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Ask HN: How do you occupy yourself on your daily commute?
16 points by vertigolimbo 5 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 22 comments
I am interested how do you spend your time on your commute, especially - how do you spend time productively?

I tend to avoid screens (e.g. mobile, laptop) because I already spend most of my day in the front of a screen. Besides, internet coverage is almost nonexistent on the tube.

Audiobooks, podcasts are great but it's easy to doze off.

Other options are newspapers and crosswords (but it quickly becomes impossible due to large crowds).

How do you spend time productively on your commute? Any interesting insights?






I used to listen to radio, podcasts, interviews, etc. I found that they were not productive. Most were quite random, mostly trivia, the kind you would read on articles on HN. They didn't have the depth of a good book. It's hard to read anything with the depth of a good book; commutes don't give you the focus needed.

I drive to work. Now I wind down the windows and focus on the road. I listen to my car. I try to 'glide' the car, getting it as fast as possible without needing to press the brakes, feeling it as it turns on the curves, feeling the jolts as the gear changes. I observe the flow of traffic, trying to see which lanes are faster or slower, maybe even reverse engineer why so.

It's relaxing. Not really a waste because it wakes me up in the morning so I can focus properly on work.


I take public transit now, but that's how I used to cope with car commute too. I'd get into "the flow" of driving. It was a form of meditation and I still paid full attention to the road.

This is basically a type of meditation.

Here in Switzerland, the commute time could be quite long. I personally am changing at least 3 transports to go to work every morning with a total time of 1 hour.

I have a subscription to Wired magazine and take an edition every day. Sometimes, when I am bored with it, or I finish the edition for the month, I bring along a paperback from my favorite author - Clive Cussler. Strongly recommend his amazing sea adventures. Moreover, his books date back to the 70s, and there are already quite a lot of them. The paperback format is perfectly fitting into my backpack.

When even those reach a level of saturation... I just listen to music and look outside. You will be surprised how many NEW things you actually discover for the place you are living in the last even 10+ years.


Thank you for suggesting Clive Cussler. I was looking for some good fiction to read so might try his work.

My guess that in Switzerland there're plenty of places to look outside during your commute. Not all countries are so picturesque.


My commute used to be ~40min by car (stop by the gym for an hour) then ~2h by train in the morning, and then ~2h by train and ~60+min by car in the afternoon not withstanding accidents or delays which happened nearly weekly. Toss in a 20min shuttle ride to get from the train to the office. Now I work for the same place but from home. The car rides were audiobooks (mostly sci-fi and fantasy with some dips into non-fiction). The train rides usually involved a small amount of HN time, then working on the laptop or sometimes talking through ideas with coworkers as they joined the train. If not that, then audiobooks. Rarely, I'd play an offline video game. My shuttle rides were mostly Hearthstone.

I can't imagine dozing off during an audiobook I like. I'm more likely to miss my stop (being overly captivated) than to zone out. I can't count the number of times I would get to my stop at such a cliff hanger that I couldn't wait to get back on the train in the evening (though I enjoyed being in the office and my work).

Maybe you can try shaking up what you are listening to. Not everything is about raw productivity. You need to take time for yourself. This so happens to help increase productivity during normal productivity hours.


That adds up to 32 hours a week of commuting plus delays. What the?!

Depends on the commute.

I used to have a quite long commute on the subway - 1.5 hours in one direction. What worked well in the morning was getting up a bit earlier, doing some exercise, eating a good breakfast with time to spare, then relaxing with a book on the train (fiction, non-fiction, really anything that tickles my fancy, something engaging) - especially nice buzz after a morning warmup. The evening reverse commute wasn't that much fun, the best use of time was leaving a little earlier, tidying up non-urgent 'for info' emails for 40 minutes, then some music as a barrier between work and non-work; not every waking moment needs to be 'productive'.

With another company, with a shuttle bus, an hour each way, most of the bus slept but I continued to read, stared out of the window at passing fields, plus found reading at the end of the day OK when comparing to the subway at the end of the day. I also had a 'bus buddy' which consisted long fun conversations if we were on the same bus. I also didn't eat anything for a couple of hours before leaving - things settled on stomach tended to make me sleepy in afternoons.

I understand the tube will be getting mobile reception in the coming months. It will be interesting to see if London transitions to carriages of people with their heads in their phones like most underground systems around the world. I hope not; implicit pressure to check and respond to emails before and after work can be pervasive/invasive - busy doesn't mean productive.

I now walk about 20 minutes, just walk, with no distractions from walking, arrive a bit earlier and keep up reading or other activities through an extended lunch break.


My commute is an hour each way, more or less. On my 10 minute drive to the train, I listen to the radio, usually NPR or Bloomberg.

On my 30-40 minute commuter train ride, I either browse around or focus on some personal side projects, programming or writing. During this time, I listen to music. Typically podcasts or YouTube videos. These are 1hr+ episodes so I typically finish them after my 10 minute walk to the office.

I used to program on a daily basis, but I realized I burned out quite a bit in the recent past so I just go with the flow now.


My commute is an 1.5 hrs each way, mostly by train. My industry still expects 8hr work days minimum (yes, it's archaic and annoying). I work on the train (2 hrs total) and only spend 6hrs in the office.

15 to 25min drive. Through main city arteries with many lanes and many bad drivers, so do not much spare brain power for learning or even entertainment. Radio or just silence and focus on the road. Might milk over a work or side project problem at those red light stops. Thankfully a short commute.

I have a train commute via the NYC subway. I also try to avoid screens... with one exception.

I mostly read paper books, if the book I am reading is comfortable to carry. If I can't read I'll listen to something - either a fun podcast or an audio course.

That said, lately I've been watching movies on the commute home. I can get ~20-30 mins in and then finish the rest after I get home. Doesn't always work well but I am experimenting with it.


A fair amount of the time I read Hacker News!

Nah, on a more serious note, I often end up writing in my free time when commuting. Sometimes it's simply notes about possible web development projects I'd like to work on when I get access to a computer, other times its drafts for articles I plan on posting to Medium/my own news site at some point, or notes on level design ideas for video games I'm working on.


My current commute is relatively short, on super crowded train and bus and requires a switch so all I can do is listen to something and I prefer podcasts. From learning Swedish, through isoteric mumbling to technical stuff.

When I had a commute time of around 45 minutes on a relatively uncrowded train and a short bus ride before and after I used to read books on an eReader and compliment with occasional podcast on the buses.


I'm in Helsinki and I have a 15-20 minute tram-ride from the bottom of my street to the center of the city.

Mostly I continue reading a book on my kindle. Some days I look out of the window(s) and enjoy the scenery. Though if it's a very nice day I might just get out and walk instead.


I go through audiobooks and podcasts. Sadly it's mainly audiobooks as my favorite podcasts publish only on average once a month

I read paper books on my 20 minute each way commute. I put the phone on Airplane mode and just immerse as much as possible in it.

I usually go for books from my wife's collection so stuff I'd never normally go for


I commute by bicycle.

My colleague cycles and listens to audiobooks. Works for him, but I find it too distracting. Besides, you would need a good pair of headphones that let the outside sound in.

Cycling with headphones is one of my pet peeves. It’s really dangerous. Ears are a really valuable tool for a cyclist.

Occupied by survival then?

I read programming books



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