Whether you use it productively or just use it for a little solace, here are some great ways to make use of the downtime.

8. Listen to Audiobooks or Podcasts

If you don’t already use your commute to catch up on engaging podcasts, listen to audiobooks, or just recharge and let your ears and brain do the heavy lifting, you should absolutely start. Whether you heave headphones on and you ride the bus or train, or you’re driving to work and connect your phone to your car stereo, that downtime is perfect for a podcast or a chapter or two of the audio version of a book you’ve always meant to read.


7. Discover New Music

If you have internet access while you commute in the morning, it’s a great time to fire up a streaming station and experience some new music. Sure, sometimes you just want to start your day with music you know and love, or something that really sets the mood for the day, but other times it can be great to explore a new artist, check out Spotify’s Discover playlist, try something new like previously-mentioned Playlist a Day. It’s so easy to complain there’s nothing good or new to listen to these days, but honestly, just a little effort to find something great pays off in droves.


6. Take Time for Self Care

Take it from me, even if you make self care a priority. You probably don’t have enough time to offset the stress and anxiety of everyday life. We’re all busy and all have tons to do, so instead of viewing your commute as dead time, lost and wasted, use it as an opportunity to take care of yourself and your mental and emotional health.

Use the evening commute to talk to family on the phone. Stay in touch, that is if its relaxing. If that’s not an option for you, that downtime is a good time for a little inspiration, especially at the beginning of the day, where you’ll want to start off on the right foot. In any case, using that “downtime” to recharge instead of stressing out about the commute itself—or about the work that came before or is coming after it—can help a lot.


5. Improve Your View

This one requires that you leave the house (or the office) a little early, but it’s one that can make a huge difference in how hard your commute actually is. There’s nothing like knowing that you can take your time and leisurely meander to work or home after a long day.

But let’s get real. Nobody has that kind of time. If you can’t take time to stop and smell the roses, or coffee, along the way, then open up your view along the way. Slide back that skylight cover and soak up some morning sun. It’s a small change but you’ll find it has a big positive impact on the start of your day.

It’s a really empowering feeling, and even if you do have one of those flex jobs, leaving the house just that much earlier can give you the freedom to stop and grab breakfast before you head in, sit and enjoy a coffee or the sunrise, or even just not get stressed out that you left with just enough time to get to work and now there’s traffic.


4. Find a Better (or Different) Route to Work

One of the best ways to improve your commute is to optimize it. Part of that involves finding better and different ways to get to work, especially if you’re tired of struggling through the same old traffic. Stimulate your mind.

Maybe that different way is just a different route, side streets instead of the highway, or the scenic route instead of the direct approach. Don’t leave options and possibilities on the table, and find something that works best for you.


3. Have Great Conversations

We have some of our best conversations in the car. Surprising connections can be made with each other when there is no place else to go. If you’re riding with family, make it fun and goofy. Be careful about trapping the other person with a heavy conversation. Use your judgment.

Some of our best ideas come in those moments where we’re in the car. The best thinking time is undistracted by the white noise of the daily routine at work or home. Carpool with a friend or coworker and talk work and life. Good conversation can sometimes serve as brainstorming in a feel-good way.

If you commute alone, consider letting your mind wander a bit. Relax, follow your own ideas where they lead. Whatever is on your mind will naturally assert itself and maybe you’ll come up with a better way to handle a tricky problem.


2. Disconnect Completely

Downtime isn’t just helpful, its necessary. Sometimes it’s best to just completely disconnect. Maybe just listen to some music, or even better, enjoy the silence or the sounds around you. Don’t read anything, don’t check in at work, throw your phone in the back seat, and just try to relax and be in the moment.

Don’t worry about work—it certainly isn’t worrying about you. The world will keep turning if you take a half-hour or so to just concentrate on getting where you need to go safely and in one piece. Consider it a public service announcement. It can be difficult—we’re all busy, and want to use every waking second to be productive (ideally, with the goal of making things easier for ourselves later), but sometimes it’s better to just cut it all off and do absolutely nothing for a little while.


1. Get Yourself a New Ride

Of course, no list of ways to improve your commute would be complete without encouragement to ditch your old mode of getting there in favor of a new set of wheels. That new car smells improves not just a commute, but everything!

With all of the creative financing options, it is always worth a second glance at what might be available out there. If, as they say, “life is a journey,” we should enjoy the ride.