By Melissa Davies, Wise Ways Consulting
Words can bring about emotional reactions. How do you feel when you see these: I-95, I-66, the Beltway, Prince William Parkway? Do you feel a tingle of apprehension? That feeling is the commuting blues.
If you live in the Washington DC region, even if you work from home, you feel it. Everyone has a button on their car radio set for “traffic and weather on the 8’s” because a distracted driver can lead to a crash, can turn into a “car-be-que”, can close down a major artery, back flowing side routes, and yeah….
Data from the American Community Survey, which comes from the US Census Bureau, report that the average commuting time in our area is 26.9 minutes. That’s above the national average of 25.2 minutes. I think you would be hard pressed to ask ten random people if their commutes were 26.9 minutes or less. However, another telling statistic is that 77.5% of people commute to work alone – we drive.
Commuting Time is Still Usable Time
We can’t change the reality of where we live or make overnight improvements to our public transportation system but we can make better use of our commuting time.
First, unless you are carpooling – more on that in a bit – PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE! No kidding, don’t text and drive, email, play games, watch movies, or anything on your phone while you drive.
I would also caution to limit hands free phone calls. The “I’ll take this on the road,” meeting leads to two outcomes. The first is a potential accident as you are listening to a group of people and not paying attention. The second is you really don’t get anything out of the meeting because you are paying attention to your driving.
However, time alone in the car is a great opportunity to listen to a book on CD or download a podcast. Companies like the Great Courses offer hundreds of classes where you can learn organic chemistry, business negotiation skills, or the history of Italian art. Other companies offer language media, or go to your local library. With a free Prince William County library card, you can check out books on CD and download hundreds of audio titles from Overdrive, One Click Media, and hoopla – free! With over an hour in the car every day, that’s a lot of material.
Another option to get the most out of your drive time is to carpool or take public transportation. When you call “shotgun” you are then free to play on your phone, read, work, or talk to the driver or others in the car. Yes, you have to take your turn behind the wheel, but the free time can help you get a jump on your day. Also, being part of a carpool forces you to arrive and leave on a schedule.
Another commuting trick is to schedule flex time. Talk with your employer and see if they will allow you to come to work early or late and leave early or late. Another possibility is to work part-time from home. Technology such as Go-To Meeting and Skype allow you to video conference. No need to meet in person, especially for early morning or late afternoon meetings.
Driving is about moving you from home to work and back again. The time trapped in the car doesn’t have to feel like prison.
Melissa Davies ([email protected]), author of “How Not to Act Like a BLEEP at Work,” resides in Prince William County and runs Wise Ways Consulting, which specializes in executive coaching, group facilitation and high-engagement training. www.wisewaysconsulting.com