Make Productive Use of Driving and Commuting Time

Make Productive Use of Driving and Commuting TimeTravel time can seem like wasted time! I like being a passenger in a car much better than a driver because I can observe the scenery, read a magazine, and catch up on phone calls. As the driver, you can’t do anything (safely) that requires your hands or eyes. You’re strapped into your car seat without much to look at except the bumper in front of you. So there’s nothing you can do, right? Wrong!

Try these activities during long commute times:

Use the phone. Now I’m one of those people who get aggravated while people are chatting away on their cell phones while driving…generally because they’re not, well, driving. Many people have no idea how slowly they’re going while they’re on the phone. Plus talking on the phone has proven to be unsafe, and many states have passed ordinances against it. Often, you’ll see someone pulled over to the side of the road to make a call.

That being said, you can get a hands-free phone installed, which uses a mounted phone and speakers. Many phones, like the Treo 650, use Bluetooth technology, which allows you to wear a wireless earpiece and talk hands-free. By using these safe options, you can still use your phone to call clients or catch up with friends and family while still keeping your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

Clear your brain. Basically, use your morning commute as a warm up to your day. On the way to work, do whatever helps you focus and arrive at your desk raring to go. For mass transit travelers, that may mean reading the daily paper with a cup of coffee. Drivers may like to listen to news radio for their daily summary.

Bond with your family. While driving together to “away” games or a relative’s house, you can sing songs, quiz your child on his spelling words, play “I spy” or another travel game, or listen to stories. When your eyes are on the road, your child may feel more comfortable than usual bringing up a touchy subject, so be available to just listen as well.

Shift your schedule. If you frequently get stuck in traffic, consider changing your schedule slightly to hit the road slightly before or after the rush, and use the time on either side to organize your day.

Use a voice recorder. I knew a professional speaker who wrote an entire book by talking while driving. She clipped a microphone on to her shirt and talked into a recording device (there are many available). Then she simply had those tapes transcribed, hired an editor to clean it up, and printed it at She has published a book at the rate of about one a year using this method. Other people get voice recorders (Radio Shack sells a good one) with several minutes of tape and dictate their letters while on the go. If you’re blessed enough to have an assistant, he or she can type your letters from the recording. Some cell phones also have recorders built into them, so you can make your to-do list or remind yourself of things as you think of them. Do NOT, under any circumstances, attempt to write while driving unless you’re completely stopped.

Listen to books on tape. My favorite place to eat breakfast is a restaurant called Cracker Barrel…hash brown casserole, grits, and honey ham, baked apples…oh, sorry! The closest one to me is an hour’s drive away, so I don’t get to frequent it often enough because of Denver traffic. But if you’re lucky enough to have one in your hometown or pass a sign for one along the road, STOP. You’ll notice that Cracker Barrel restaurants are always built right off an interstate exit. One of the founders’ core strategies was to make them easy on, easy off from the interstate. You could get to the next one on a tank of gas, refuel, grab a bite, buy what you need (and what you don’t need) in their little store, and get back on the road. Cracker Barrel has also came up with a clever book-on-tape program for frequent travelers. The next time you visit this restaurant, look for the spinning rack of tapes. You can purchase one audio book and, for a nominal fee, trade it in for another, anytime, at any other Cracker Barrel. Or you can get tapes and CDs from your local library before you go on a trip. You’ll notice that your perception of drive time is greatly reduced when you’re listening to an audio book. Your brain gets engaged in the story and time flies by. I have a friend who was planning a trip to France, so she listened to French language tapes while in the car. Within three months, she learned enough French to get around nicely while there.

Carpool with your spouse. If you work roughly in the same area, hitch a ride with your sweetie! You can use the extra time each day to talk. While one person drives, the other can take care of miscellaneous family business on the phone. By the time you reach your door, the calls will be done and you can enjoy more quality time together at home.

Take the train instead. If you’re lucky enough to have a great public transportation system, use it! Of course, many professionals are forced into taking commuter trains because of traffic or distance or speed. But many people have told me they live for their train time because they can complete light paperwork, catch up on reading, pay bills, or just nap. By the time they arrive home, they feel rested and can settle into the second shift.

Make it a productive day! ™

(C) Copyright 2006 Laura Stack. All rights reserved.



  1. Karen Rich says:

    This is a “Carpool with your spouse” and “Listen to books on tape” comment. My husband would enjoy driving places and yet needed to read material to prepare for leading a training session, so I would be his “Book on Tape Live”. Also, if the item is of interest to others in the car, everyone could benefit.