The average American spends an hour commuting to work each day. This means that many people spend five or more hours a week commuting. Some people select their careers or homes based on commute times but many are unable to do that. If you commute each day there are many things you can do to make that time more productive.

Listen to a Podcast

Consider listening to a podcast during your daily commute. A podcast is similar to a radio show, except that you have the ability to listen to it on your own schedule. Try searching for a show related to the industry you work in. Hosts often offer tips and tricks that you can apply to your own career.

You can also explore your hobbies and interests outside of the office. Whether you enjoy gardening, shopping, or sports there are podcasts out there for you. With new episodes being produced monthly, weekly, or even daily, you can always find fresh content to listen to.

Listening in your car has become easier in recent years. Many newer cars allow you to sync your iPhone or Mp3 player up with your speaker system. If you have an older car a simple auxiliary cable will allow you to connect. You can find these cables at any store that sells electronics. 

If you are someone that commutes to work via public transportation, consider investing in some good, noise reducing headphones. You can get lost in your podcast and drown out the din of the typical commuter car.

Read a Book

If you take public transportation to work you probably see many people reading a book or magazine. However, if you drive to work you can still enjoy your favorite reads. Similar to a book on tape, an audio books is an audio file where a book is read out loud. You can purchase audio books at major book retailers, digital book sellers, or even subscribe to a monthly audio book service like Audible.

Audible charges a monthly fee that includes a book of your choice each month and discounts on any others you may purchase. You retain the books you purchase, even if you choose not to continue the service. You can get a free thirty day trial of Audible and two free audiobooks for signing up. These options are great if you want to read specific titles at specific times, but you can also access audio books and e-books for free.

If you have an iPhone, iPad, Nook or Kindle you can download a free app called Overdrive. Overdrive gives you access to hundreds of libraries around the country. After a quick registration you can check out up to ten audio books or e-books at once. When you are finished the book automatically returns to the library. Occasionally the title that you want may not be available, in which case you can be put on a wait list. As soon as the title is available you will receive it via email. 

Just as with podcasts, an auxiliary cable would allow you to hook up your phone or kindle to your car speakers and listen to audio books as you drive. 


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Learn a Language

Although learning a language takes time and practice, your commute can help. There are many new apps available to help you. If you travel to work via public transportation, these apps can be a great way to make your commute more productive. For example, Duolingo is a free app available in the iTunes store. There are a number of languages to pick from, and through games, challenges, and activities you can learn the fundamentals of a language. 

If you commute in your car, consider purchasing or downloading an audio course such as Learn in Your Car Spanish. The course is available as a CD series or a digital download. If you ride share with someone, consider asking them if they would be interested in learning a language as well. Learning it with another person is more likely to make you stick with it, and you can practice speaking to each other during your commute as well. 

You can also find lots of language courses (and other general courses) at OpenCulture or a number of other open course sites. You could get an entire language course for free by downloading the lessons in advance of your commute and loading them to your phone or media player.

Write a Book

While this may seem easier if you commute via bus or train, you can actually do this in your car as well! Voice recognition software has improved exponentially over the past several years. There are many free apps and downloadable programs that allow you to record what you are saying. 

Make an outline for your book in advance of your commute. Each day talk through a specific part of your book. The software will record your speech and transcribe it into text. You can then transfer it to a word document for editing. 

While this will in no way substitute the need for you to edit at your desk, you can get a lot of great content out during a thirty minute drive. This will allow you to spend less time at your desk over all and be more productive during your commute.

Lose Weight

If you live close enough to walk or bike to work, consider taking this option once or twice a week during the warmer months. Not only will it help your overall health, but you may find yourself less stressed at work. Commuting can be stressful, and a bad morning commute can impact your entire day. When you walk or bike, you are the only one responsible for the commute as there is no traffic or train schedules to deal with.

If you take the train or bus to work, consider getting off one or two stops before your destination on nice days.  Even doing this once or twice a week can help to build cardio endurance  and reduce weight. 

If you drive to work try to park as far back in the lot as possible. Even a three or four minute walk can allow you time to clear your head, take some relaxing breaths, and increase your stamina. Consider programming your phone to track your steps. Challenge your workers to see who can take the most steps before work starts! You could have a lot of fun with this.

While you aren't going to drop any rapid weight with this method, your commute can double as a light workout with a few tweaks.

These are just a few of the many ways to make your commute more productive. Instead of thinking of it as time you are never getting back, think of it as time that is completely yours. By changing your perspective, thirty minutes of travel can become thirty minutes of productivity. Consider reclaiming your commute and making it yours!

Walking to Work