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5 minute read

How You Can Use Your Commute Time on Public Transport More Effectively

Instead of complaining about your daily office commute, here’s how you could put that available time to good use.

You’ve spent the past one to three years working from home (WFH), saving the time spent on travelling to and from the office. But now, life is returning to relative normalcy and you’re required to return to your workplace more often.

Working in the office regularly does have its perks – you finally have a space dedicated solely for work, without distractions from the blaring TV, the enticing bed calling you for naps or nagging parents. It’s also easier than ever to collaborate with co-workers, as you can make quick face-to-face conversations without having to set up a meeting online.

But there’s probably one dreadful part about returning to the office – the commute, especially on public transport.

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Understanding why your commute makes you wilt

If your morning commute is leaving you down, you’re not alone. For many, having to deal with cramped buses and trains, traffic jams and mind-numbing boredom is misery-inducing. Research has even found that most people experience more negative emotions on their morning commutes, with long-term effects even including depression.

But not all hope is lost – studies have found that creating and sticking to a routine can help you manage your negative emotions and boost your mental health. So why not create a routine of activities you can use for your commute? Here are some suggestions you can consider.

1. Know what’s going on in the world

Most of us associate travel time with our destination. For instance, if you’re on the way to meet friends for a meal, you might decide to scan through the menu of the restaurant.

In that vein, what better time to update yourself on the latest news than on your commute to work? With the connectivity we enjoy in today’s world, this becomes just a simple routine of hopping onto Google or our local news apps and pulling up relevant news articles. You can even curate a list of go-to news sites, and refresh them every morning on the way to work.

2. Do some mental exercises

Just like how you have to physically get moving to limber your body up in the morning, your brain also needs exercise to get ready for the day! On top of making your travel time productive, there are many benefits, such as sharpening your focus and improving memory.

So don’t let your travel time go to waste – add some simple brain exercises into your routine, such as completing puzzles, learning a new language, or picking up a new skill with an online micro-learning course. 

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3. Mentally prepare for the day

At home, you’re perhaps a sibling, caregiver, or roommate. But at work, and especially in the office, you’re a professional. Making it routine to transit mentally and prepare yourself (and get “into the zone”) for the day during your commute will help reduce stress and raise productivity, according to a study by Sage Journals.

One way to do that is to frame your thoughts during your commute, perhaps by making a mental list of the tasks you need to accomplish at work for the day, and reflecting on learnings from the previous day. If you’re the sort to think out loud, record your thoughts on your phone’s voice recorder, or type them out in your notes app if you prefer to write.

4. Catch up on the little things

Whether it’s clearing up your personal email (receipts and notifications from online shopping sprees can pile up fast) or making a dent in that book you’ve been meaning to read, these little things can go a long way. Not only will you be able to check things off your internal to-do list, but getting them done can leave you feeling accomplished and motivated even before you start work.

5. Keep fit on the bus or train (no, really!)

After starting work, you might have noticed that you spend much more time sitting down as compared to being on your feet. Worse still, your commute may have cut into your exercise time.

Instead of settling for this sedentary lifestyle, you can do some simple exercises on public transport to keep in shape, such as calf raises, or arm and neck stretches. If you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, you can keep it subtle, too – for instance, make it a point to stand throughout your commute, rather than sitting down, or climbing the stairs instead of taking the escalator.

Bonus: Unwinding on the way home

Generally, commuting home in the evening is far less stressful than getting to work in the morning – the day is done, and you finally have time for a breather. To unwind, create an evening routine like you do for your morning commute routine.

It doesn’t matter what kind of activities you choose for it – it can be “slower” things like just staring out the window and observing passing scenery – it’s the act of following the routine that can help to relieve stress, and keep you from burning out.

The time spent on your commute doesn’t have to be disregarded as wasted time. Choosing engaging activities and making them part of your routine can not only keep you motivated and reduce your stress levels, but even help use your free time more productively!

This article is contributed by gradsingapore.

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