How to Be Productive During Your Commute on Public Transportation

(5 Minute Read. Enjoy!)

Some days after work, I tutor students for a little extra cash. After I’m done tutoring, I usually take the bus home around 9PM or so. This is a non-peak hour, and the bus is usually empty. Save for a few people – me, a few other passengers, and the bus driver.

The ride home is one in comfort. I get to pick any seat in the bus. If I want a window seat, I’ll grab a window seat. If I’m feeling like the aisle seat would be better, I’ll make a beeline for that instead.

There’s no incessant chatter, no loud ruckus. This means that I get to read my Kindle books in peace, while occasionally gazing at the scenery.

Honestly, it’s pretty perfect.

My bus journey home takes approximately 35-40 minutes.

Is that 40 minutes wasted on commuting? I don’t think so. That’s 40 minutes that I spent reading. Or listing to an audiobook. Or just relaxing while I watch the scenery pass me by.

People usually complain about their draining commutes. Sure, when you’re commuting to work alongside a bunch of people with unhappiness written all over their faces, the bus packed to the brim, commuting is terrible.

But there’s a way around this.


Hacking Your Schedule for Awesome Commutes

I always, always, commute when there’s no rush-hour. I know the timings when the buses are packed, and when they’re empty. Most of my colleagues work from 9AM to 6PM. Instead of doing that, I clock in to work at 8.30AM, and leave promptly at 5.30PM. I must catch the first bus after work, because I know the next one will be packed to the brim with the rush-hour crowd.

You’d need to shuffle your schedule around for this. Instead of working the regular 9-to-5, is it possible for you to work from 8AM to 4PM? Or perhaps 10AM to 6PM? This way, you’d beat the rush-hour crowd both ways – to work, and from work. I find that a lousy commute can make or break my mood for the day, so I avoid the rush-hour crowd at all costs.

I also use a reliable transport app. This way, I always know exactly when my ride will be arriving. This allows me to minimise the time I spend waiting around for the bus or the train to arrive.

In this technologically advanced day and age, I’m pretty sure there’s an app for this in almost every city in the world. A word of caution though, not all apps would be reliable. Download the one with the best reviews, and test that out. You’d eventually find one that works perfectly (hopefully).


Be Productive While Commuting

I try my best to make full use of my time while on the bus or the train. I’ve filled my iPhone with Kindle books to entertain me during my commutes. Sometimes, I get to replying my huge backlog of text messages. Other times, I catch up with my favourite bloggers’ newest posts. I do this so that I don’t spend 30-45 minutes just staring blankly into the faces of other tired commuters.

On the rare occasion when the bus gets too damn crowded, and there’s practically no space for me to hold my iPhone to my face, I listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks.

Many people consider commuting to be a waste of time, especially if you have terrifyingly long commutes. But I think that the time can be put to good use by reading, or listening, or doing whatever you want.

Here are a few ideas on how you can be productive during your commute.

Read. Download Kindle, or iBooks, and fill that up with stuff you want to read. Read a chapter a day, and you’d be amazed at how much ground you can cover.

Listen to audiobooks or podcasts. This is something I do only when I find myself boxed in with the rush-hour crowd. Otherwise, I read, because I’m more a visual learner. If you’re an audio learner, perhaps this would be a good option for you.

Learn a language. I’m currently studying Japanese using Duolingo, completing 1 or 2 exercises a day. For the uninitiated, Duolingo is a completely free language-learning app with amazing bite-sized exercises, each taking only about 5 minutes to complete. If you’re an eager learner, I don’t think it’ll be a stretch to say that you could hold basic conversations in a new language, in a matter of months.

Meditate. I suck so epicly at being calm and remaining mindful, so this is something I’ve been doing to try and improve myself. I use Headspace for this, because they have tons of free lessons. There’s even a “Commuting” meditation session, which is cool, but you need a paid subscription for this.

Many people I know gripe about how terrible their commutes are. But we’re not like that, right? We make better use of that time by doing something that we love to do.


Winning at Commuting

If your home is close enough to your workplace, please consider ditching your car. It’ll really help with your budget.

Not only do I save a lot of money on transport expenses (I spend only $60-$80 a month), I’ve learnt that commuting on buses and trains can be made enjoyable as well.

Shuffle your schedule around. Get permission from your employer to start working earlier and to leave work earlier. Or to start working later and to leave work later. Whatever suits you better. Just avoid the rush hour crowd at all costs.

Use a reliable transport app that gives you accurate timings of all the bus and train rides.

Make full use of your time while commuting. You could read Kindle books. Read physical books. Listen to podcasts. Listen to audiobooks. Learn a language. Meditate. Listen to music. Catch up with your latest TV shows. Reply your backlog of text messages. Whatever you want to do.

Don’t waste your time hating your life while you commute. That’s time that you will never get back.



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  1. I love this and completely agree!! There are so many ways to embrace the commute besides just staring at the other bus or train-goers or checking my work email. I love sneaking in that “me time” in the morning/evening to catch up on social media, listen to my favorite podcast (currently listening to : Optimal Finance Daily and So Money with Farnoosh Torabi), or read on my kindle. Commuting time is time we will never get back in our days, so we have to make the most of it. Great post!!

    1. Thank you, AK! I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing your own productivity tips on commutes! 🙂 It certainly is “me time”, as long as you’re able to get some breathing room on public transport. Glad that you’re making the best use of your time as possible!

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