Maximize the profitability of your commute

As far as I can remember, I started to commute at age 3! Regular home-school routines using always the same road back and forth during months. Years even.
Entered high school, then University and finally work. Each of it had its own commute routine. From five minutes up to one hour - the max I did thankfully!

When nowadays, I see people reading - by default - the 20minutes in the train, it reminds me that during two third of my almost thirty years of commuting, I was doing no better.
As part of my 2015 goals, I currently read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown who, in one of its chapter, explain how to design your life and not let others design it for you.
It's not because advertising baron offers you free reading during your commute that you have to read it!
I mean, you can choose to waste your time and I'm completely fine with that. But If you choose to waste it, do it fully and consciously! And it's actually not that much of a waste anymore - as you made a choice - but something you decided to spend your time on which produces some value or pleasure to you.

Since more than five years, I've decided to leverage as much as I could my transit time so to not waste it anymore.
Having went through car only to public transport and bike only, I have listed below all the things that I did while commuting so far. Things that I decided to do by design, not by default!
The value of some activities might differ from your own scale but the main point is that you define it and actually do what brings most purpose to your life!
I've grouped activities in three big categories of commute means, and a fourth one which groups few common activities that one can do in any of the other categories.

Biking/walking - The Healthy Activities

  • Feel how your body is alive and realize that you're earning life points. Feel your muscles and the power that they generate while you get from point A to point B! It is like being Super Mario who accumulates gold coins!
    If you trust (or like) technology enough, you can even let a smartwatch tell you how many minutes you won over death by simply pedaling or walking.
  • Be conscious of the moment. And enjoy it! In order to re-synchronize with all the life and wild which surrounds me, I focus on my breath to be fully aware of what happen. This way, I stop to think about this project to finish at work and start to enjoy the unique beautiful sunset or sunrise that is happening at this very moment!
  • Another activity that I must admit I don't play often is sport training which is a great way to maximize your commute routine! Instead of paying CHF 1'000/year to pedal in a room, just save this money and be more sporty/active than you usually are during your transit time. For example, sprint during a kilometer on your way back from the station - and not the other way around, so you can shower right afterwards :) Like that you make the most out of your time and do not pay the gym fees!

Public transport - The Studious Creative Activities

  • Blogging is one of my favorite activity. I'm currently in the train while I tap stuff on my iPhone keyboard. Railway is actually a great source of inspiration as you aren't distracted by outside disturbances (except maybe by some noisy people, but Spotify is here to counter-attack!) and because you just have to look out the window to regenerate your creativity! Thanks Mother Nature!
  • Reading is my second preferred activity. You should really try it (not with the 20minutes though) to feel this bubble effect that forms around you and prevent any distraction to bother you. Indeed, as you choose to read something meaningful, you don't even have to manage your attention span, because you're fully focused - as with anything you love to do!
  • Private projects diserve to be in the top 3! My blog is actually a "private project". But here I also include developing an iPad application, or a new website for instance. Or any other thing you can imagine that is doable on a laptop - or at least in such a tiny space that is a train seat!
    Thanks to my former 1h train commute where I had bad 4G coverage (read "a lot of fully focus time"), I managed to get involved into a major software project to which I could dedicate two complete hours. Every workday. It was a success!
  • Working is also something I used to do to maximize the return on investment of the time spent in the train. If you happen to be paid per hour, it's a great feeling to arrive in the office and be able to already bill some time even before you sat down at your desk!!! I particularly like to read, reply to and sort my emails so that when I get to the office, inbox is empty and I only have to focus on my Things todo list.
  • Napping was an activity I practiced a lot when I didn't take that much care of my night sleep length. It is not a very comfortable place to sleep and I totally dropped it since I got back to my 8h of sleep every night. But it can be a good way to compensate the lack of sleep after a party that last too long. To do only if needed and not create an habit out of it would be my advice.
    If you travel during the day, it is another story as you can use short transit time to regenerate your energy level by taking a nap!
  • Eating is the one thing that might not seems obvious at first but when you think about it, it's an opportunity to wake up later in the morning and have your breakfast with a great view! And as you get out of the bed later, you can then extend the profitability of your precious days of some more minutes or hours!
  • Simply enjoy the view! Switzerland is such a beautiful country that every season has its own amazing colors. I particularly like the sunrise and sunset period in spring or autumn. One of the train ride I have sometimes is the one from Fribourg to Lausanne which offers a stunning view on the Leman Lake when you get out of the tunnel near Puidoux. Judge by yourself:


Credits: Google Maps Street View

  • Discuss with people around you! I admit I don't do that very often during commute travels but I once met a very interesting person on a personal trip. It was on a Sunday and the guy was coming back from Paris. He explained me how he created a NGO out of nothing in Africa, whose goal was to take care of orphan children. We are still in touch these days. And I wouldn't know him if I didn't have opened my mind and got out of my comfy zone.
    Unfortunately, commute trips are often crowded and people are in a anti-social mindset where they watch their tiny screen with their headphones turned on. Me the first... But still, it can be an interesting activity to socialize as you never know what you will learn! Life is full of surprises!!!

Driving - The Social Activity

  • The main car activity I tend to regret now that I'm fully with public transport is to make phone calls. I used this time to connect with my family, cousins and friends in order to get news, plan some parties and much more. Since I don't have these useful timeframes anymore, I call them during lunch time or weekend. It killed a bit the random daily routine in place of the "let's see who I could call that I didn't speak to last days/weeks" but I quickly setup a new one through calendar recurrent reminders which make it work well too.

Activities Independent of the Location

Then, there are the activities that work no matter the mean of transport you are using.

  • Listen to podcasts is something I did when doing the ironing but it can be done almost anywhere. My preferred podcasts are about technology since it's the field in which I work but you can find any topic if you search on the web. This reminds me that I should choose some about finance since this area interests me more and more. If you look for distraction, you can also choose comedy podcasts like the ones of Laurent Gerra or similar.
  • Listen to music that you have chosen and forget about radio and their tracks on repeat! Our essentialist motto is even more relevant for this usecase: use your time by design, not by default! My preferred service is Spotify with which I discovered and continue to discover new artists every now and then.
    There are so many (free) ways to get music these days that you have no excuses to still listen radio that plays stuff you like only once or twice every twenty tracks!

There we are with the activities I experienced during last years.
As I explained above, I finished last week my "Essentialism" book and it has helped me to finally decide on how to better plan my commute routine vs. before, when each time I entered the train, I had to decide which thing I'd prefer to do - which sometimes ended in procrastinating on Twitter or this blog's analytics data...
Now, it is defined in advance. I dedicate the morning commute to writing blogposts and the evening one is reserved to reading books. After one week, the single fact to have designed these routines work actually very well. I arrive in the train in the morning, find a seat, and then get ByWord loaded and I start to type stuff on my iPhone. Evening is similar; once I sat down, I get the book I'm currently reading out of my bag and there we go. As simple as it sounds!

I'm wondering if I covered most of commuting activities (except maybe knitting) or if there are more out there?!?
What are you doing while commuting?


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