6 Things Successful People do on Their Commute

commute productivity

Halfway through writing this article, I came to a horrific realization.

I spend a total of 20 days each year commuting.

My colleague, Tom, who commutes from Connecticut to NYC: 40 days. That’s over 1/10th of a year on the Metro North.

Depending on who you ask, the time spent commuting is either a blessing or a curse.

If you’re like me, the Long Island Rail Road (read: extremely expensive and unreliable tin can on wheels) is a quiet, stress-free hour each way to plan out the day, catch up on news, or a chance to get in more reading time than you’ve had since high school. Others see it as just another long commute that subtracts 20 days from the year – but might as well use it to catch up on some valuable shut-eye!

The bottom line is – if you have a sizable commute to deal with – you ought to spend that time wisely.

Here are 6 ways to make your commute productive:

Review Yesterday, Plan Today

Face it – you are always on the go; when 9 am rolls around you don’t stop until 5PM (6, 7, 8, etc). That’s why Nii Ato Bentsi-Enhcill, Ivy Exec’s Manager of Resume and Coaching Services, starts planning ahead. You probably don’t have a chance to reflect on the past day or week. Now’s your opportunity to reflect on what went well, the things you forgot to take care of, and projects you need to start planning. There’s no better time than on your commute to make this list and plan your day accordingly. Ideally, you keep a to-do list backed up somewhere in the cloud or on Evernote. Start planning out everything you need to achieve in a list and block out time frames to spend on each task if possible.

Conquer Your Inbox

Nothing – I say Nothing – is better than sitting at your desk and seeing a clear inbox at the start of the day. That’s why Kevin Ko, Ivy Exec’s Community Development Associate, spends his commute combing through the inbox. Rather than spend the first hour of each day running through the messages you need to take care of, use your commute to clear out the junk, prioritize the important “to-do’s”, and flag emails for follow up. If you’re using your laptop, you will need to set up a wireless hotspot on your phone so you have an internet connection. You won’t be able to reply or review your inbox if it needs an internet connection!

Social Media

Sure you can get your social media fix in for the day – but you can also be strategic. Take this time to scroll through Twitter and learn what your customers and competitors are doing. Check out some LinkedIn groups and learn about the needs of your customers. You might catch a dirty look in the office if your eyes are glued to your phone – but not on your commute!

Stay Up to Date

Be it podcasts, online classes, or hiring reports, there’s plenty you can learn while on your commute. In fact, if you consider all the hours across a year you spend commuting, you could complete multiple online certificate programs, or make your way through dozens of “____ for Dummies” books. Ed Plum and Stephen Carter – Ivy Exec’s Senior Manager of Higher Education Business Development and Director of Business Development respectively, both agree that this is the best time to get a jump start on all the current events that impact Ivy Exec’s members and partners.


Take some time to plan out your networking activities on social media channels, introduce yourself to your neighbor on the train, or find a mentor online to help you advance your career.

Become a Thought Leader

Take some time to blog, get active in discussions, and build your following online. For the most ambitious commuter: build a personal website or portfolio! You’ll be well on your way to becoming a thought leader.

What do you do on your commute? Share in the comment section below!

About the Author

Greg Olsten is Ivy Exec's Sr. Content Manager, producing Online Classes, and Executive Intelligence articles.