people commuting

It's all about the journey

Commuting to work or college is never the most fun part of day, but use the time productively and you could arrive at your destination relaxed, more organised, and even a bit smarter.

Packed buses, late trains, traffic jams and the vagaries of the unpredictable British weather can all conspire to make the daily commute a bit of a bore, to say the least.

In fact, a recent survey by the Office for National Statistics on the effect that commuting has on personal wellbeing found that, unsurprisingly, it doesn’t make us feel that great at all.

The ONS study examined the impact of time spent commuting, and the mode of transport used, on levels of life satisfaction, happiness, anxiety and whether we feel that the things we do in our lives are worthwhile.

The results showed that comparing the personal wellbeing of those who regularly travel to work versus those who work from home in their main job, commuters were on average less satisfied with their lives, rated their daily activities as less worthwhile, and reported less happiness and higher anxiety than non-commuters.

In addition, the worst effects of commuting on personal wellbeing were associated with journey times lasting between 61 and 90 minutes, and that people taking the bus or coach to work on a journey lasting more than 30 minutes had the most negative commuting option.

So, short of having the use of a chauffeur-driven helicopter service door-to-door every day, what else can we do to make the most of our commuting time?

If you’re travelling by car

Keeping your eyes on the road is the most important thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your ears to good use. There’s always the radio – you could tune into a new station to try something different – or why not treat yourself to a new CD or whatever other gadget you use to play music in your car. You can also use the time to catch up on podcasts of shows that you like and have missed, or what about listening to an audiobook or even an audio course to learn a new language or skill.

If you’re travelling by bus or train

If you’re not the one having to steer the vehicle then letting the train (or bus) take the strain frees you to catch up on emails, browse the Internet or even entertain yourself the old-fashioned way and get stuck into a good book, as long as you don’t suffer from travel sickness.

And if you’re studying something or have got an exam coming up then using your commuting time for revising is a worthwhile option. Think of it this way: a half hour commute each way gives you five hours a week of extra time for swatting up. If you’d rather take it a bit easy then how about downloading a meditation app onto your phone so you can plug in your earphones and tune out the outside world for a while.

If you’re travelling by bicycle

Biking around is a great way to get fit but – especially on crowded city roads – it can be a dangerous way to travel, which is why it’s not advisable to plug your ears into a music player, however tempting that might be. You need eyes in the back of your head as a cyclist, let alone keeping your ears peeled as well. If you want something to keep you motivated while you pedal then why not download an app that tracks your fitness, speed or calories burned, or vary your journey by trying out a new route every couple of weeks.

If you’re travelling on foot

If you’re lucky to live close enough to your place of work or study that you can walk to it, then you’re in an enviable position. However, when it’s raining sideways or if you’ve got a ton of stuff to cart around with you, going on foot can feel like a bit of a chore. One way to pass the time in a productive way is to catch up on all those phone calls to friends and family that you’ve been meaning to make – particularly useful if you’ve got to talk to someone who likes to chat for ages, because you’ve got a legitimate reason to bring the call to an end when you reach your destination: “Sorry Great Aunt Edna, gotta go, just got to work!”

With a bit of creative thinking you can make your commute work for you, instead of being just the way you get to work.

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