that is ninety minutes a day, 1,650 hours every four years!

You know those goals you’ve been meaning to achieve? Why not use this time to work on them! How you choose to use the time is as broad as your imagination.

So much of our commuting time now is spent as a negative experience, that it drains us for other activities in our day. When we use our commuting time to benefit ourselves and make accomplishments, it not only will benefit us, but you will see positive impacts at work, home and play!

Using the time to organize your day at work will help you to be more productive at work and less time will be spent away from home and play. The more you are able to achieve, the goals you have been putting off will no longer seem like clouds hanging over you, and will free you up to both mentally and physically.

If you have things to do for the day call into the office (on speaker phone) and go over things that will make your day at the office more organized. If you never have time to write, bring a tape recorder and narrate your stories in your car. If you’re into exercise, isometrics (muscle contractions held for a count of 10 and repeated; do not do this if you are hypertensive or have a heart disorder) are well-documented to work in developing muscle. There are, of course, books on tape and even courses on various subjects. Why not take the time to enrich your life.

The commute is also a great time to schedule the day or review how the day went. Whatever you choose to do, getting value out of the commute helps to change your attitude about the commute and relaxes you throughout the time because you are focused on something more interesting than counting the minutes or the traffic jams. So now, instead of a major block to living, the commute can actually become an opportunity to advance your life.

Think of ten activities that you can do during your commute, and prepare some of them ahead of time. This way if you don’t feel like doing one, you have another ready to go, even if it’s just as simple as listening to your favorite music. You won’t always want to read or listen to music, so you might be prepared to work on a puzzle or compose a letter or song in your head. Your commute is as open to possibilities as you are!

*Note: Please note that this article was incorrectly posted on some websites, the second line in the first paragraph should read “1,650 hours every four years!”.

About the Author:

Dr. M. Mastria has created a five step program titled, FIVE STEPS TO A BETTER COMMUTE which is available free on the Commuter-Assist website (

Dr. Mastria is founder of Commuter-Assist, which publishes e-books, CDs and cassettes to help commuters get the most out of their commute and life in general. Dr. Mastria speaks, offers workshops, and consults to businesses. She also provides life, wellness, and business coaching to groups and individuals. To contact Dr. Mastria email or call 570-839-6394.

All content Copyright © 2006, Dr. Marie A. Mastria, CLC, PCC / All rights reserved. You may copy or send it to family or friends who may benefit from it so long as the format and credits are intact. You have permission to publish this article electronically, free of charge, as long as the bylines are included and links are activated and maintained. A courtesy copy of your publication or link to website would be appreciated.

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In this Sept. 17, 2014, photo, a man closes his eyes as he stands with other commuters in a crowded metro car during rush hour in Rio de Janeiro. On packed subways and crowded highways, billions of people worldwide participate in the daily commute to and from work. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Written by: Marie A. Mastria, PhD

Time passes whether you do something with it or not, so why not make the most of it? You have to travel to work, but what goes on during that travel time is up to you. What you do with that “in between” time can be beneficial or detrimental to the rest of your day. David Clements (Future Cities Project, 2004) wondered that “commuting is ‘the life sentence,'” much akin to a jail sentence. How could we have gotten to that state, and what can we do about it? Well, we could relax, read, listen to books on tape or music, get caught up on work, start the “great American novel.” It really is up to you.

In a survey conducted by Diane Strahan of CareerBuilder, she found that thirty-six per cent of over 2,000 respondents surveyed said they would be willing to take a ten per cent or larger pay cut if they could have a shorter commute. “Workers and employers need to give more thought to their daily commute strategies and the impact commuting stress may have on their lives,” she said.

Acknowledge commute time as time for yourself. Making this adjustment in thinking has helped many commuters begin to take the stress out of the commute. Although this may sound “jargon-y,” it has been shown to lessen the stress of the commute.

How would you describe that commute time? Do you fret over it, wishing it would go away? Well, it won’t, at least not in the immediate future. So reinterpret it. Instead of thinking about the hateful commute, you might describe it as the time I have to myself to meditate, plan the day, or develop my schedule. Making only this adjustment in thinking has been a help to commuters no matter what form of transportation they use.

The Federal Highway Agency has reported that commuting time is increasing and commuters are traveling greater distances, and the trend is for both to increase. With this happening, strategies that make for a better commute become very necessary.

We all recognize that an important aspect to a balanced life is socialization, yet as our responsibilities grow and time diminishes, many of us find that our social life also diminishes. Socialization is a good way to stay healthy and connected but, as our social lives lessen, we become more prone to illness and poor health. But commuters can do something about it. Some people have become so close in their bus commutes to and from work that they celebrate important events together, like birthdays and promotions. They design on-bus book clubs. They plan to meet over the weekends. They meet and marry. There are so many ways the long commute can be used to meet our needs. If you take public transit, commuter friends offer a pleasant way to pass the time and provide good networking resources when you are looking for a new job or a good dentist.

The time spent commuting to and from work can be approached as time wasted or as an opportunity to get things done. Make a plan to use your time so it will benefit your home life and your professional life and you will have found more time in the day.

About the Author

Marie A. Mastria, PhD, of speaks, offers workshops, consults, provides executive, business, wellness and life coaching to groups and individuals. Email her at or call 1+570-839-6394.


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