Employed for Good

A nonprofit professional's take on doing well while doing good.

How To Make the Most of Your Morning Commute

I’ve seen many articles on the benefits of the morning routine, each of which has fallen along similar lines: successful people wake up before 6am, they’re super intentional about planning their days, and with discipline, we can all be the same way. There are even guides on how people can do this.

That’s all great. The problem is that I’m just not there yet. Let me get a better handle on my commute alone, and that’s already a major step forward.

Whether you’re walking, driving, biking or taking public transit, commuting can be tough – especially when your commute is long or complicated. If you’re not a morning person, which I’m definitely not, then it’s even harder.

That’s why I decided to put together this list of 13 honest (albeit wacky) ways that I’m able to make the most of my commute. It only took me 3 years to learn, and it won’t read as poetically as some of the other articles out there, but that’s okay.

In the wee hours of the morning, some of us just want to get to the office in one piece.


1. Before you go anywhere, put on the TV.

I like to put on the local news channel, so that I can hear a human talk about the weather and traffic conditions before I head out. The worst commutes are ones where you’re completely caught off-guard!

*Tip*: If you don’t have a television (or prefer to not risk getting distracted), then download some reliable traffic & weather apps.


2. Get in early. 

My commute time literally doubles depending on if I leave at 7AM or 7:30, and that’s on a good day (which is hard to come by when you rely on a bus!). Even though I’m not a natural early riser, the only thing worse to me is unnecessarily sitting in traffic. So if your schedule allows, get in early so that you can get out early too. It helps for avoiding the evening rush.


3. Bring a bottle of water.

The water serves two functions. First, because I’m usually sprinting from home to bus to office, the water is downright essential. But I also like having water first thing in the day, since I tend to feel more awake than if I just jump straight to coffee (which may have to do with some of these health benefits).


4. Wear shoes specifically for commuting.

My daily commute includes 54 minutes of walking, and often at a faster-than-normal pace. Since my work flats and booties aren’t made for speed walking and 8-hour days, I needed something comfortable that didn’t take up much space, and that I would only wear on my way to work (otherwise, I’d never wear my other shoes!). My Skechers sock-fit shoes were just the fix; they’re plain, easy to fit into my purse, and have made such a difference.

*Tip*: Find and invest in commuter shoes that make you feel truly comfortable. It’s amazing what a little memory foam and cushion can do for your feet and spirit!


5. Skim emails. 

The keyword here is ‘skim’. My morning commute is my get-in-the-zone time, and part of that involves knowing what I’m walking into before I get to the office. Skimming my emails in the morning (usually when I’m waiting for the bus), and not jumping to respond, helps jumpstart this process.


6. Listen to podcasts.

I was never big on podcasts before I began working full-time, because books were easier for me to follow. But I tend to get nauseous when I read in cars or buses, so it took me about a year before I gave podcasts a shot. Not only are they a great way to entertain yourself, but depending on the subject matter, they’re an easy way to learn something new & interesting! (Ex. I’ve always loved mythology, so the Myths & Legends podcast and Lore have become my morning staples. And for my fellow muggles, Harry Potter & The Sacred text is another fantastic one.)

*Tip:* There are podcasts (and even online courses) for almost every topic you can think of. Spend some time this evening browsing your app, and try out a bunch to see which ones speak to you.


7. Hide multiple headphones in your purse/bag.

If you tend to scramble in the mornings, then you’ve likely experienced the anguish of realizing far too late that you left your only pair of headphones at home. It’s happened to me enough that I finally decided to do something about it; get more responsible with my primary pair of headphones, and put an extra pair in one of my pouches or side pockets. Juuuust in case.

*Tip*: Do you normally lose or forget your chapstick? Try this with that too.


8. Doze off.

This one is exclusively for the commuters who rely on public transit, not the drivers! Most days I listen to my podcasts, but there are some  mornings when I just didn’t get enough sleep the night before and need to catch up. Do this with caution of course, but if you can snag a few minutes of shut-eye to energize yourself for work, then go right ahead.

*Tip*: In my personal experience, I’m less likely to nap if my commute is earlier in the morning. This probably has to do with the fact that it’s shorter!


9. Silence your phone for the first part of the morning.

Especially if I’m in the dozing off phase, I like to keep my phone on silent mode for the first half of my commute. This means I don’t get distracted by app notifications, or disturbed by the sudden buzzing or ringing of my phone. (I actually wish everyone did this on their commute, especially those who go back-and-forth with someone via text and insist that we all hear the notifications!)


10. Handle personal calls.

As someone who barely finds time in her day for anything, I find it especially hard to resolve annoying personal tasks (think following up on bills, or scheduling a doctor’s appointment.) One solution? Squeezing these calls in-between my commute, but only when I’m on my way to or from the bus. (It’s a well-known secret that talking on the bus is about the worst thing you can do). I probably look odd when I’m racing through Manhattan with my phone on my shoulder and insurance card in hand. But getting this out the way first thing in the morning, or even right after I leave the office, has been my way of getting things done.

*Tip*: If you drive to work, I imagine this has to be a lot easier!


11. Avoid crowded streets. 

This is nearly impossible in Manhattan during rush hour, but I do this as best as I can. Traffic of all kinds can be maddening, but the foot traffic caused by the crowds of people in the city is my biggest pet peeve (and that of many other New Yorkers, I’m sure). Knowing this, I avoid streets that are known to have more stores, attractions and vehicular traffic.


12. Get in some “exercise.”

This is admittedly more out of necessity than anything; it’s far easier for me to walk the 20 minutes to the office from my bus stop (and vice versa) than it is to hop in the subway for a few train stops. But I really enjoy my walking time; it helps clear my mind, wakes me up, and makes me feel good about getting some physical activity in for the day. If you can augment any part of your commute to get more exercise and/or fresh air, do it!


13.If you didn’t bring it, end your commute by grabbing breakfast. 

I just schlepped my way into the city, and am prepared to buckle down for the next 8 hours. There’s no world where I start that work on an empty stomach.

*Tip*: Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. If you don’t bring something, and you don’t buy anything before you get in, at least leave something at your office to munch on.

Share your commuter tips!



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