We are all used to it or have experienced it in our adult life – traffic. Being stuck on the road with nowhere to go and nothing to do. It is a reality of city life that we have learnt to come accustomed to. For most of us, traffic conjures up a negative reaction. One writer posits that commuters in some cities spend up to 45 days a year in traffic! Imagine that – by the time you are 55 years old, 6 of those years were spent in traffic…

Today’s article however is not about arguing hybrid work models and the advantages of that to your mental well-being. No, today’s article is about using the traffic to your advantage – claiming back those hours by spending them productively and spending the time working ON your well-being rather than working AGAINST it (you know – allowing frustration and irritation to take over). Using this time as an extension of your day (whether you are a driver or a passenger) rather than seeing it as a waste of time.

Really now? How is that possible? How do you make that switch? Minimising the negative impact it could have on you and elevating that time towards productivity? By choosing to do so – of course. Let’s have a look at some suggestions.

Prepare your mind ahead of time

We know that we will spend a specific amount of time on the road – prepare your mind for it by accepting the reality thereof. Choose how you respond to the situation. When you are confronted with gridlock, accept it, you cannot, after all, do anything about it. You are there and no magic flying fairy will be able to airlift you out of the situation or worse, conducting dangerous manoeuvres will get you through it ‘quicker’. 

Plan for it

Think of things you can do whilst you are in traffic. If you are a passenger, use the time to respond to emails/research your assignment questions. If you are a driver – listen to podcasts, and eBooks, or make lists using your voice recorder of things that you wish to achieve during the day. Use the time to focus, repeat your daily mantra or listen to motivating messages. 

Calculate extra time for traffic

Calculate the time you might be spending in traffic. Research has shown that most people get anxious in traffic because they are panicked about being late. Then don’t allow that to become a reality. Rather leave earlier– expect to be stuck and rather arrive earlier at an appointment than run the risk of arriving late. This will allow you to freshen up before the meeting and even some extra time to prepare.

Use technology

Before leaving the office, check your route and assess the traffic situation. If you see that it is congested, do something else before driving home (like grocery shopping, going to the gym, or doing that online course you registered for…).

Use the time to wind down

Yes, as strange as it might seem, use the time to release the stress of the day. Take deep breaths and release the tension of the day. Let go of things that you cannot control and embrace the achievements of the day. Practice mindfulness. Listen to music that relaxes you and be grateful that you have the time to do it. 

Reach out to your social network

Use the time to connect with friends and family. If you are a passenger, you can message, WhatsApp or call them. If you are the driver, put your phone on speaker and talk to your people. Reach out to your network and start seeing the time as a bonus to connect.

Network

Create a mini community and connect with the people around you. Talk to them – grow your social network. Get to know the people around you.

Learn a new skill

Use the time you spend on the road and learn a new skill. Download podcasts or clips or a language learning application and use the time to learn something new. Watch DIY videos or media channels which show creative ways of reusing plastic or repotting plants (or whatever your hobbies are).

Play games

If you are alone in the car, this might not be possible, but if you are a passenger, play games with your fellow passengers OR play games on your phone. This will reduce stress and could even enhance your cognitive functioning (if you choose to play puzzle games).

‘Clean’ your technology

Use the time that you have productively and ‘clean’ your documents or photos in your gallery. Upload what you wish to keep to the cloud and delete what you don’t need. 

Keep yourself from getting frustrated and anxious in the trappings of your lives by using the time you are given in the traffic productively. Use it to enhance your day by choosing how you experience the time. Stop allowing frustration to convince you that you are wasting your time and start embracing the opportunity to spend that time doing things that you usually won’t have time to do. You might be surprised just how much you can do during the hours that you spend commuting and how much your mental well-being could gain from your choice to stay calm.

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