Commuting sucks: 10 ways to make it better

Commuting more than 15 minutes to work seriously affects your quality of life. So why not boost it by using your commute for good?

Commuting. We hate it. It's long, boring, stressful, expensive and unpredictable.

It also, according to the ONS, seriously decreases quality of life. In fact, commuting longer than 15 minutes each way means you're likely to be affected by commuter misery, with those who spend more than an hour on the move feeling the glummest.

Commuters are less happy, have more anxiety and generally feel they have a lower quality of life.

But how else can you get to work to make a living to live life, eh?

Whatever else it may be, commuting is unavoidable for most of us (unless you can afford to live within 15 minutes of your office in the centre of town/off-the-motorway trading estate) as well as being a massive time drain.

And as we spend the time we're not commuting complaining about how we have NO TIME, the best thing to do logically would be to use our commute time for better ends.

It will take a bit of planning, but you could reclaim hours a day. We have 10 suggestions to pimp your commute.

1. Use your ears.

If you usually tune out to the sound of all your tunes on shuffle, it's time to make the most of your listening time. Your commute is a time when you're on autopilot and probably have nothing else to distract you (apart from getting off at the right stop/junction), so forget songs you've heard a thousand times and instead turn to the spoken word.

Audiobooks and podcasts open up a whole world of comedy and imagination and just think how many books you'll get through despite not having the time to read.

Some aweome podcast suggestions from the Yahoo office include:
This American Life (real life stories, facts and quirky stories), The Adam & Joe Show on 6Music (no new shows but utterly hysterical), Desert Island Discs, Marc Maron's WTF (commedians chat to each other about their flaws), Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast, Pappy’s Bangers and Mash, Kermode & Mayo’s Film Show (no time to watch films? No need!), The Moth Podcast (Amazing dinner-party style real-life stories told in front of a live audience – better than it sounds), The Bugle (Topical satire with John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman), History Hour (real life history stories from the BBC), The Infinite Monkey Cage and Hand of Pod.

2. Meditate

If you find you can't focus on people talking in your ear, try the opposite - meditation. There are apps for this (Headspace is a good one), that lead you through, or you can just sit quietly, focus on your breathing and calm your mind. Studies suggest your brain gets more rest from this than sleep, so instead of feeling drained by the commute, you should arrive at work raring to go.

Don't do this if you drive to work.

3. Learn a language

This is probably a better idea for those who are behind the wheel, as the best languge-learning podcasts and programmes require you to repeat words out loud to practise the prenunciation. Pick a language, start at the beginning and follow the programme and you'll be bilingual-ish in no time.

One we've tried out is the Michel Thomas Method, and it actually worked.

4. Get some exercise in

We're supposed to get 30 mintes of moderate exercise five times a week. So if you concentrate you can get that under your belt before you get to work every day, meaning no gym after work, meaning more time for you.

If you drive you can't really do this, unless you call jiggling about at traffic lights moderate exercises (probably doesn't count).

On public transport, make sure you walk up escalators, stand up the whole way and if you can, get some surreptitious squats in. If you're really keen, try getting off the bus a stop early and power walking to the office.

5. Make your commute your workout

If it's possible, go one step further and cycle, run or walk to work. If you can get your exercise this way it means you don't have to worry about gymming or exercising any other time. This will save you more of that precious time. It requires organisation (eg. keep your shower stuff at work and remember a change of clothes) but it's worth it.

NB. Don't try to run a marathon to work or race along the motorway. That could be counter-productive.

6. Update all those life-improving apps you never get round to

Apps that let you track your spending, exercise, pregnancy, periods, and calorie intake are great in theory but does anyone actually get round to updating them? On your way home from work, why not set aside 15 minutes to track everything you've downloaded apps to track. You'll feel positively angelic afterwards (provided you're not inputting cake into your calorie app).

7. Call your mum

Suffer regular feelings of guilt that you haven't spoken to your mum/brother/best friend on maternity leave for weeks? Rectify it.

If you're driving, set up your hands-free and call someone. Make it a regular thing - your mum on a Monday, your mate in babyland on a Tuesday and so on. Even if you only ring someone once a week that's still a catch up you wouldn't normally manage.

Just check they're awake/not at work/want to talk to you first before you call at half seven in the morning. Or do it on the way home.

8. Creative thinking

According to How to be a Productivity Ninja

by Graham Allcott, there's not much time in our day to actually think. We don't prioritise it and instead we head off down 'busy work' roads, ticking off lists and getting STUFF done. When actually what we need to do is really think about problems so we can come up with creative solutions.

So if you have a big meeting, a presentation to write or a problem to solve, plan to spend a chunk of your commute thinking of solutions. Bring a pad and pen and see what your brain can come up with. By the time you get to work you've already achieved more than you normally do the entire day.

9. Achieve your goals

Always wanted to write a novel but have no time? Think you'd be a brilliant entrepreneur but haven't managed to think up your invention yet? Whether you want to write a song, novel or children’s book, change career, start a company, create your own blog or become a philosopher, your commute is the perfect time to get planning. You can plan your Dragons' Den speech, work out your plot or plan your blog's theme, so when you get home, the hard work's done. Hello ultra-achieving novellist, philosopher and entrepreneur.

10. Listen to classical music

Always think you should get into Bach but can't imagine a time when you'd pop it on at home? Try some beginner's classical. No one will know what you're listening to, it'll be nice and calming and you can chip in to intellectual conversations about composers around the water cooler.

Don't know your Mozart from your Monet? Here are some tips to get you started.

Whatever you decide to do, the trick is to plan ahead, make sure you know what you want to achieve and get into a routine. With a little effort you'll be a productivity powerhouse before you even get to work. Who said commuting was crap?