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by Isabel Sperry | November 08, 2017


Girl commuting to work and smiling

Do you find yourself watching the minutes pass by on your commute, getting increasingly impatient waiting for your stop? Are you sick of listening to the same music playlists or getting through exactly seven pages of your latest book? Here are some ideas to switch up your commute, which will make the minutes fly by—and keep your mind sharp, to boot!

1. Do a crossword puzzle

One of the best activities to get your mind off your commute is a crossword puzzle. Whether you choose to do one the old-fashioned way with newspaper and pen, or via an app like the New York Times Crossword, is up to you. Doing a crossword will keep your brain engaged and may even teach you some new words or fun facts. If you’re not a big word-game person, try picking up a Sudoku puzzle instead.

2. Read an article on your phone

If your commute isn’t long enough to make a dent in your book, but it’s just long enough that you get bored sitting there unoccupied, try reading an article on your phone. Preload it while you’re waiting on the subway platform, to ensure you can access it underground where there may not be Wi-Fi. Try reading one of the “Humor” pieces from The New Yorker, which are practically guaranteed to put you in a good mood. Blog articles are also informative and entertaining reads—see whether your favorite public figures and companies write blogs. And be sure to check out career-related blogs on Vault (like the one you’re reading!), to get the scoop on industry trends and workplace advice. Finally, you can always read up on the news on your commute. Subscribe to a newsletter like theSkimm that distills and summarizes major news events on one page, so you don’t have to use Wi-Fi to click through different articles.

3. Listen to a podcast

If reading on the train isn’t your thing, try listening to a podcast. Tune into “Fresh Air,” the most downloaded podcast on iTunes in 2016, for interviews with luminaries in various fields such as the arts, journalism, and global current affairs. Or try “TED Radio Hour” for talks centered on universal themes such as the source of happiness or crowd-sourcing innovation. If you’re looking for something that will pull at your heartstrings, listen to the podcast “Modern Love,” which features the popular New York Times column of the same name, with readings by notable personalities and updates from the essayists themselves.

4. Create a to-do list

While creating a to-do list is not quite as fun as the other activities mentioned above, it will definitely make you feel accomplished before you even begin your day at work. Plus, you won’t feel like you’re actively wasting time sitting on a train. You probably already have a running to-do list at work of all the projects you need to accomplish in the coming weeks. However, it can be helpful to create a to-do list for the day—you can break down larger projects into action items such as “create draft of article” or “reach out to John to brainstorm event ideas.” It will help you break up larger projects into manageable chunks, and checking them off will make you feel like you were productive by the end of the day. You can also include personal action items, such as “write thank-you note to the Stevensons” or “reschedule doctor’s appointment.” Penciling in certain items you want to accomplish each day can help motivate you to do them, as well as kill time on your morning commute.