Maximize Your Morning Commute

Look familiar???

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Luckily that isn’t my commute world anymore. In my professional career, I’ve had all sorts of commute times and distances. In my early 20’s I drove 45 miles each way to work. In my mid 20’s, I actually had a 60 mile commute one way (could take 90 minutes under cruddy circumstances). When I lived in NYC, I had a 45 minute commute on the subway. When I lived in NJ, I had another 40 mile commute up route I-95. Now, I only have a 10 mile commute to work which takes 20 minutes on a bad day. Its VERY bearable.

I didn’t really start to “leverage” my commute until my NYC experience. As part of the subway etiquette (don’t make eye contact, look busy, look distracted, and look unapproachable), I got used to listening to classical music on my iPod (yeah, back in the day, right???) and reading a book. I never read as many books in a year as I did when I lived in NYC. I loved it. I really miss those passive commutes where I could just sit on my bench, space out, and magically appear at my train stop. I knocked out some pretty huge books in that span (“Atlas Shrugged” and “Dutch” come to mind).

After NYC, when I started to drive to work again, I just defaulted back to my old pattern of listening to music. Don’t get me wrong. Music is awesome. I love finding some of the lesser known “fringe” rock bands and listening to their stuff. When my job shifted to a regional support role, I was driving A LOT. I mean 23,000 miles per year a lot. I listened to and bought a TON of music.

In retrospect, I missed one hell of an opportunity to learn stuff and improve myself.

I first found podcasts in 2016. I know – a little late to the party, right? It still seems too good to be true. There is all of this AMAZING content out there, and it is 100% free. Just find an app to play them through on your mobile device, and you are in. Right now, I have a ton of podcast subscriptions related to sports topics, fantasy football, nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, homebrewing, and probably some others I’m forgetting. Whether its my commute to/from work, or if I’m driving regionally for a couple of hours, I love me some podcasts. My personal favorite is the Fantasy Footballers Podcast. The show is entertaining, and is a wealth of fantasy football information. Those guys are so lucky that they get to do something like that for a living. Another favorite of mine is Tim Ferriss. Last year, I ended up driving to South Dakota (6 hours each way), and binge listened to Tim both ways. So much information. He is actually a really solid interviewer. If you like hearing the behaviors and patterns of successful people broken down and shared, you’d like Tim’s interviews.

I was a late adopter for audio books, but now I love them. I resisted audio books because I like physically touching and holding the book. That is why I’ll probably never have a Kindle. I like the tangibility of a book, and if you like it, putting it on your bookshelf. Just the physical presence of a book can be a conversation starter. Sample dialogue…

Guest: Cool – you have American Psycho – was it like the movie?

Me: That book is messed up – the movie was okay, but doesn’t really do justice to how messed up that book was – did you know it was almost banned?

Guest: I didn’t know that. Very interesting. Its a good think you had that book physically here so I could notice it and comment on it. Where are you going?

Me: I have to return some video tapes.

I stumbled into an Audible.com membership by accident. A colleague of mine is a member, and was talking about an amazing deal she got on a series of leadership lectures. I’m talking like 30 hours of content, all for the cost of a single credit. I later learned that for the monthly membership fee, you get 1 credit per month. I signed up for the trial, and used my credit on that series of lectures. I never cancelled the trial, and kept accumulating credits. Once I was caught up on my podcasts, I saw in my email that I had unused Audible credits. I checked my Amazon shopping cart for some books that I was going to buy, and found the audio book counterpart.

I got over my physical book compulsion, and redeemed a credit for my first audio book. I settled on Dan Harris’ “10% Happier.” It was a book about his journey through meditation. It was a very entertaining listen. From that point on, I was much more open to downloading audio books. As of this post, I have about 15 of them in my library. I still buy physical books, but if I find a book that I want access to, and don’t care about the physical form, I’ll get the audio book if its available. I like having the membership because it “reminds” me to get a book and listen to it.

Fast forward to 2018, and my phone & iPad are loaded with downloaded books and podcasts. Whether I’m driving to work, mowing the lawn, riding the train, or catching a flight somewhere, I have unfettered access to great information, content, and stories (as long as I have a device charged).

Having access to this information has really allowed me to turn my morning commute into something that can enrich my life. I still listen to music, but I’d say that a solid 3-4 days of my commute is either listening to a podcast about a topic I want to learn about, or its dedicated to blasting through an audio book. Right now I’m listening to, “The Millionaire Next Door.” It is a very interesting book. Believe it or not, that unassuming dude in his Wrangler jeans that drives the 3 year old BMW is probably a millionaire. The guy in the $3,000 suit and $1,000 watch is probably leveraged to the throat with debt. So far, the point I’m divining from the book is that people in good financial situations get there through solid planning and massive amounts of self control.

In the book, “The Four Hour Work Week,” Tim Ferriss talks about efficient use of time as a major tool for reclaiming and re-engineering your life. Through that lens, I was able to find many way to improve the efficiency of what I do both at home and at work. Using my morning commute (or lawn mowing for that matter) is a great way to find an otherwise useless block of time, and use it to your advantage. Not all time savings will translate into useful gains…

…but there is certainly something to be said for identifying a block of 20 minutes (or more depending on your commute) that can be re-purposed for leisure or learning. The Washington Post estimates that the average commute for an American is now 26 minutes. Why not spend 26 minutes to and from work listening to that novel you’ve been putting off, or that personal finance book you’ve been wanting to read? The pockets of time are around us if we look for them. Re-imagining your morning commute is probably one of the easiest ways to seize the day.

Carpe Diem!

Do you spend your morning commute on personal development initiatives? If so, what types of things do you do? Any podcasts or audio books you like? Please let us know. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” and share. Thank you!

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