How to Make the Most Out of Your Commute

San Francisco commute

Working in San Francisco means plentiful fun distractions and the thrill of working in a thriving tech hub. However, getting in and out of the city isn’t always pleasant. Even if you live and work in the city you can face long commutes, especially at peak hours. So how do you make the most of your commute and avoid going into the office stressed out or dreading the trip back home? Depending on how you normally commute into the city, there are several options to consider.


Take The Route Less Traveled
As Mark Twain said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” This truth of this saying is definitely evident for public transportation. Most people take the most common bus route or take BART, but if you do some research online you’ll find that not all public transportation routes are created equal. A certain bus may take a bit longer, but the benefit is worth it if you don’t have to transfer and there’s always an open seat. Do some research and see if you’ve been neglecting other routes that are more convenient or comfortable.

Find the Best Time
Just like discovering a neglected route, picking the perfect time to commute can make all the difference. Review your bus schedule and experiment. For instance, if the 8 a.m. bus feels too crowded, consider taking one at 7:30 or 8:15. Test different times on your trip home too. Lastly, it never hurts to ask your boss if it is okay to shift your hours back or forward if it makes for a more efficient day.

Walk a Few Blocks to Your Main Stop
If you normally go to the bus stop closest to your home, consider walking 10-20 minutes to a bus stop closer to the beginning of the route. This way you can ensure you have a seat and don’t have to stand the whole time.


A long commute doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you plan ahead, you can start your day early by using your commute time to write. A tablet is your best friend here. You can easily start drafting emails, a writing project, or a to-do list and then have it all sync up on your computer when you get to work. The lack of Wi-Fi on buses also means it’s the perfect place to brainstorm new ideas since you don’t have to worry about the distractions of the Internet.

Listen to Something Informative or Motivating
If you’d rather not write, then listen to some NPR podcasts or audio books to educate yourself while you commute. You could also re-listen to any work meeting or client presentation to refresh your mind. Having a bad day? Listen to some uplifting music, guided meditations or self-affirmation scripts. It may not feel like much at first, but after a few weeks of you’ll find yourself in a much better mood when you arrive at the office.

Staying on top of pop culture and the news is important. Use your commute time to read all the big morning headlines and social media chatter before going into the office. You can also put you research skills to good use and read about topics relevant to your client.


Learn to Welcome Red Lights and Traffic Stops
So you hit a red light or construction zone, and traffic has screamed to a halt. There’s no need to join the crowd by getting angry and being negative. Instead, sit back, take a few deep breaths and relax. Just like at work having a few minutes to unwind can make a long commute more manageable.

Take Conference Calls
Meetings take lots of time. So, if your co-workers don’t have to be present, you can easily hook up a Bluetooth device or headset to talk while you drive. The extra time you don’t have to set aside for meetings can dramatically increase your productivity at the office.

Rideshare Services and Carpooling
If you hate public transportation and driving, consider rideshare services like Lyft or Uber or carpool groups. Uber can get expensive, but it’s worth it if you have a more enjoyable commute and use that time to work. Since you’re not the one driving, you can do everything we mentioned before while the driver takes you to work. If rideshare services are breaking your bank account, find some carpool spots. Many are very inexpensive, and some are even free.


Use Nearby Places to Work
Sometimes changing your schedule is non-negotiable, so use your extra time to jumpstart the day by working at a nearby coffee shop or restaurant. Ditto for the trip back too. It’s often more productive to wait until traffic dies down and plan ahead for tomorrow.

Maybe your early-bird schedule coordinates with that reporter or client CEO you just met. Use the time before work to meet for coffee and discuss goals for the future and build that working relationship. After work, there are many happy hours, meet ups and speaker panel events that begin at 5:30 or 6 p.m. Try these once or twice a week and stay for at least a half hour to meet people and expand your network.

Take a Class
Classes are also a good way to learn something new if you feel that you do enough networking already. Start small and find some area of your life you want to improve and just attend one session each week. The weekly class pays off in the long run because you’re building new skills, and it’s a good way to get more experience without starting a new job.

A daily commute can be a nightmare, and sometimes it’s unavoidable. However by planning ahead and changing parts of the routine that are under your control, you can make your commute more enjoyable and productive. Consider these ideas and see if you notice a difference.

I wrote this blog originally for BOCA Communications.

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