USAA Tips: 5 ways to maximize your commute

Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

There are several ways to develop yourself personally and professionally during either a long or a short commute.

Here are 5 tips to creating a professional development plan to do during your commute:

Put Yourself at Ease. Often times, the best step in preparing for your future is to prepare to relax. Deep breathing exercises are an immediate way to relax and prepare for a stressful day. First, take three to five deep breaths through your nose and slowly release the air through your mouth. Next, slowly breathe through your nose and concentrate all your attention on the air as it enters and leaves your nose.

Second, think about the stressful parts of your day and find a way to imagine a perfect way to succeed through the stress. Your source of stress can be a presentation, a talk with your boss, or a difficult conversation with a co-worker. In all of these instances, imagine the encounter going perfectly and all that you did to make it perfect: a presentation delivered with enthusiasm and well-received by the room; a great update to your boss where you anticipate all her questions; or a very productive meeting with a co-worker where you discuss and agree on all the major points. The critical element to your future success is how to engage productively and constructively with all the stress in your workplace.

Dictate a “To-Do” List. Another source of stress that can be conquered is to use a dictation app on your phone or an audio recording to create a stream of consciousness “to-do” list as you drive or walk. This is a great way to reduce stress by creating a list of your daily, weekly, or monthly key workplace to-do items, project ideas, team coaching needs, and other essential tasks into a list. If you have a voice-to-text feature on your mobile device that can really help to take all your ideas so you can place it into a list when you get to work. “To-Do” lists can help you identify all your nagging workplace concerns as you ride, walk, or drive that allow you to become instantly productive the moment you walk through the office doors.

Discover Podcasts. Podcasts are perfect professional development methods to listen to a new book, catch up on a speech by a famous academic at a college or university, or listen to members of a think tank discuss the latest trends in product innovation. Podcasts from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, London School of Economics, BusinessWeek, and others are given in regular intervals, are always informative, and help you spend commute time incredibly wisely with business updates. In addition, don’t disregard podcasts that offer the latest updates in other areas. Sometimes, understanding and learning about new ideas and innovations in seemingly unrelated areas offer the greatest opportunities for personal growth and development.

Schedule a Short Conversation. If you can, schedule calls with old contacts, university professors, or other industry contacts even if it is for a strict 10 to 15 minutes. These short calls to discuss industry trends, new topics, and competitor activities are always insightful and eye-opening. Sometimes, the best ideas and insights come from talking with an expert or a former colleague to hear their feedback and their own insights.

Catch up on News and Magazine Articles. I keep an email folder and file all of my weekly and daily news updates. When I am waiting for a cup of coffee or riding on the bus, it is a perfect time to skim and selectively deep read on important topics. Keeping a dedicated folder is a great use of time because it allows me to go right to my most important sources of information and not have to search during the commute.

Professional development during your commute is a great way to reduce stress, proactively prepare for the day, and stay up-to-date on the latest trends and news through newspapers, podcasts, conversations, and videos.