Commuting: it’s draining, frustrating, and — more often than not — completely unavoidable. According to a Funding Circle survey of 1,000 small business owners*, the average entrepreneur who commutes to work spends about 25 minutes traveling each way, in addition to spending part of his or her workday on the road. That’s roughly five hours a week that could be spent learning, unwinding, or getting ahead with work.
Unfortunately, telecommuting isn’t an option for most small business owners: 61% say most or all of their job duties have to be done in person. But that doesn’t mean commuting has to be a complete waste of time. With some strategic planning and a few downloadable resources, you can turn your travel time into some of the most productive hours of the week. Here are four smart ways to make the most of your time in transit.
Use your commute to stimulate your mind. Sixteen percent of business owners said they actively engage with educational material during their commute, whether it’s a podcast, book, or audiobook. If you want to get yourself into a work mindset before you arrive at the office, download a TED talk, podcast, or non-fiction audiobook to help you learn more about your industry. For awesome ideas, check out our comprehensive summer reading list for entrepreneurs.
If, on the other hand, you don’t want to bookend your day with business, devote your commute time to studying a subject you’ve always been curious about, whether it’s professional golf, Italian, or astronomy. You can search for language learning podcasts on iTunes, listen to an audiobook, or check out educational packages like The Great Courses, a series of college-level lectures and seminars on everything from medieval literature to women’s rights.
More than one-in-10 small business owners surveyed said they use their commute time to catch up on work emails (when they’re not behind the wheel) or take business calls — and for good reason. Checking items off your to-do list before you arrive at the office means you spend less time playing catch-up and more time getting things done.
To maximize your time in transit, schedule conference calls a day or two in advance and give your team a heads up that you may be dialing their numbers on your commute to touch base or discuss upcoming projects. If you’re not driving, use the time to review your schedule, answer emails, or jot down goals for the week.
The (relative) quiet during a commute is the perfect time to draw inward and practice intentional self-reflection. According to a study from Harvard Business School, self-reflection plays an important role in improving both learning and productivity. Employees who spent the final 15 minutes of their work day recording the key lessons they learned throughout that day experienced a performance increase of over 20%, compared to employees who spent those 15 minutes working.
If you have a hands-free commute, crack out a journal and write down what you’ve learned in the last day or week at work; if you’re at the wheel, talk to yourself or articulate your thoughts to your carpool buddies. Actively reflecting on your daily routine and tasks — what works, what doesn’t work, and why — is an excellent way to solve problems and improve efficiency in your workday.
Roughly 88% of small business owners surveyed said they spend their commutes either listening to music, connecting with loved ones, or simply daydreaming. If you feel overwhelmed with work duties, use your commute as an opportunity to unplug and recharge. Mellow out to your favorite music, listen to a comedy podcast, let your mind wander, or call a friend or relative to chat. Disconnecting from work doesn’t just help reduce stress and restore your energy, it also clears your mind so you can be more productive when it counts.
Over 40% of small business owners we talked to said they’d happily ditch Netflix for a month, while another 28% said they’d sacrifice coffee, wine, or chocolate for 30 days in exchange for a shorter commute. What would you give up to cut your commute time in half? Join the conversation on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter!