The average American commutes 24.5 minutes to work—that's nearly an hour a day. Some may see their commutes as a hassle, but the truth is, a commute can be a great opportunity to dedicate time to activities you normally don't find time for at home or work.
In fact, if you use these in-between moments wisely, you could give yourself a career boost (not to mention have a great time while doing it). How? Ditch the morning radio, your Spotify playlist, or scrolling through email and start using your commute to learn something new.
Join the Podcast Craze
Podcasts are the mature version of talk radio. Instead of being obsessively focused on politics or pop culture, like most radio or talk shows, podcasts cover everything. You can search for something related to your field specifically, but here are some ideas to get you started.
This podcast is all about managing finances and it's entertaining to boot. From episodes on "How to Avoid the Big Money Fight" to "Smart Questions People Think are Dumb," having your financial ducks in a row gives you flexibility and bargaining power in your job. For full disclosure, I do a short segment on this podcast twice a month (it's a daily podcast), but even if you skip my part, it's still a fabulous start to manage your financial life.
On this podcast, you'll hear from marketing experts on everything from "The Future of Movies" to how to "Start with Why" at work. Before you skip to the next topic, remember that every department has a touch of marketing to it—whether it's marketing to potential or current employees, or marketing your services to other departments. Explaining how HR can make finance's life better can boost both the career and paycheck of an HR manager.
Few people realize that TED releases an audio-only version of each talk, in addition to their video lectures. You can learn just about anything through this collection of fairly short speeches, including "The Magic Ingredient that Brings Pixar Movies to Life" and "How to Get Back to Work after a Career Break." While some of them are highly focused on a particular business area, others are personal stories, so you can pick and choose what you feel like exploring in your day-to-day.
Learn a language
Another full disclosure here—I haven't learned a language while driving, but I did learn a new language as an adult when I moved to Switzerland. From this experience, I know the most important thing when learning a language is hearing it over and over again until the phrases and accents sound normal to you.
If you already have a foundation in a language, try your hand at a podcast to get better. (Check out The Guardian's list of best podcasts to learn a language—it has everything from German, my new language, to Japanese and Italian.) Or, if you'd prefer a more traditional approach, there are specific courses you can take. Unlike the free podcasts, these will cost you, but also provide more specific lessons (check out Fluent U's best courses for commute language-learning).
How does learning a language boost your career? Speaking a second, third or fourth language not only makes you more appealing in the global marketplace, it also helps you understand other cultures.
Listen to a Novel
Most people think of reading as a fun pleasure activity, but studies show reading fiction can also build business-related skills like vocabulary, empathy, creative thinking and a better memory.
In addition to learning new skills, listening to a book on tape also takes your brain off the workday. You perform better at work with some relaxation time, but in our knowledge culture, it's increasingly difficult to get out of office mode. We think about work in the shower. We think about work while we're listening to our first grader plod through his 20 minutes of reading. We answer emails on our smartphones from our beds. It's work, work, work, all the time. Taking an hour a day to listen to the latest mystery can provide your brain with some much needed relaxation.
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