Updated on 03.31.07

Five Ways To Improve Your Career On The Commute (Without Your Cell Phone)

Trent Hamm

For many people, the morning and evening commute is time spent stuck in traffic, listening to the radio, or calling their sister-in-law on the cell phone. The truth is that the commute is a great time to actually improve your career. How? Here are five things you can do on the way to or from work to help your career, even if you’re stuck in traffic. It can help you get a leg up on the competition or free up some time at home to spend with your family.

Listen to an audiobook. Find an audiobook connected to your career at the local library and listen to it on the way to and from work. Even if you don’t have books that can directly help your career, you can listen to an audiobook that teaches another language or one that teaches general productivity skills (like Getting Things Done).

Use a voice recorder to record thoughts. When I was heavily involved in managing projects, I used to use a voice recorder during the commute to record ideas and plans for the coming days. Quite often, my brightest ideas would occur to me during the commute, and an easy-to-use voice recorder made it possible for me to immediately record them.

Practice your language skills. This includes learning a foreign language from an audiobook, but this really applies to learning how to simply speak better. Practice giving speeches by copying what you hear from speeches on NPR, or get a tape of great speeches and practice repeating those lines. Practicing your verbal deliveries can help you no matter what your job is like.

Plan a very clear checklist of specific things to do when you get to work / get home. I’ve found, time and time again, that if I have a list of small and very discrete tasks that I can finish in a short timeframe (say an hour or an hour and a half), I feel really productive and ready to tackle anything that faces me.

Eat something healthy. This is especially true for the morning commute. Eat a banana or an orange or a homemade breakfast burrito. This energy booster can really make a big difference in your energy level throughout the day and can turn an ordinary day into a great one.

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  1. Santosh Udupi says:

    I would add, meditate for a few minutes: Remove all thoughts from the mind and just focus on driving.

  2. rokit88 says:

    A great little audio & video player that also has an audio recording function to save notes is the iriver clix.

    You can listen to audio books, review text notes (like your daily checklist), catch up on TV shows, and record voice memos to yourself.

    It isn’t the thinnest player, but it is very small package and easily pocketable for all day use. The biggest downside to it is that it won’t act as a portable hard drive (until the next edition is released). It isn’t the most high tech or well known but it is a great package and IMO a great value at $200.

  3. Bones says:

    Hi there Trent,
    I have been reading your blog for a while, and I wanted to say that I agree with this post entirely: I have always thought of the time traveling to and forth work to be a time of producing ideas, otherwise it goes wasted. Personally I take notes, or I try to review the day, to see if something I did was wrong or improductive. The idea of listening to an audiobook is very tempting.. maybe it’s the only way for me to learn spanish!
    Good Day,

  4. Canadian says:

    I am not sure if it is actually safe to do all of these things while driving, as it takes one’s attention away from the road.

    They’re definitely great for those who commute using public transportation (subway, bus, commuter train, etc.). Reading is also great (work-related or not). Moving away from career-related things, I sometimes use this time for Morning Prayer (from the 1962 Canadian BCP) or knitting.

  5. Raj says:

    very useful post for people to self-improve their career .. morning commute time can be used for planning “to do list” will give a jump start for the day and make it more effiecient at work ..

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