How I Optimized My Daily Routine by Hacking My Commute

IMAGE: Rucksack Magazine via  Unspash

IMAGE: Rucksack Magazine via Unspash

Let’s be honest. If you’re reading this article, you likely fall into one of two categories:

  1. You felt your heart skip a beat after reading the words “hacking my commute,” excited for any life-altering insights
  2. You let out a long sigh and thought, “Let’s see what this nerd has to say."

If that’s the case, guess might be miserable.

That may be because your commute is draining your energy, leaving you no time to pursue the daily tasks that are important to you. By the time you get home from your grueling fight through rush hour, you forgo your goals, mosey to the couch, scroll through Netflix, settle on the same show you always watch and lounge around until you’re tired enough to crawl into bed depressed and uninspired.

It sounds all too familiar to me.

The first thing you need to do is discover what’s important for you to accomplish each day. Sometimes it’s easiest to make a list, which is exactly what I did.

I call these daily activities my Have-To-Do’s. They’re like To-Dos, except I have to do them. Clever, huh?

By breaking them up into three buckets with sub-bullets beneath them, I use these Have-To-Dos to discern what’s important for me to accomplish each day, that way I can develop a plan of attack.

Have-To-Do Bucket #1: Take Care of Yourself

Your first priority should always be Numero Uno. If you don’t take care of yourself, the second and third Have-To-Do buckets don’t really matter, do they?

By addressing your mental, physical and personal needs head-on, you not only ensure that you feel better each day, but also that you’re reducing stress so you can tackle other goals.

For instance, I know I want to continue being mindful with Headspace, get back to a daily workout regimen and try to read at least one chapter a day, so I'm listing those tasks under this Have-To-Do bucket.

  • Meditate
  • Exercise
  • Read

As for you, maybe you’re really into yoga or you love to jog in the park — both of which are great ways to take care of yourself. If you’re not into physical activity, try and find something that soothes your mind like going for a walk, journaling or reading comics. The idea is to do something for yourself that keeps you stimulated and reduces stress.

What might you list under this bucket?

Have-To-Do Bucket #2: Pursue Your Passions

They say idle hands are they devil’s playthings. I don’t love that phrase because it implies that you have to do things just for the sake of doing them just to stay out of trouble. However, I believe it’s those who find activities that they truly enjoy doing that helps them feel fulfilled.

RELATED: My Creative Manifesto: What Is It and How Will It Impact My Work?

As a self-diagnosed multipotentialite, thanks to Emilie Wapnick’s How to Be Everything, there are a lot of activities I know I want to pursue to help me feel fulfilled. I have lists upon lists of article ideas and side hustle projects that I’d like to work on each day, and I want to make sure I'm creating my best work. I also love playing drums and learning new instruments — harmonica being my newest musical endeavor — so I listed those under this Have-To-Do bucket.

  • Write for my website
  • Run my current side hustle, Take Off, Set Sail
  • Play drums
  • Learn to play harmonica

Because of my commute, it would be impossible for me to get to each of these activities every single day, but I rotate through them throughout the week. This strategy helps me feel like I’m tackling a different portion of my personality every day without burning out on one particular item.

What are some passions of yours that you’d like to get to each day?

Have-To-Do Bucket #3: Spend Focused Time with Loved Ones

This is a really important Have-To-Do. In today’s day and age, it’s easy to spend time with people, but it’s tough to spend time with people sans distraction. Technology has caused all of us to be able to focus on multiple things at once in the palms of our hands, spreading ourselves thin and potentially diminishing important relationships without even realizing it.

As of writing this article, I’m a newlywed, so I obviously want to spend time with my wife after work each day without having to think “Oh no! I didn’t get to read today” or “Shit! I forgot to meditate."

Similarly, I have friends and family members too, believe it or not. So I’m listing spending time with loved ones here. You might want to list specific people, if you want, but I’m not going to do that publicly.

