Are you still spending your commutes playing Candy Crush or listening to morning talk show drivel? If so, next question: Why?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American commute is 26 minutes long — each way. That’s an hour of time each day that isn’t occupied by office or family life — and it’s an opportunity to set a productive tone to each day. MONEY reached out to eight people at the top of their game to ask them for their commuting strategies — and how they use that time in a productive fashion. Here’s what they had to say.
I’m usually very busy, so being both efficient and strategic with my time on Amtrak is essential.
I’m a list maker, so I always keep a revolving to do list going: short term, medium term, long term. Right now on my short-term list is the next three calls that I’m going to dial into while on Amtrak, plus a note to remind me to call in a prescription and a list of two people I need to check in with.
I schedule my weekly workouts. After a knee injury earlier this year, it became clear to me that I needed to prioritize not just getting in shape, but building functional fitness and flexibility. That means hot yoga classes three times a week, acupuncture to help the chronic pain in my right knee and an obscene number of squats and planks with my CrossFit trainer, Dave.
All of that is scheduled right into my calendar, and treated like a non-moveable meeting. I’ll throw in the gym times I need to hit when I’m in my hotel, too. And by mapping them out at a moment when I’m organized and not distracted, I’ve been able to workout at least five times a week, which is a first for me. — Soledad O’Brien, journalist, host of Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, and owner of Starfish Media Group
Take Inventory and Listen to Relaxing Music
I use my commute to take mental inventory and set goals for things I want to get done that day. During the drive to work, I think about the day ahead — and I always listen to classical music. I find classical music energizing and it opens my mind. I always keep a note pad next to me so that I can take notes on ideas I have.
When I drive home each night, I always listen to jazz and reflect on what I accomplished that day and/or how to solve any problems that may have risen. — Paige Mycoskie, Founder Aviator Nation
As a CEO, so much energy is spent on being accountable and focused. Getting to bike on the way to work gives me time, without distraction, to identify what is most important at work in a setting where my body feels energized and my mind is free to wander.
At the end of the day, getting on my bike allows me to leave work behind, and focus on the dad/husband/friend that I want to be in my personal life. It’s not exactly a time machine, but for me it is my mindset machine. — Brendan Synnott, CEO of PACT clothing
I live south of San Francisco and commute north every morning to HotelTonight’s headquarters in the city. Bay Area rush hour traffic can be brutal, so I take an Uber most days and arrange my schedule around it — often getting in extra early and working out in the city before I start my day.
At that hour, an Uber still costs less than paying for parking, and I can use the commute time productively. I catch up on email with the East Coast and international offices in earlier time zones, and carve out a few minutes to call my mother when I can. — Sam Shank, CEO of HotelTonight
Talk to People
Since I live in New York City, and don’t own a car, my favorite thing to do is walk from my apartment to the SiriusXM studios where I host my business talk radio show, Dot Complicated. It’s a 2.5-mile, 45-minute walk that I often take through Central Park.
In addition to getting some great exercise in, I get to make phone calls, catch up with my family across the country, or listen to a podcast to prepare me on the topics I’ll be covering on the show that day. — Randi Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media and author of Pick Three: You Can Have It All (Just Not Every Day)
Energize and Unplug
For me, one of the most productive things I do is getting in a solid workout. A good sweat keeps you sharp for the day ahead.
Then, I sit down with my family in the morning, enjoy breakfast, talk to each other — with no phones! Removing the emails, appointments, texts, any sort of notification in the morning actually puts me in the right mindset for when I’m ready to kill it in the office. — Joseph Caruso, CEO of Green Helix
Read Up on Your Industry
I’m a big fan of podcasts. Hearing other great leaders and innovators gets my juices flowing and inspires me to think bigger. Some of my favorites are Masters of Scale, NPR Politics, How I Built This, and Ted Radio Hour.
Also, one of the first things I do every morning is scan through my Google Alert emails to stay up to date on the latest news in the industry. Staying on top of industry trends and news is important and great to read over morning coffee. — Amanda Bradford, CEO of The League dating app
Go Black and White
I drive through Venice to the RYOT campus every morning as the sun is coming; it’s a pretty drive first thing in the morning. That’s my reflective time to daydream and listen to music and clear my head. The moment I hit the office, the circus begins, so if I can clear my head during my drive I will be much more productive during the day.
I’ve also recently switched my iPhone to black and white, which helps keep me off Instagram and Twitter so I can focus on work and my team. I turn the settings on my iPhone to switch it to the grayscale mode, which turns the display into only black and white. Then I assign that as a shortcut when I triple click the home button on the side. It makes your phone less attractive to scrolling social media or browsing the internet and turns the phone back into utility only.” — Bryn Mooser, found of virtual reality studio RYOT.