I work wherever my clients are. This year I’ve had it easy: door-to-door commute takes about 30 minutes and I only have to take one subway. While working on my previous project it took easily 40-50 minutes by tram and train, as well as quite a bit of walking to get from home to the client office.
Let’s do some math: Assuming I’d go to the office 5 days a week (hardly unrealistic for anyone with a regular job), 48 weeks a year (daddy needs his vacation!), and commute 60 minutes daily (30 minutes back and forth), that equals 240 hours of which about 1/3 is spent walking and the remaining sitting in a subway.
That equals 30 eight hour workdays wasted every year – if I didn’t make use of that time.
I read. Since elementary school I have spent the bus drives nose glued to books. Granted, those books were mostly fiction. Yet I hated idle time. I kept reading all the way to my first couple years as a professional. At some point the Pratchett’s and King’s and Herbert’s just changed to local newspapers.
That was until I figured out that reading those newspapers was almost complete waste of time. The problem with news is that 99% of the time they are not actionable; your life will be exactly the same before and after reading them. Another issue is that most news tend to be negative. If the first thing you do in the morning is read about war, famine and depression, what kind of mood do you think it sets for the rest of your day?
Before you panic and choke on your pretzel, let me assure you that avoiding news does not make you ignorant. If something really important is going on you WILL hear about it. Maybe from your friends or co-workers, or simply by looking at the headlines when passing a newsstand, or from Facebook statuses and Twitter feeds. Then you can act on that information if you want to.
So if you shouldn’t read news during commutes, then what? I am by no means against reading a good book or informative blog posts so that the time is not completely wasted, but I think there’s an even better way to take advantage of the void that would otherwise exist between work/school and home: educational audio.
Listening to something is obviously even more relevant to those of you who drive to work. Reading while driving is generally a bad idea. However, even if you walk or use public transportation this can save you a lot of time.
Remember when I mentioned in the beginning that of the 1 hour I spend commuting each day 2/3 are spent on subway. The remaining 20 minutes I am on my feet. Reading while walking is rather difficult, but listening while walking isn’t.
Now that we have established that taking advantage of good audio content is one of the most effective ways to utilize the commuting time here are three ways to get you started.
1. Audio books
A respectful number of books are already available in audio format and I don’t think I know anyone who wouldn’t be carrying a mobile phone or an MP3 player capable of playing them.
However, there is one caveat: audio seems to work more naturally with works of fiction. Maybe it has something to do with the storytelling traditions that have been part of humanity for thousands of years. On the other hand, I am currently listening to Wheat Belly and thanks to smooth writing and a very good narrator it has been a pure pleasure so far.
I’d also recommend taking advantage of sites like Audible where you can listen to a sample of each audio book before purchasing it. It’s best to check for yourself whether or not a book is worthwhile getting as audio instead of text.
Despite the name you don’t need an iPod to enjoy audio podcasts. They are simply “radio shows” that can be downloaded and listened to whenever you want. iTunes Store is a great tool for searching and subscribing to podcasts but there are also many that accompany a blog or a website, and can be downloaded directly from there. Unlike most audio books, there is a great number of quality podcasts that are completely free of charge.
During the past few months I consumed about 100 episodes of The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf which has significantly increased my knowledge in nutrition, health, and exercise. That’s more than 100 hours of free, effortless education on a subject that greatly interests me. Definitely not wasted time!
Another great show for the health nuts is The Healthy Skeptic (the show is currently ongoing a name change, so my apologies if it will be Skeptical Health Detective or something else by the time you are reading this) and there are podcasts on almost any subject imaginable, so I’m sure you will find something interesting!
This might be a somewhat lesser known feature of iTunes Store, but there is a whole section devoted to lectures and other material published by top universities and educational institutions. And did I say that most, if not all, of it is free?
How are you taking advantage of time spent between home and work? Please share your tips in the comments! Also, if you know of good podcasts or non-fiction audio books – no matter what the topic is – let me know!