Manar Al Hinai: Stuck in traffic? Make the long commute work to your advantage

Do not let the morning commute stress you out, use the time to your advantage and start the working day on the right note.

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According to the United States census bureau, the average person in the US spends about 25 minutes a day commuting to work, and that is one way only.

If you work in Dubai, and head home via Sheikh Zayed Road during rush hour, that commute could be even longer.

Global research by the UK’s flexible office specialists Regus found that about 18 per cent of people consider leaving their current jobs because of a lengthy commute.

And we all know that a long drive and regularly sitting in traffic jams can cause tiredness and stress before you even reach the office. If the commute is too nightmarish you could work fewer hours because of arriving late and leaving early to avoid traffic – or perhaps even longer hours. Your back and neck could suffer and you may experience lower levels of happiness, leaving you in a bad mood.

As you manage your business, you will realise how important those factors are in shaping your day and how they can affect your productivity and consequently your revenue, profit and the satisfaction levels of your customers.

But look at things in a different light and you might see how long commutes and being stuck in traffic might work to your advantage. Consider it as a 40-minute session of daily personal development. That would equate to 400 minutes of quality time over 10 days and about 900 minutes in a month.

Here’s how you could use that time in the car to your advantage:

• Start the day properly

First things first, when you wake up in the morning, do not overdose on coffee. Studies have found this can lead to more anxiety. On another note, don’t skip breakfast. Make sure you have time to have something to eat before you head out, as low blood sugar will make you feel fatigued and nauseous and could alleviate your irritation on the roads.

• Focus on what you would like to achieve at work

Mentally jot down your tasks for the day, say them out loud or record them as a voice memo. Consider downloading this app:, which is available for iOS, Andriod and the Web – a time management app that helps you organise your day. Use the time in the car to properly organise your day and plan ahead, so that when you reach office, you can hit the ground running.

• Choose what you listen to carefully

What you listen to in the car can have a great effect on your mood. Avoid news and political talk shows – unless they are relevant to your job – and tune into calming or uplifting music. You could either listen to a favourite radio station or create your own playlist for the morning commute. This will help calm your nerves and put you in the right frame of mind. Alternatively, I recommend podcasts. Podcasts are digital audio files that you can download directly from the internet or stream through your smartphone. They are presented in different formats such as talk shows or monologues. Popular podcasts include: The Productivity Show, which teaches you different techniques on how not to procrastinate and how to be more efficient at work. Another great one is TED Talks, which cover a range of topics – I find these inspiring and motivational for enhancing my business.

Audio books are another option. Most of the new and best-selling books out there come in an audio format. Audio books are great as you can tune in on the go – whether commuting to work or working out.

• Calm your mind

Perhaps your work is stressful; in that case use the commute to meditate (if you are not driving) or consider it as some free time away from emails and work to relax your mind.

Productivity is important not only to grow your business, but also for personal satisfaction. Commuting, though hated by the majority, can actually be an opportunity to self-develop or learn new productive habits.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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