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How To Maximize Your Work Commute

Regardless of how you choose to use your to and from work commutes, the following can help you make the most of your travel time.

Workin' Girl

When I first received the job offer for my current full-time job, I was hesitant to accept. This commute was much longer than the seven-to-ten-minute commute I was used to. I now had to travel down two interstates to get to work. Now, I know this has nothing on the folks who take two subways, three buses, and walk four blocks to get to their jobs, however, living in New Haven, CT, it's an annoying idea to swallow. Was I really about to do this?

Yes. I was. I did.

I quit the job that was around the corner from my house and accepted an offer for a job I had to drive through three towns to which to get. It was the best job decision I made. Not just because of the position, but because the increased commute time made me even more productive. My new travel time helped maximize my productivity; by forcing me to wake up earlier and journey further, I ended up having more time on my hands. Time I learned how to manage during my commute.

So, how do I maximize my commute times to be more productive? We've become a society of multi-tasking, which is a wonderful thing for making the most of my new commute time. Recognizing that my ride to work could be used for more than just the commute changed everything about that journey. Instead of just listening to music, I began utilizing silence to think, brainstorm, and set my day up for success.

Once I mastered the art of safely multi-tasking, I decided to break my commutes into the two different journeys — one to work, and the other from work. Each commute allows me to maximize my productivity in two very different ways. On my way to work, I do things that help set the precedence for my day. I prepare myself for the work of the day ahead, and mentally check-in to work mode even before I arrive. I do things like pray, check my emails, and listen to an inspirational podcast that puts me in the mood to grind the day out. On my journey home from work, I unwind and fully check-out — refusing to bring anything from work home with me. I process the day, mentally review any pending items, and release any stressors that may affect any post-work activities. This is how I manage a healthy work-life balance.

Regardless of how you choose to use your to and from work commutes, the following can help you make the most of your travel time.

Pray.

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While I make it a point to pray before even leaving the house, sometimes I just can't get to it. On those mornings, I drive to work in silence and dedicate the entire commute to prayer. I express gratitude for the job I'm traveling to, express gratefulness for God's consistent guidance, and thank Him for all He's done thus far. I then begin to ask Him to guide my day and to handle all the battles that may come my way. Starting my day in this way keeps me centered for all that may come when I enter the office. It reminds me to focus on God through every obstacle the day may bring, and it gives me the peace I need to begin each day productively and purposefully.

Check Emails.

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Checking my emails on the way to work helps me eliminate anxiety. I don't typically enjoy going into anything completely blind. By checking my inbox before I arrive to work, I'm aware of the fires I may experience walking in the door; it gives me a great head-start to some of the interactions and problem-solving I'd have to focus on. It also gives me a great starting point for what I need to conquer first – allowing me to make my mental to-do list.

Create your To-Do list.

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There's no reason you must wait until you get to work to start identifying what you must do. Thinking about the pending items on my way to work helps me to focus in on my day's top priorities before I get weighed down with the priorities of others. During my morning commute, I make a mental to-do list of items that must be completed on that day (for the sake of my own mental wellbeing). I usually settle on 3-4 tasks, which leaves enough space on the list for interruptions and last-minute emergencies. Doing so gives me a wonderful starting place and allows me to hit the ground running when I arrive to work – that is, after I make my morning tea.

Reflect.

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Reflecting can be you assessing your morning mood, setting intentions, or just thinking critically about what's going on in your personal life. Using your commute time to reflect is a wonderful opportunity to process how you feel and determine how you plan to show up for yourself on any given day. It also allows you to get your mind right before having to deal with pesky coworkers or daunting job tasks. Typically, I use my morning reflection time for intention setting and my evening reflection time to affirm what I've done in my 8-hours of work. This helps me to start my day deliberately, and to end it with positivity.

Listen to a Podcast/Audiobook or Read a Relevant Article.

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They say it's important to spend at least five hours per week learning something new. Podcasts and articles are one of the many ways I do so. Dedicating my 20-30 minute commute to consuming educational content, ensures that I'm making the most of my travel time, and not completely slacking on my self-work. Whether you tune in to your favorite podcast, listen to an audiobook, or read a new article on your favorite site, fitting in a form of education and entertainment is imperative – especially on the days you feel you don't have the time to do either.

Check in on Your Side Projects.

This is particularly useful for those dedicated to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Utilizing your commute time to check in on freelance projects allows you to tackle some of the more mundane tasks before you get home and 'clock in' to your second source of income. Make your last-minute phone calls, respond to quick e-mails, check on the status of pending items, and brainstorm for your next project before you even arrive home. Doing so helps to cut down on the time you spend doing this work and frees up some home time to actually enjoy…home.

Decompress.

Critical to ensuring you leave your work at work, decompressing is the post-work version of reflecting. Decompressing allows you to process what happened in the day and allows you to think about the pending items that you didn't get a chance to complete. It gives you one last moment to unload your thoughts from work, so you don't bring it home with you. It's a great opportunity to vent to yourself about the day's struggles, reflect on the new things you learned today, and allows you to affirm the work you did.

Phone a Friend.

If you're anything like me, after a long day of work the last thing you want to do when you get home is talk to anyone for at least 30 minutes. Using your commute time to check on your friends and share your latest frustrations is a good way to ensure your home time can be dedicated to your at-home routines. It's also a great way to nurture your relationships without them getting lost in the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. Whether it's cooking, spending time with your children or spouse, or simply taking a shower and relaxing, marking off these non-work items during your commute home can free up some space in your hectic schedule for actual you-time at home. I use my after work commute in the best way I can to ensure that once I get home, my time will be my time.

Regardless of what your commuting situation is like, there have been quite a few things I've learned on my fantastic voyages to and from work. In the past year and a half, I've learned how to make the most of my commute and maximize my productivity doing so. Mixing my work commutes with professional productivity, relationship building, and self-care ensures that I have a balanced routine long before the day is over.

Featured image by Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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