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7 Ways to Maximize Your Commute Time to Work

According to Time Magazine, most Americans spend an hour a day commuting to and from work. When traffic is bad, however, you could end up sitting in the car for much longer. And in some parts of the country, such as West Virginia, New York and California, there are extreme commuters: people who spend three or four hours a day (or more) commuting.

That’s a lot of time. It’s time you could be using to do something to invest in yourself, start a business, or simply relax. Yes, I did just use the word relax when referring to commuting.

Do you want to learn how you can transform your commute? Here are seven new options you can utilize on your way to work.

1. Take a Class from a World-Class Professor
Have you ever wanted to really understand how Einstein’s Theory of Relativity really works? Would you like to learn how to listen to, and understand, great opera?

The Great Courses is a company that invites prestigious, award winning professors from the world’s best schools to tape entire courses on fascinating subjects. Of course, the classes aren’t for credit. But buying one means you get to learn about your favorite subject from a professor from Harvard, Stanford, Oxford and other prestigious schools.

Some of the courses are short, with ten lectures or less. Others are entire semesters’ worth of information, with 30-40 half hour or hour lectures. So you can really gain an in-depth understanding in whatever you want to study.

These courses can be downloaded onto your laptop and listened to through your iPod in the car during your commute. I’ve taken two of these courses myself, and was amazed at how great they were. If you sign up for their email list you’ll get notified when they’re having a sale, which is fairly often (and can save you 70% off the price of the course).

Another option to take free college courses from the top universities is through iTunes U. Check it out.

2. Start Your Own Business
Do you dream of starting your own business? Why not work on your small business idea during your commute?

It’s going to be far easier to do this if you commute by bus or train. You could write a business plan, brainstorm a marketing plan, or even research your potential market.

If you drive to work, purchase a digital recorder and record your business ideas while you brainstorm on the road. Carpooling could also help here. Find someone to carpool with every week and while they’re driving, use that time to work on your budding business.

3. Learn a Foreign Language
Want to learn Italian? Spanish? Chinese?

There are tons of CD-based foreign language classes that are perfect for your commute time. As you’re practicing, dream of the future vacation you’ll go on to practice your new language. This will help keep your stress level down.

4. Listen to Audio Books
You might not have time to dive into the latest Stephen King bestseller, or read that management book that might help you get a raise or promotion. But if you listen to audio books on your commute, you could easily finish these books in a matter of weeks.

Audible.com is a great source for audio books. You can download these books to your iPod, or you can purchase books on CD through most major booksellers. And don’t forget, your library likely has a great selection of audio books as well.

5. Listen to Podcasts
Many of your favorite news sites and blogs put out informative podcasts. Downloading and listening to these podcasts on your commute is a great way to stay up to date on the topic of your choice.

6. Read
If you commute by rail or bus you could read during your commute. Investing in an Amazon Kindle e-reader might be a smart move because the device is so lightweight, and you can carry your entire library with you. Plus if you get a hankering for a new book, you can buy and download it right on the train!

7. Knit or Take Up Another Hobby
This is another suggestion if you’re commuting by public trasnportation or carpooling – you could knit during your commute. You could also sell your creations on sites like Amazon, eBay or Etsy to profit from all your work!

Final Word

Whether you’re driving, taking public transportation, or even riding your bike to work, you don’t need to think of your daily commute as a waste of time. Use the down time to be productive and do things that you normally wouldn’t have time for.

How far do you commute and what do you normally do during this time? Feel free to add your suggestions to maximize commute time in the comments below.

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a writer with over 15 years experience covering personal finance, natural health, parenting, and green living. She lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband and two young sons, where they're often wandering on frequent picnics to find feathers and wildflowers.

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