Six ways to use your commute time wisely

July 22, 2015
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Monday, 8:29am. Arrive at train station in perfect time for the 8:31.

8:30am. A barely audible announcement declares the 8:31 is running “approximately” six to seven minutes late (which actually seems quite specific) due to “a delay”. Right.

8:31am. Kill approximately six to seven minutes staring vacantly at iPhone – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Can’t be bothered checking emails yet. Should be reading the news.

8:38am. Train arrives. Squeeze into a restricted spot between two Manspreaders. Quickly discover one of them is also a noisy Nail Biter. And apparently the other hasn’t brushed his teeth this morning.

8:39am. Realise book is back at home beside the bed. Back to mindless social media gazing.

8:40am. Phone battery goes flat. Stare past Death Breath out graffitied window instead.

8:41am. Nail Biter discards unwanted nail nub right into my lap. This is gonna be a long train ride.

Sound familiar?

While Hijacked can’t do much about inconsiderate travellers, we can offer sage advice on how to keep yourself occupied on your daily commute to and from uni.

Say farewell to Facebook, get lost to the ‘Gram, and be gone to the boring old book; whether your trek is 20 minutes or two hours each way, here’s how to embrace your commute and make the most of your daily travel time.

Learn a language

Grab a language-learning app and start practising. Sure, you may need to repeat words and phrases out loud, earning you a few funny looks. And bilingual commuters may worriedly wonder why on earth you’re asking where the bathroom is, in Spanish, on a packed train. But when you’re navigating your way around Barcelona like a local sometime in the near future, it’ll all be worth it.

Write on

Open your laptop and get tapping. That epic vampire novel, romantic comedy screenplay or Plath-style poetry anthology you’ve always wanted to write is about to become a reality. In many ways, a busy train or bus provides the perfect creative office environment. No internet connection to distract you, plenty of weird and wonderful characters all around from which to take inspiration, and a built-in timer for motivation. Challenge yourself to write a set number of pages before you reach your stop.


If you’re an artistic type, why not draw your fellow travellers? A packed carriage provides a huge variety of faces and bodies to sketch. It’s like a free, daily life drawing class – hopefully with less nudity.

Hone your observation skills

Pass the time by pretending to be a detective, a spy, or even an alien. Watch how humans act and interact, take notice of the little things and absorb what’s going on around you. It’s the perfect hobby for the wannabe writer, journalist or documentary-maker. Plus, it’s actually good for your brain, strengthening your attention to detail and memory.

Make a new friend

Who says we should all stay silent on trains or in lifts? Strike up a conversation with the person next to you – you never know who you might meet. But be prepared to be rebuffed - not everyone is ready for small talk with strangers first thing in the morning.

Do nothing

Travel time is well spent practising mindfulness: focusing the mind on the present moment and nothing else. This doesn’t mean agonising over the annoying Tissue-less Sniffer beside you for the whole trip, but simply observing and accepting the here and now. Headphones are encouraged. Block out pesky Loud Talkers with a guided meditation or a chilled out soundtrack. Use this time to not plan, not talk, not read, not worry about the day ahead. And find yourself blissfully mastering the ancient art of non-doing.

9:04am. Arrive at uni a little late, but glowing with the satisfaction of having made a plan to use commute time wisely from now on. All aboard!

Phoebe Hartley

Phoebe makes films, eats dumplings and studies journalism. She tweets sporadically at @phoebehartley.

Image: Devin SmithFlickr Creative Commons license