Hacking Your Commute

As we ring in a new decade and find the 2010’s in our rearview mirror, I’d imagine that many of you, like myself, are taking this whole “new year, new me” thing a bit more seriously than in previous years. (#newdecadewhodis?) But what kind of resolution could I set for myself that I’d actually stick to? There are tons of things I’d like to do this year – go to the gym more consistently, meal prep, advance at work, travel to exotic places, and such – but how do I set realistic goals in order to achieve these things?

I decided to break down my daily routine and see where I could feasibly fit in some #selfcare and when I realized there was one common factor across most of my days that was largely under-utilized, I got to thinking…

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “There are only two things certain in life: death and taxes.” Well, I’d like to challenge that belief and add just one more tenet of certainty – commuting.

Unless you’re one of those people that works remotely and your “commute” consists of walking to and from your bed to the Keurig® machine, chances are you spend anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours a day traveling from point A to point B. (Lucky for those of us living in the Northeast, our commutes are statistically among the longest in the country – so we have that going for us, too!)

Whether you’re sitting on a plane, train, automobile or putting one foot in front of the other, we all spend a considerable chunk of our lives in transit. I won’t do the math on exactly how big of a chunk, but what we choose to do with our chunk is inevitably up to us! (Hello, New Year’s Resolution!)

At some point during my sometimes-30-minutes but-recently-it’s-taken-me-an-hour commute (because when there’s an ounce of inclement weather, everyone forgets how to drive in New Jersey), I asked myself a question: how can I make the best out of this unavoidable little slice of my day? There must be a way to use the time as an investment, and maybe even get the creative gears turning before I even step foot in the office…

I posed this question to my colleagues here at Coyne – how do you spend your commute? Have you ever really thought about it, or are our brains just on auto-pilot until we get into the office and sip our first cup of coffee? How can we better use our time in-transit? The answers I received were pretty insightful and I decided to try out some “best practices.” Here’s what I found:

*Oh, and BTW: these people do work for the 2019 Creative Agency of the Year, according to the Holmes Report, so I’d consider them experts in this field.

 

Indulge in a Guilty Pleasure
Love true crime? Listening to comedy? Celebrity Gossip? Plug-in and indulge yourself in a guilty pleasure or two! There is no better time than when you’re sitting in traffic or standing in an endless sea of people waiting for public transportation to enjoy something that makes you feel sheer, unadulterated joy. By all means, go for it.

Here’s the plus – it’s may not be as mindless as you’d think!

Turns out, after listening to “celebrity gossip”-type podcasts on my way to work, I actually found that I had a leg up on my coworkers and an eerily intimate knowledge of the top players in the pop culture sphere. Not to mention, in the world of PR, there is always an opportunistic idea to be found in the Golden Globes or Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

Even better – despite your age or position in any agency, I can guarantee you that busting out a mention of Pilot Pete or Timothée Chalamet in a brainstorm will cause the Gen Z’s in the room look on in awe. Similarly, comedians are known for exploring and exploiting the comedic potential in everyday situations. Consequently, after listening to some hilarious comedy specials or podcasts during my drive, I found myself able to laugh more freely throughout the day and look at the commonplace factors of office life in a more fun and creative way. I found the small stresses that usually accumulate rolled off my back a bit more freely.

It definitely didn’t hurt my self-esteem to get a chuckle or two out of my client on a conference call with a well-placed joke or one-liner about the weather, either!

Lastly, true crime podcasts may get your blood pumping while cruising down 287, but they also expose you to great storytelling and narration techniques you otherwise wouldn’t hear very often. Turns out, hearing the facts of an, admittedly gruesome, murder mystery case laid out actually helped me craft a more thought-provoking pitch during my workday, and really nail the hook on that press release I’ve been putting off for a few days. What can I say, there’s something about true crime at 7:30 in the morning that really gives you that nice edge throughout the day.

So – go ahead – indulge in whatever it is you love and enjoy the creative benefits you will reap!

 

Get Centered
Most of my coworkers said that their commute is used mainly for “me-time.” In other words, time spent alone away from the stresses of family and work obligations. Taking time each morning to set intentions for the day ahead, listen to a guided meditation, or pressing play on your favorite Spotify playlist are all ways in which you can prepare yourself for a productive workday (and, arguably, a more enriching one at that!).

When I started my day with a quick guided meditation and explored new music on my way to work, I found that I was much more at ease throughout the day. I also was less prone to yelling at the car in front of me or rolling my eyes at a particularly annoying email. Centering myself on my way to work allowed me the ability to focus more wholly on my work and feel less bogged down by the stresses of life – both in and around the office.

 

Carpool Creativity
Consider this insight from Executive Creative Director of Coyne PR, Rob Schnapp, who recommends hitting the road, no matter what time of day. “Motion stimulates creativity,” says Rob – and science. When you’ve hit a creative roadblock, hopping in the car can help clear out those cobwebs. In fact, “when your body enters an auto-pilot situation, (i.e. driving to work or simply brushing your teeth), your mind is actually free to wander. In a way, you are using physical motion to hack your cognitive functions to better regulate emotions and perform better creatively.”

As a plus-up, because we love those in PR, grabbing a buddy for the ride can be highly effective, as well. “There’s something about being in the car that allows people to become vulnerable and open up more freely,” says Rob. “Having that freedom to communicate our wacky ideas can sometimes be more fruitful than sitting in a stuffy boardroom or familiar office.”

Even if you can’t physically put another person in the car with you, a hands-free rift is just as good! I called up a friend during her commute and found that a third-party opinion on some of my personal and work-related dilemmas helped provide a refreshed perspective I otherwise wouldn’t have found.

 

Beam Me Up
I’m not sure what new technologies the future will bring, but until they figure out teleportation, I don’t see my daily commute going away. So, I hope you join me in sticking to that New Year’s Resolution and making the most of it!

Kayla Frauenheim, Account Executive
Kayla Frauenheim, Account Executive
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