Apparently, how you feel about your commute depends on where you live. A recent survey conducted by the Campaign for Better Transport found that commuters in Cardiff are the happiest in the UK and Manchester the unhappiest, due mainly to vast differences in fares and levels of overcrowding. Londoners, meanwhile, are bracing themselves for even longer commutes during the Olympics – but whatever city you’re in, commuting can eat into your day and leave you feeling frazzled by the time you arrive at work or home.
I commute for over two hours each day and I’ve discovered a number of ways to make more productive use of my time, besides staring into space and reading the free paper I find crumpled on my seat.
1. Do all those things you’ve been putting off
The commute is a great time to do all those things that eat into your time at home, whether it’s paying bills, shopping at the supermarket (many now have apps) or booking train tickets. I also use the time to organise my inbox, buy birthday presents or book appointments at the dentist’s/doctor’s. Boring, but practical.
Unfortunately, you can’t yet cook dinner or do laundry with an app, but who knows what the future holds.
2. Listen to a podcast
If the train’s too packed for you to hold a book, or if you drive to work, try a podcast. There are lots of short story podcasts out there which are a great way to discover new authors.
If chat is more your thing, you can find podcasts on pretty much any subject (when I wanted to learn German, I downloaded a series recorded at home by a German man named Frank). Radio stations are also a good bet: the BBC has podcasts to suit all interests.
3. Put pen to paper
If you’re staring at a screen all day at work, it can be refreshing to turn to a more old-fashioned medium on the train. Writing in a notebook is a great way to organise your thoughts: you could write a journal (just beware of other commuters peaking over your shoulder) or make lists, not just of things you need to do but of things you’d like to – places you’d like to visit, films you’d like to see.
4. Watch the people opposite
It’s weird the things people think they can get away with while they’re on the tube. OK, Londoners are famously self-contained on their journey to work but that’s no excuse for singing to yourself, peeling sunburnt skin off your face or doing any of the other strange things people do opposite me on the train. Fellow commuters, I’m watching you.
Because sometimes you just need a nap.