  • Spend focused time with loved ones

Ultimately, the idea here is that by hacking my commute and optimizing my daily routine, I’ll be able to make plans and spend time with the people I love each day without distractions because I’ve already accomplished my other Have-To-Dos earlier in the day.

* * *

Once you’ve outlined what’s important to your daily routine, you can begin to optimize it by hacking your commute.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, yeah. But how do I ‘hack’ my commute, Ant? Get to the point."



Make Time to Accomplish Your Goals

It’s simple. If you don’t have time to accomplish your goals, make time to accomplish your goals. In my case, it was all about thinking outside the box to avoid rush hour.

Think about it: Most 9-5 workers wake up, shower and drive to work at the same time as everyone else.

Rush hour.

Then, they do their jobs and, again, head home at roughly the same time as everyone else.

Rush hour.

Break the mold, people.

Before I was avoiding rush hour, I had about an hour-long fight through traffic to and from work — a fight that should really only be 30 minutes without traffic.

Once I realized that I could do more of my Have-To-Dos by breaking free from these time constraints, I began to see my daily routine more clearly.

For instance, for my morning commute, I found a gym that’s halfway between my home and my job. By driving to the gym early in the morning when there isn’t traffic, I’ve already cut out that first half of my usual fight through rush hour. That way, by the time I’m done with the gym, I’m already halfway to work and I’ve tackled one of my goals. (Actually, two, if you count the meditation I do before I leave for the gym.)

On the way home, I noticed that there’s a public library two blocks away from my office. (That’s right. A public library. They still exist!) The library is quiet and doubles as a change of scenery from the desk I've been sitting at all day, making it a great place to read, write or work on side hustles without getting cabin fever.

Likewise, there’s a storage unit close to my office too, which is where I ended up storing my drums and my harmonica. (Storage units are typically deserted in commercial office parks, so the what-would-be-neighbors don’t care if I make a little noise.)

Now, after work, I immediately head to either the library or the storage unit, depending on what mood I’m in, and let rush hour play out while I pursue my passions. Once I’m finished, the highways are typically clear for me to zoom home with ease. I use this shorter amount of time to listen to podcasts or focus on "me" time. I can then spend the rest of my night with my loved ones, undistracted, knowing I’ve already done everything I want to do for the day.

Here’s how my old daily routine and my new daily routine compare:

Morning Commute
Old System

  1. Wake up at 7:45
  2. Shower and leave home at 8:05
  3. Drive to work for about one hour
  4. Arrive at work late at 9:05
  5. Work

New System

  1. Wake up at 6:15
  2. Meditate, relax and drink my coffee
  3. Leave for the gym at 6:45
  4. Arrive at gym at 7:05
  5. Workout until 7:50
  6. Shower and leave gym at 8:15
  7. Drive to work for about 35 minutes
  8. Arrive at work early at 8:50
  9. Work

Evening Commute
Old System

  1. Leave work
  2. Fight through traffic for about an hour
  3. Arrive home
  4. Sit on couch drained and unmotivated, yet distracted knowing I could’ve accomplished much more

New System

  1. Leave work

  2. Walk to library/drive to storage unit

  3. Read, write, drum or work on side projects until 7:00

  4. Drive home for about 30 minutes
  5. Arrive home at 7:30
  6. Enjoy my evening with loved ones knowing I’ve accomplished a lot today

Now, this exact mold might not be for everyone. You may want to structure your day depending on where your energies peak throughout the day. However, by seeking out ways to make sure I’m knocking out my Have-To-Dos each day, I’ve noticed a significant uptick in my productivity, my health and my happiness.

Be creative and find ways to make time for your Have-To-Dos. You may have to sacrifice sleeping in during the week or getting home as soon as you possibly can after work. However, it’s all worth it in order to gain the benefits — taking care of yourself, pursuing your passions and spending time with your loved ones.

What are some ways you might try to hack your commute?