Even with remote work becoming more popular and necessary, most Americans still have some sort of commute every day. The average time going one way to or from the office currently is about 27.6 minutes. Assuming you work five days a week, that’s 4.5 hours a week in your car or using some other mode of transportation. Rather than spending all that time ruminating about the presentation you failed yesterday (or something worse), grab those minutes as a positive opportunity and a time to improve your skills or learn something new.
To Learn Something, Listen Up
As a business person, and especially as an executive, I think one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself and your company is to always be learning – and your commute is one of the best times to implement this. On a typical day, the best thing you can do during your time to or from work is to consume information.
Obviously, if you are taking the subway or a similar option where you don’t have to watch the road, there are more options for mediums by which to consume information – such as watching an interview or reading a book. But if you’re driving, audio is your best friend.
Personally, I enjoy podcasts. Some of my favorite shows are “How I Built This” with Guy Raz, “Polymathic Audio” with Web Smith, and “The Jocko Podcast” with Jocko Willink. Those are all related to business and leadership. But if there’s something else you want to learn about, then I almost can guarantee there’s a podcast for it now – there are an estimated 2 million podcasts to pick from as of 2021. As long as you’re listening to something that can help develop you, there’s no “wrong” selection.
If podcasts aren’t your thing, audiobooks are a good choice, too. And what’s really nice about audiobooks is that you can find the print or digital version of the book to explore outside of your commute. Most of the time, I am reading both a hard copy and listening to the audiobook at the same time. Different things stand out to me when I read versus when I’m listening on the commute and I am able to appreciate the content from different angles and get more out of it.
Figure Out the Context First, No Matter What Others Might Push
When you take into consideration just how many shows and audiobooks are available, one important consideration when you’re deciding what to listen to is the host or producer’s context. For example, let’s say I’m listening to the CEO of Nike. The information could be spot on and delivered well. But I am not the CEO of Nike, so maybe the information isn’t relevant to me because I’m not in the same circumstances. I have to understand where a host or producer is coming from, the biases and experiences they have, to decide if the person speaking is trustworthy or whether their message has value for me.
So, before you download anything, try to understand where the host/producer is coming from and get the big picture. You don’t have to listen to somebody just because social media screams at you to do it, or because everyone else talks about how a particular person is ultra-successful. Try a lot of different things and don’t be afraid to ditch what you don’t like or doesn’t apply to you.
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The Influence Doesn’t Have To Stop With You
It’s easy to see listening to a podcast or audiobook on your commute as edifying only you, especially if you’re the only one in the vehicle. But if you really internalize the principles you hear, then you can take them to your team and apply them for growth in your own operations. The audio hardly has to be a one-and-done affair but rather can be something you continuously make work for you and your organization.
As a real-life example, once, I was taking in Principles by Ray Dalio. He talked about how, in organizational engineering, you create a machine and then build processes to monitor it and make sure it’s functioning correctly. His thoughts, while not applicable to me exactly, springboarded my own thinking about how teams work and how to build a good foundation for them. At the time, my company had about a dozen employees. Dalio’s ideas helped me understand what steps to take next, leading me to be able to hire more employees in the most efficient and effective way.
Take Advantage of the Opportunity. Consume Now, Not Later
If you commute, then you have time available to consume information that can benefit you and other people. Much of that information is available through audio totally for free, too, so take advantage of that. Whatever you’re into, go after it and learn something, because today’s minutes aren’t going to be around again tomorrow.