For many of us, we spend a good chunk of our day commuting to and from work. If you’re like me, you travel an average of an hour each way, that comes out to 21 days a year (that’s not including 10 holidays and weekends). And if you work 40 years of your life you will have spent 2.3 of those years driving! That’s a whole lot of time wasted listening to radio jingles and absentmindedly watching the world go by.

To make better use of your time, here are six ways to improve your productivity while driving:

1. Writing on the Go

Since I enjoy blogging, I regularly use my car time to think and ‘write’ up new ideas for blog posts. In fact, one of the best ways to ‘write’ on the go is through some of the voice-to-text software like Dragon Naturally Speaking. An easy way of dictating while you drive is to bring along your laptop with a pair of head mics, dictating your post, an email, a letter to a friend, whatever, while you’re on the road. This program will (quite nicely) translate your voice to actual text that you can use in an email, a word document, and so on.

As a side note, if you like to produce podcasts or just like hearing the sound of your voice, then bringing along a digital recorder is another great way of making your drive a productive experience.

2. Reading on the Go

There are so many audio books out there, I wouldn’t doubt you could come close to earning a college degree just by listening to them while driving. There’s tons of personal development, wealth creation, educational, financial planning and entertainment audio out there. You’d be surprised at how many of them are at your local library.

One of my favorite resources for audio books (besides the library) is Audible. Audible is kind of like a Netflix for audio books. You can buy a subscription which allows you a certain amount of downloads per month, which you can then transfer to your favorite MP3 player or computer to listen while your heading to and from work. I’ve found this to be not only convenient but a lot cheaper than heading to your local Borders each month.

3. Fitness on the Go

Don’t have time to go to the gym that day? No problem, try dynamic strength exercises. Dynamic strength exercises give you all the benefits of weight training without using weights. Your muscles gain strength by working against other muscles in your body rather than against weights.

How does this work? Here’s an example: Imagine you’re holding a dumbbell in your right hand. With your arm extended, slowly lift the heavy dumbbell, closing the angle of the arm. Notice that your biceps tense up as if you were really lifting this weight. Doing multiple reps of these can not only cause a great burn, but actually build muscle as well.

In the car, you can easily exercise your pecs, biceps, triceps, shoulders, abs and lats (back). There have been many times, just by ‘working out’ on the drive, that I’ve had muscle soreness the next day, as if I’ve been lifting weights.

I haven’t quite figured out how to build aerobic capacity (safely) while driving. If you have any ideas, let me know ;) .

4. Audio Idea ‘Catching’

I bet that you’ve come up with some amazing ‘million-dollar’ ideas while waiting in the line at your bank, or taking a shower, and yes, while driving. Great ideas seem to come at the most inopportune time. And then a few hours later, when we try to recall what it was that was so great, we’ve forgotten it.

Carrying around a small digital recorder is a perfect solution to catching these ephemeral ideas. So often, we’ll be driving in our cars, spacing out, and a perfect idea will come to us. In moments like these, use your handy-dandy digital recorder to capture these ideas for later use. Then at the end of the day, put them in your personal journal or a source list that you can later mind map.

I’ve noticed that the more you pay attention to these little promptings that come to your mind and make an effort to record them, the more they come. It’s as if God is passing out these wonderful ideas that can improve our lives but by not making note of them, we are in essence throwing them away. Eventually they stop coming. Keeping a recorder close by will keep the floodgates open to the universe.

5. Beyond Idle Chatter

Since the introduction of cell phones, chatting while driving has become almost a past-time. Instead of spending it in idle talk, use your phone time more productively. Some better options are setting up needed conference calls for work, making appointments or improving your relationship with a loved one. (Of course I recommend using the hands-free devices out there and dialing only when you’re at a complete stop)

6. Building Your Mental Muscles

When I’m not doing any of the above, I’ll often just work on exercising my brain a bit. One of my favorite games is memorizing license plates. I’ll use the time to practice my favorite memory techniques to convert the license plate into easily remembered units. What’s cool is when you recognize a plate that you’ve seen on a previous commute.

It’s also a good time to learn how to read people. You can discover a lot about a person by what kind of car they drive, the bumper stickers they’ve chosen, the way they drive, the condition of the car etc.

Your driving time doesn’t have to be a waste of time. Using some of these tips will help bring more productivity into your commute and as a result, your life. And as always, make sure to be safe and courteous while operating a motor vehicle.

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