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Warm Up Your Brain Before Work and Other Time Savers Try these five activities to heighten the productivity of the day ahead. Then optimize the commute home to maximize work-life balance.

By Philip Damiano Edited by Dan Bova

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The daily commute takes 25.5 minutes each way for the average American and is generally a mindless trudge. This can result in workers showing up to the office groggy and unprepared. Rather than diving into their workload, they make their first move with a visit to Starbucks, draining the company of some productivity right at the start.

The brain should be treated like the muscles in the body before a strenuous workout: Warm it up before doing heavy lifting. The morning commute is the perfect time to perform some cranial jumping jacks so as to hit the ground running upon arriving at work.

An entrepreneur can do the following activities to enhance the day's productivity. While it might not be feasible to perform all five during a single morning commute, try to do at least two to stimulate different parts of the brain.

Related: 5 Morning Rituals to Keep You Productive All Day Long

1. Prep.

There's no better way to begin the workday than knowing exactly which tasks will be tackled upon arrival at work. On any given day, most people have multiple projects and myriad deadlines. The morning commute provides a unique opportunity to visualize, organize and prioritize activities before the inevitable deluge of emails and phone calls.

A staggering number of "to-do" list apps are available but I recommend Carrot for its gamification approach to meeting deadlines. Those who drive to work can enlist speech-to-text app Dragon Dictation, which records voice memos that can be translated into text. That's a way to safely prepare for the day while behind the wheel.

The morning commute is also the perfect time to think about major problems. Some believe that the creative mind peaks early in the day, so use the commute to mull fresh, inventive approaches to road blocks.

2. Listen.

Taking advantage of the commute to listen rather than talk is conducive to having a productive workday. Turning on a favorite Spotify playlist is a perfect way to rev up the neurons and pump up the energy during a drive-time commute. Discover a podcast that stimulating, by checking out say, NPR's condensed 5-minute news summaries or geek culture icons on Nerdist. A good podcast will promote engagement and critical thinking, making it easier to actively participate at those early-morning work meetings.

3. Play.

I will admit to having an unabashed fondness for Lumosity. The company's brain-game app was designed by neuroscientists to train specific cognitive functions like memory and attention. All it takes is 15 minutes every morning to whip the mind into focus.

4. Ease into work mode.

It seems counterintuitive but performing some low-hanging, administrative tasks doesn't require a ton of brainpower and is a great way to ease into work mode. Accept meeting invitations, make some quick phone calls (with a Bluetooth headset if driving) and answer noncritical emails. This way, it's possible to step into the office free of distractions and with proactive steps in mind to push important projects forward.

Related: Is Your Brain Limiting Your Entrepreneurial Success?

5. Accomplish errands.

Maintaining successful work-life integration is important to everyone. The home can become hostile turf if smaller household tasks are overshadowed by oppressive work deadlines too often. A good time to knock things off the to-do list is in the car. Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the typical American worker arrives at the office on average at about 7:55 a.m., meaning the car leaves the driveway at about 7:30 a.m.

While a major percentage of businesses are not open that early, a large portion of industries do accommodate businesspeople at that hour. Dry cleaners, auto garages, plumbers, electricians and painters are just a few of the businesses that accommodate early pickups or appointments.

Strategize about chores that can be accomplished along the commute, whether that means leaving the house 15 minutes earlier to pick up clean suits or scheduling a car-maintenance appointment during traffic gridlock.

After a long and exhausting day at the office, the last thing an entrepreneur wants to do is be sandwiched on a rush-hour subway or idling on the freeway. So wind down after a busy day at work to better enjoy the time at home by doing these activities:


Trapped in a claustrophobic subway car or SUV? If not behind the wheel, reach for a dog-eared paperback or ereader and be anywhere at any time desired. Amazon recently unveiled its new Kindle Unlimited subscription service that makes it easier to find titles for a low monthly rate. The best part is that drivers can also take advantage of this new service because most titles come with an audio version. So grab that Jane Austen novel and join Elizabeth Bennet in 19th-century England from the comfort of an automobile or discomfort of the commuter rail.

Take a power nap.

Hour-long naps are great but often not feasible on the typical commute. Instead, public transit commuters can try taking a 10- to 20-minute power nap so as to feel energized upon arriving home. A Boston Globe chart outlined how quick naps can elevate mood and enhance motor skills, the perfect remedy for afternoon or evening drowsiness.

Afraid to sleep through a stop? Fret no more. As the adage goes, "there's an app for that." Google Now lets Android users set a location-based notification to alert them upon their arrival at a specific area. Users of iOS devices can use an IFTTT recipe to achieve the same result.

Related: Terrific Productivity Tips to Make Your Week a Triumph

Philip Damiano

President North America and Business Development at Esselte Corporation

Philip Damiano is currently president of North America and Global Business Development for Esselte Corporation. He co-founded Kensington Microware and also served in senior leadership positions with global brands including Velcro Group Corporate, IdeaPaint and DYMO Corporation.

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