13 Apr 2015 6 ways to be Productive and stress free when driving
6 great tips for a more productive commute – stress-free
A few weeks ago, I received a call from a popular fast paced news program on one of Australia’s Free to Air channels seeking some advice on ways to have a more productive commute when stuck in traffic. At first I thought someone was pranking me, but it turns out it wasn’t a prank, so I offered a few productivity tips that I always use and thus the idea for expanding on this in a Blog was born.
I live in Wodonga in regional Victoria and actually, we don’t have much of a traffic problem, though it is starting to get worse if you can believe that. I do however spend a lot of time in my car travelling to and from Melbourne. It’s about a 3 hour trip each way so I utilise several methods to maximise my productivity and minimise stress on this long commute. Obviously without endangering myself or others on the road at the same time.
So here are my top 6 tips for enjoying a more productive commute and being less stressed when travelling in your car.
Relax and see it as valuable down-time/thinking time
In fact my first tip is less about productivity and more about getting to your destination safely and with less stress.
Let’s face it; there will be times when the traffic is so bad that you are going nowhere fast! When this happens, no amount of frustration on your part is going to get you to your destination any quicker. And trying to beat the traffic by weaving in and out of lanes in order to gain a few car lengths can be stressful. In fact I usually find that the few car lengths I gain are easily lost at the next set of traffic lights anyway!
So why not use your time in traffic or travelling as a time to relax. Use it as valuable down time; a good chance to think and reflect. This forced downtime can sometimes be a very creative time for me provided I am not in a rush. I sometimes use this time to pray or meditate about an idea or a thought.
At times I may not even have any music playing. Other times I may have some relaxing music or even some talk back radio on in the background. Of course, other times I may pump it up and rock out a little. Do whatever suits you best at the time but choose to see this as valuable, even if forced downtime for yourself. Choose your attitude perhaps?
Leave early – Plan your commute
Related to the above is the need to leave nice and early. One of the things I discovered very quickly when travelling in Melbourne at least, is to plan for the unexpected and allow plenty of time when I need to get somewhere. Those of you who live and work in any capital city know this only too well.
Sometimes leaving just 10 minutes earlier can make all the difference at the other end! It may mean that sometimes you get to your destination really early if you have a good run with the traffic, but this is far more preferable than getting there late.
If I am going to a new destination, I will plan my commute the night before. I use google maps as a navigation tool on my Samsung phone. I have this synced with my PC. When I “google” my trip to get directions, this is automatically synced on my phone. In the morning, it is a 30 second job to open Google Maps, turn on my navigation, select my destination which is now shown on my phone and I’m away.
As an aside, I love my coffee so I try to factor this in also. I may plan my route past my favourite Cafe or plan to arrive a little early and have a coffee before starting my day.
Chances are, the day you really need to be early is the day there is an accident on the freeway and you are stuck in a long line of traffic. It is hard to feel relaxed when this happens. You know you are going to arrive at work harried and stressed. Read my article about simplifying your work/life planning for some additional tips.
Listen and learn!
Travelling in your car may offer you some valuable uninterrupted learning time. I have I have many different types of Pod-Casts that I love listening too. I have the Apps installed on my phone and I set these up ready to play through my cars Bluetooth connection the moment I get going. Many of these are an hour long, so not only do I learn, but the time goes a lot faster too.
If I am researching a particular subject, I copy and paste a Hyperlink from a relevant Podcast or even a You Tube Video into an Outlook Task before I leave the office. So before I get going, a quick click (touch) of a Hyperlink and I’m listening in. (Clearly I cannot watch the You Tube Video, but I can still hear the sound through my car’s speaker system. Naturally, you need to ensure this is safe to do so, but it is an extremely powerful way of getting your thoughts together on a particular subject.
There are so many different speaking resources available these days. So plan for a more productive commute by getting these set up before you head off.
Return/Make phone calls
One of the easiest ways to be more productive on your commute is to make or return phone calls. Assuming you have your phone system connected via Bluetooth, you can quite easily make hands free phone calls, this is a great idea.
Importantly, I try not to make calls that require me to think too hard or concentrate too much on new information. I have found that I can drive and talk casually to friends or deal with work colleagues on certain low level issues quite easily and safely. However, I’ve found it difficult to retain all the information given to me when I have a client or potential client giving me a lot of information to digest.
Similarly experience has taught me that it is best to avoid making complex on the spot decisions when driving in traffic. I’d rather wait until I have some clear thinking space and an opportunity to write things down. Read my article; The Multi-Tasking Myth for more on this.
So what type of calls do I make?
- Phone calls to my family and friends are my favourite types of calls I make. My family happen to all live in Perth, so when I’m travelling, this offers me a great opportunity to keep in touch. I have all my family and some friends saved into my favourites on my phone and also set up as a voice activated dialling through my cars Bluetooth phone system.
- Of course I return phone calls from my message bank, though this does depend upon the nature of the call of course as alluded to above.
- Finally I make calls to clients that I have not seen or spoken to in a while. I find this is a useful time just to touch base or keep in touch. I do use this carefully though. Many of my clients know I spend a lot of time on the road, so are more than happy to accommodate me in this regard.
This might not be applicable to everyone, but the ability to ring and delegate something to my EA when I am travelling really makes for a very productive commute. It is an invaluable option for someone like me who spends a lot of time in the car. My EA is my greatest productivity tool really so I make use of this whenever I can.
I tend to keep pretty busy and downtime for me is something of a rarity. It is amazing how many ideas or thoughts that pop into my mind when I am forced to sit still for a few hours! I will often ring and ask my EA to email me reminders to do something when I get to my destination. Often I find she can do some of these tasks for me in any case which saves me even more time. Learn to delegate more effectively here.
Record your thoughts
Finally, what do you do when you have a great idea or thought you need to capture when you are travelling. I have 3 options I use when this happens.
- Ring my phone and leave a voice message. This works well for short ideas. I will often ring my office phone for exactly this purpose.
- Record my thoughts onto my phones Voice Recorder. (I use a Samsung S5) This works well if I want to talk out a particular idea. I have this App already pre-set up on my phones home screen. One click and I am recording and chatting away to myself!
- Ring my EA and ask her to write things down for me. I cannot use this all the time, but when I can, it can be extremely handy.
That’s it. Love to hear your ideas for a productive commute too. Pop them in the comments below.
Geoff Prior – Lingford Consulting, April 2015
Workload & Email Management Training/Coaching. MBTI Consultant