We’ve all been there: You’ve just finished working for the day, and as you’re stepping out of your office, you’re wishing you were home already.
Most commute times are not terrible for most Americans, averaging about 25.4 minutes from home to office, or vice versa. However, as rush hour traffic increases and other pressing obligations interrupt your travels (e.g., pickups from childcare, grocery runs, and other necessary errands), the amount of time you have to prep in the morning or relax in the evening is dwindling.
Oh, did I mention that you’re also juggling not only your needs, but the needs of your child(ren) as well?
The majority of us cannot change our commute times unless we either find work closer to our homes, have flexibility in our work schedule, or own a jet pack (I wish). What we can do with our commute is optimize what is being done in those 25.4 minutes, or however long your commute takes.
As a mama who recently rejoined the workforce, there have been a number of ways I have optimized what I do during my commute to make myself more efficient and to give myself some extra time at the beginning or the end of the day. For the record, the majority of these suggestions are for those who are driving to work, but there are some suggestions here that would be beneficial to those who use mass transit to get from point A to point B:
Podcasts: Not only do they help pass the time, they can provide respite from the hectic work schedule you carry or keep you in-the-know without taking up too much time. For working moms, I recommend Working Motherhood and Working Mother Radio (on iTunes and Google Play) for more serious topics related to work-life balance, and One Bad Mother that provides a lighter and funnier spin on, well, momlife.
Electronic Assistants: Have any of you tried our ‘Hey Siri’ or ‘OK Google’? These electronic assistants help out in a big way when your mind is spewing a thousand thoughts a minute but you can’t be writing them down during your drive. My favorite tasks include creating to-do lists and setting reminders for that day, or simply calling up a friend without having to dial. Which brings me to my next suggestion:
Catch up on phone calls to friends and family: Has it been months since you’ve spoken to your old college roommate? Been putting off plans for a playdate or weekend trip to visit family? Well, now’s the time! Give those in your life a ring – chances are, they’re spending some time in their car trying to get home, too.
Are you breastfeeding? Pump in the car! Ok. This may not be relevant to everyone, but for those who are still breastfeeding and trying to keep up your milk supply while at work, the struggle is real. I’m thankful that I can block off time pretty consistently while I’m at work to pump, but a decent alternative is pumping in the car. Some moms can do it pretty well, and others are terrified of someone looking over and seeing themselves being milked like a cow.
A potential workaround is the Freemie cups – they fit under your shirt and are compatible with most commercially available breastpumps. I can’t say how well they’ve worked since I haven’t personally tried them, but most reviews online for this product are positive.
Mindless reflection on your day: This is not the same as meditation (you’re driving, for crying out loud!), but can still provide some clarity at the start or end of the day. I find that I do some of my best thinking in the car, when I let my mind wander after I start processing all the nuances of my day. This is also when my electronic assistant comes in handy, when I want to recall something during my drive when I get home.
This clearly isn’t an exhaustive list, but I find that these suggestions take up the majority of my commute. I don’t have a 25.4 minute commute (it’s more like an hour and a half, each way), but I hope you find some usefulness from the suggestions and recommendations above. With some planning ahead, your commute can be more productive, giving you a little extra breathing room when not at work.
Annette has a background in hearing and wearable technology, focusing primarily on improving communication for those who have hearing loss or those who simply want to communicate better. She has a background in audiology and cognitive psychology, with an interest in the geriatric population. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Scott, and daughter, Elena.
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