How To Add Meaning To Your Commute

How to Add Meaning To Your Commute

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According to the National Census Bureau 86% of workers commute to work alone in their cars. 

I was one of these 86% for a long time.  I used to commute an hour and a half each way to work. I did this commute for 17 years. I can completely empathize with the dread of traffic (I live in LA) and the feeling of time just wasting away as you're stuck moving at a snail's pace toward your destination.  But remember, life is a journey not a destination.  If part of your life involves a commute, let's explore how you can embrace that journey and treasure it.

Don’t worry.  I am not going to tell you to listen to a podcast, as much as I really enjoyed listening to Serial.  It’s likely you already do this to pass the time on your commute.  You can do more than pass just the time.  You can redeem the time that is seemingly lost in traffic every day.  Here's how I did it.

Realize your commute time is a gift.

I learned something toward the end of those commuting days that I wish I would have learned a lot sooner, that is the time you have in your car is a gift to yourself.  This is your think time. This is the time you can be alone with your thoughts.  This is your dream time, your prayer time, your brainstorm time that you never get while you spend the rest of the day tied to a desk.  It’s the one time you are encouraged not to respond to text messages, social media comments or phone calls.  It’s breathe time. It’s life assessment time. It’s productivity time. All masked as a waste of time. So let’s get to it!

Here are 8 ways to make your commute meaningful:

Commit to Silence.

How often are you just quiet? Unless you have a daily yoga practice, it’s likely you don’t have much quiet time in your life.  There is always someone talking, the radio going, the TV going, your co-workers talking around you at work, your kids running around at home.  It’s never quiet.  But guess what? It’s quiet in your car.  I was listening to a blogger this week who had two kids and was broadcasting her youtube course from the quietness of her car in her garage! I thought that was genius.  You don’t have to hide in the garage from your kids for some quiet time if you commute.  That can be your quiet time.  Turn off the noise and be still.  You will be amazed at how much better you can feel.

Pray.

If you’re like me, so many mornings you mean to start the day off with prayer and yet after doing all that needs to get done to see the kids off to school, get yourself ready and get out the door on time, you miss it.  That time you wanted to take to pray for your family, for your friends, for your neighbors, for your struggles and fears.  To lay all those burdens down that woke you up in the middle of the night. Since it’s quiet.  And since you’ve got the car to yourself.  Now’s a good time to pray.

Make it your goal to make someone else’s morning.

Just taking the time to be courteous to other drivers is a lost art in LA.  Everyone is feeling just like you are.  That this commute is killing them.  That they can’t sit in this traffic another moment.  So their patience wears thin and giving up inches equates to giving up minutes of their valuable time that they perceive to be wasting away in traffic.  Change the atmosphere on the freeway.  Try Smiling at other drivers for no reason, letting people into your lane even when they’ve waited until the last minute to try to cut over.  Wave to someone who lets you cut in front of them. These little things can be mighty for impacting not just your own day but others as well.

Think.   I don’t know about you but I need time alone with my thoughts at least once a day. It’s how I recharge.  Now that I don’t have a commute, it’s much harder to find that time alone with my thoughts.  Use your commute time to think.  It is valuable.  Record your thoughts into your phone as audible notes so you don’t forget what smart ideas you came up with while you were driving.

Dream. 

When we stop dreaming, we transition from living to existing. No one wants to exist.  Let’s live.  Let’s dream again.  Use your commute time to remember the things you always thought you’d do by the time you reached the age you are now and rekindle those passions.  Visualize yourself running that marathon, working for that non-profit, taking that trip to Europe.  As you begin to dream again, you’ll find ways to make those dreams become a reality. Use your commute time to dream.

Plan.  

On your way to work focus a portion of yoru drive time around what you plan to accomplish in this workday. Make mental notes of who you need to meet with, what projects need to get done and what meetings you have on your calendar. Come into work prepared to conquer the day’s tasks.

On your way home from work, focus on what you want to accomplish with your family that evening.  I mostly couldn’t wait to just fall into a heap and get a hug from my son when I got home which made all the stress of the day melt away.  But he needed me too.  And our kids need more than our leftovers. We should treat our at home time with them as if it’s our job- because it is- to raise loving humans. The only way to do that is to model love to them.  The best way to show them we love them is to give them our time, as limited as it may be.   I would refocus my mind on my way home to think that I am restarting my 2 hour day, because that’s all I’d have left by the time I got home. I’d plan to help Luke with homework, usually while Jeff made dinner, and then give him his bath and put him down to bed.  In the process of being intentional about doing all those things, I found that I had more energy for my husband and son.  It was in those moments I’d find out things about his life I would have never known. So thankful for these nightly sessions I planned on my way home to set aside with my son. We need to nurture our little ones because they will be bigger than we are before long.

Brainstorm ideas.

I would often call my strategist on my commute and ask her to brainstorm custom ideas with me for my clients. I would use my commute time to brainstorm blog posts as well. What are your passions that require brainstorming? Use your commute time to mind map and unlock new things for yourself that you didn’t even know were there.

Call Your Mom.

My Mom lives 3,000 miles away and with the time difference, sometimes the only time that worked for me to actually talk to her would be during my commute. Likely you call your mom often, but just in case you have forgotten, this is your reminder.  Call your Mom. I guarantee she’d love to tell you all about her gardening or her latest cooking projects.  Use this time to connect with her and any loved ones you might have missed. Remember we are not promised tomorrow.

In conclusion, everything in our lives can have meaning, including our commute.  The way to make your commute more meaningful is to look at it like that time is a gift.  Then use that time to nurture yourself and others around you in ways you hadn’t thought of before. 

  • Commit to Silence
  • Pray
  • Make it your goal to make someone’s morning
  • Think
  • Dream
  • Plan your 8-hour day and your 2-hour day with the same energy
  • Brainstorm
  • Call your loved ones

Had I committed to these things a long time ago, I’d likely be on a beach in Bali by now, with all the time I wasted in my car.  Your commute time doesn’t have to be a waste.  Redeem it.  Give it meaning.

Welcome to Honey & Figs! I'm Lisa. I love helping people with practical ways to live more abundant lives based on my own experience. You can click here to find out more about me.

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