Six Ways To Make Constructive Use of Your Daily Commute

The following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Kevin Mercadante, who is a professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry.

Next to work itself, it’s probably safe to say that (depending on where you live of course) the daily commute to work is usually the second most stressful thing that you do in any given day. It can even seem like a one-two knockout punch – your job keeps you running and jumping all day, but the commute saps whatever energy you have left.

There’s not much you can do to eliminate your commute to work, but you can make some changes so that it works in your favor.


Change the way you see your commute

You can change your whole outlook on your commute by being purposeful about using the time to your advantage. For example, you can think of it as a warm-up period that will help you get ready for work. This can be especially beneficial if you have a very stressful job – and who doesn’t these days?

If you are going to be in your car for 30 minutes or even an hour or more, you can find ways to make your commute productive (which we’ll get into in more detail below). The point is to view your commute time just the way you do any other time in your day, and put it to work in your favor. If you can, your whole outlook toward it will probably change.


Leave a few minutes earlier than you do now

At least part of what makes a commute so stressful – at least the morning commute – is the possibility of not making it to work on time.

If your job is really stressful, or you just don’t like it, you may be leaving late for work in an unconscious attempt to rebel against going at all (I know all about that one – I’ve been there!).

But that’s something you can fix. By leaving for work a few minutes early each day, you can greatly reduce the stress that comes from commuting in heavy traffic. And if you really don’t like your job, the commute time could be used to help you deal with it.


Listen to motivational or inspirational tapes and CDs

One of the best uses of your morning commute is to mentally prepare yourself for the day ahead. You can do this by listening to motivational or inspirational tapes or CDs. They can put you in a better frame of mind either by helping you to de-stress, or by getting you into the frame of mind to be productive.

You might also want to avoid listening to the news or to news programs on your commute. I don’t know about you, but news programs can stress me out all by themselves, but even more when I’m stuck in traffic.


Create your Things-To-Do List

A problem that contributes to stress on the job is a lack of organization. This can often be remedied simply by creating a things-to-do list. You can use your morning commute to help you do this. If your commute involves numerous traffic lights, you can probably do this old-school with a handwritten list. If it’s mostly freeway driving, you’ll want to use some sort of recording system so you can simply dictate.

Set your to-do list up in a way that will prioritize your most important tasks – the ones that will cause the greatest conflict if don’t complete them. Whatever else you need to do can go on the bottom of the list. Just by taking this time to organize your agenda for the day you could go a long way toward reducing stress on your job. And that will make your commute less stressful as well.


Listen to “how to” tapes and CDs

Sometimes a stressful job, in combination with a stressful commute, can leave you with little mental energy to see beyond your circumstances. Use your commuting time help you overcome this.

If you would like to acquire a new skill that will help you to advance on your job – or to prepare you for your next job – you can get the ball rolling with instructional tapes and CDs. Learning anything new is often a matter of preparing your mind through repetition, and your daily commute will provide just the opportunity for that.


Learn a new language

Taking the tapes and CD idea to a higher level, you can even use your commute to learn a new language. This will have at least three advantages for you:

  • Learning something new is a way of recharging and validating yourself; it could be just the lift you need spice up your days.
  • A new language can come in handy if you are planning a vacation to a foreign country.
  • Being bi-lingual can an advantage in a number of career fields, so by starting the process during your daily commute, you may be giving yourself a valuable skill for your next career move forward.

Even though it’s unlikely that you will be able to master a new language simply by listening to audios in your car every day, it will help to prepare you to get additional training.

Time is perhaps the most valuable commodity we have, and by using your commuting time for personal benefit, you’re increasing the amount of productive time that you have.

How about you all? What do you do with your daily commute?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 


  1. Great ideas!

    On my daily commute, I used to crochet gifts for my family/friends around the holidays or if there was a birthday coming up. I could finish a scarf in a few days.
    Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans recently posted…The Importance of GivingMy Profile

  2. Not going to lie, lately I have been getting here late, and you are right, it’s probably all subconsciously since I don’t want to be here.
    Michelle recently posted…Bridal Shower and $3,645 in Extra IncomeMy Profile

  3. I used to leave very early to avoid traffic and I used to borrow books on tape from the library. It made the commute more reasonable. I also carpooled to cut expenses for years.
    krantcents recently posted…How to Think Rich and Be RichMy Profile

  4. I really miss the days of my commute being on the metro in DC. I used to read for that night’s class each day on my way to work. The time flew by AND it was productive.
    Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa recently posted…Lessons From My First JobMy Profile

  5. When I was in the office I’d use the time to just have some quiet and not listen to the radio or anything as my job was pretty chaotic and liked the peace and quiet of my car. Now, my commute is about 50 feet from my bedroom, so it’s MUCH shorter. 😉
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted…Saving Money at Amusement ParksMy Profile

  6. I do the last one! I definitely need some non car time though to learn a new language. Audio tapes only take me so far plus my mind isn’t entirely focused on it since I’m driving. Great ideas of what to do on a longer commute!
    Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen recently posted…The Magic of PotlucksMy Profile

  7. I used to cycle to work to get a workout, or to read in the bus. Driving yourself is the most stressful way to commute, I’d rather take longer but have a passive commute.
    Pauline @ Make Money Your Way recently posted…Make extra money: Rent your parking spaceMy Profile

  8. moneystepper says:

    Great ideas. I love the idea of furthering one’s education through podcasts and “how to” tapes and CDs in the otherwise wasted time.

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