For many time-crunched entrepreneurs, the commute can be the most stressful part of the workday. Whether driving or taking public transit, commuting can often feel like lost time, but business productivity consultant, Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check Email in the Morning (Touchstone, 2005), says a commute can be productive if used mindfully.
Use these four techniques to make the most of your time before and after work.
1. Do something you love. Using your commute as personal time where you can listen to music, read a book (or listen to an audiobook), can feel like found time. "Self-time is really hard to come by," says Morgenstern. Make your commute your opportunity to recharge your batteries and focus on you, rather than the responsibilities of business and family life. "You can discover [your commute] to be a great space if you use it mindfully for something you can't normally do at a desk or home," she says.
2. Warm up your brain. "Almost every client I have says there are two things they don't have time for: reading professional development and deep thinking about big projects or problem solving," says Morgenstern. Use your commute to prepare you for the day ahead with deep thinking exercises such as reading a business book or a sales report or mentally preparing for a meeting by going over talking points, practicing a sales pitch or brainstorming ideas.
3. Don't check email. Although it might be helpful to prepare yourself for work on your commute, Morgenstern advises against checking email before you get to the office. "Email is a completely reactive device," she says. "When you go onto email, you're looking at what everybody else needs from you."
Simply by checking email, even without responding, the content clutters your mind and distracts you from deep thinking exercises. "When you start your day out in that reactive time, it can be very hard to reclaim time for your mind and quiet focus," says Morgenstern
4. Clear your mind. Mandy Ingber, celebrity yoga instructor and author of Yogalosophy: 28 days to the Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover (Seal Press, 2013) says building meditation into your morning routine can not only help make your commute less stressful, but can improve your productivity once you arrive at the office. "Your brain functions better and becomes sharper and clearer. You become more present in the moment and are able to troubleshoot effortlessly," says Ingber.
If traveling by public transportation, close your eyes and place your hands on top of each other over your heart and breathe normally. "This technique allows you to get out of the head and into the heart," says Ingber. Although meditating while driving isn't recommended, breathing exercises are easy to incorporate into your commute, both in the car and on public transportation. Sit upright with your feet on the floor and your spine erect. Inhale for a count of four, hold for two, exhale for four and hold for two. Keep the mouth closed and breathe in and out through the nose.
Ingber also recommends listening to a spiritual audiobook by authors such as Deepak Chopra or Don Miguel Ruiz or a meditative piece of music such as Storm of Prayers by Shaman’s Dream, while paying attention to your thoughts and staying connected to your breathing.