Journey to work a daily grind? How to make your commute more productive

Despite advances in remote working, Britain’s love-hate relationship with commuting continues. Workers in London are battling an 81-minute commute, the longest in the country and equivalent to 38 working days a year. Meanwhile nearly 3.7m of us spend two hours a day travelling to and from work. So if commuting can’t be avoided, how do you make the most of it?

Work offline

I once heard of someone who took a train from Manchester to Southampton just to have four solid hours of uninterrupted time to get some work done. Do you have a “useful reading” pile on the desk which never gets read? If you have a long train journey, don’t waste time with flaky wifi or dodgy mobile signals. Take advantage of the blackout zone and crack on with that piece of work that requires more focus and less connectivity. Whether it’s a report your colleague asked you to review, documents circulated for an upcoming meeting, or wider industry updates to help you stay ahead, save it for your commute.

Recharge your brain

Do you find yourself going on standby when you’re commuting – not switched on, but not switched off either? Why not use the time to recharge instead? Sleep enhances productivity, and doing something that actively encourages your brain to switch off from work can be good for your creativity and your wellbeing. Take a nap – as long as you’re not driving of course – and make sure you have an alarm set for when you reach your stop.

As well as sleeping, the usual remedies for the tedium of being in transit, such as reading a novel, listening to music or watching a movie or TV drama, are great for switching your brain off.

Think big

At the office, everything and everyone beckons – the emails, the meetings, the colleagues at your desk, and, of course, the work that needs to be done. It’s easy to get drawn into reactive mode. We all know the benefits of planning, organising and thinking ahead, but making that actually happen in the office is a different story. So use your commute to review your priorities and get your head clear.

Also, you could think about what big project or new idea you have lurking on your to-do list. A decision, a problem, an idea to explore – we often think better on the move, so use your commute as time to reflect.

Get away from it all

Being stuck in a crowded carriage bumping along the tracks with a bunch of strangers isn’t the most obvious time to meditate, but perhaps that’s precisely when some zen could be useful. For guided meditation, try an app like Headspace or Calm. You could also use noise-cancellation headphones to tune out that crying child, the woman talking loudly on her phone or the guy who’s munching crisps right next to you.

Listen and learn

Whether you’re walking, driving, sitting or standing, plug in your headphones and tune into a podcast, Ted talk, audio book or perhaps even learn a new language. Consider it breakfast for your brain.

Grace Marshall is the author of How to be Really Productive, and is a productivity coach at Think Productive.