Long commutes might seem like the perfect time to relax and indulge in a pleasurable activity like reading a book, listening to music or podcasts, or even taking a nap, but you're actually better off thinking about work. A recent study suggests you can make your transit time more bearable and lower your stress levels if you do.
In the study, led by Jon M. Jachimowicz at Columbia Business School, participants who received texts instructing them to reflect on work subjects during their commutes reported higher job satisfaction and less burnout than a control group who did what they normally did while commuting. Turns out, using commute time to prepare for work in the morning and plan out the next day in the evening helped participants establish clearer boundaries between work and home. Basically, participants were less likely to "take work home with them," which led to a lot less stress in their lives overall. Additionally, reflecting on work still made the commute somewhat enjoyable. Perhaps because participants became aware that using their transit time productively was making their lives easier overall.
As Jachimowicz and the other researchers explain, commute time is something that's out of your control. Besides moving somewhere closer to your work, there's not much you can do about it. But what you do during that time is entirely up to you. And for most people, it's a huge chunk of time every week. If you use it to mentally prep, get organised, and tie up loose ends at work, that commute will seem less like a chore and more like a gift that helps you keep work at work.
Commuting with a Plan: How Goal Directed Prospection Can Offset the Strain of Commuting [Harvard Business School via Science of Us]