Top 10 ways to be productive in a traffic jam

Getting home today was a nightmare. Traffic Chaos – everywhere! This got me thinking about what productive things I can do when driving by myself and stuck in a traffic jam. It is NOT as simple as waiting for a delayed train where I can simply write/read and use my smartphone without worrying about causing an accident.

1. Relax – Listen to the Radio

This is my default in the car when travelling home as it gives me half an hour of relaxing, singing and down-time before getting home and being productive again. However, if I am stuck in traffic for a long time I soon get bored (or frustrated with traffic reports).

2. Catch up on Phone Calls

If you have a hands-free kit, being stuck in traffic is perfect for all those phone calls you haven’t got round to doing – checking in with relatives,friends, work, returning missed calls from earlier in the day, or chasing/booking in the repair guy.

3. Listen to Audiobooks or Podcasts

If you have a huge reading list – sometimes the best way to get through it is by listening to it. Whether you do this on a regular basis during your commute or simply have a few emergency ones ready for heavy traffic jams – you should build up a collection of interesting content – it can beat listening to stupid phone in competitions on the radio.

4. Dictate/Record Lists

My mind always starts to wander while stuck in a traffic jam – this time is perfect for making either targeted lists (such as a grocery list, a to-do list for the following day) or simply noting things that spring to mind at random to review and organise later.

5. Practice a Language / Memorising Key Facts

If you are learning a language (yes, I am when I remember) or having an exam or test, being alone in the car can be the perfect time to rehearse or practice out loud. No one can hear you and anyone else will just think you are on the handsfree or singing along with the radio like everyone else.

6. Practice for a Presentation, an interview or a difficult conversation

Practice makes perfect. Whatever you need to practice for – quality alone time during your drive can, once again, be the perfect time to practice. Yes! Out loud.

7. Plan and Progress

I always get agitated when stuck in a traffic jam because I think ‘I have so much to do’ or ‘I need to be doing X right now’ when you have these moments – stop and think is there any way you can be progressing those items right now – whether it is creating a dictation, recording a YouTube Video or podcast, delgating work by making a phone call – if there is anything you can be doing (safely) do it!

8. Eat on the Go

I sometimes eat during my commute anyway – if you eat breakfast on the way to work (or make arrangements for dinner to be ready for when you get in in the evening) it can be a great time saver – which means that you can get straight on to the important stuff when you get out of the traffic jam and reach your destination.

9. Problem-Solve and Generate Ideas

Being productive isn’t just about capturing your ideas – it is also about having the time to think outside the box, brainstorm and let your mind wander. Identify particular things that you want to address or solve and tackle those problems instead of getting stressed and agitated by the traffic.

10. Take a detour and stop somewhere

Today I was stuck in a traffic jam outside the local mall and was weighing up the possibility of going there instead to wait for the traffic to clear and get some shopping done instead. I didn’t today but I have done this a number of times which has saved me doing the shopping at the weekend (and had a much easier journey home by waiting it out).

So that’s is – my top 10 ways to be productive in a traffic jam and making the most of the bad situation.

How do you use your time when stuck in a traffic jam?

The Filofax Project: The Career Project

I have been participating in the Filofax Project hosted by Janet Carr of This Bug’s Lfe by sharing my Career Project Filofax.

My fifth and final post is now available on her website: Post No 5 for The Career Project.

You can catch up with the previous posts here:

Catch up with the other Filofax Projects by visiting the Index.

Why bother with a Routine Task List?


You may be wondering why I use a routine task list at all,
and why I recommend that you use one too.

Well let me start by saying that this process only works
well, if YOU work well with lists. If to-do lists and checklists are not really
your thing this method probably is not really for you. However, the odds are if
you are reading this blog you work well with paper-based organisational systems
such as notebooks, Filofaxes and binders – which usually incorporate Lists.

The choice to use a routine task list in part comes from the
fact that I know I work well with lists but it is more than that:

  • a routine task list forms the outline for my to-do list. It is based on regular tasks that I do and creates a routine out of them.
  • It gives me a starting point so I don’t procrastinate while working out what to do first – this list starts me off. (it also stops the ‘what to do next moments’).
  • It creates a habit. The routine becomes a habit.
  • It can be personalised – I tweak it every month based on what works well and
    what doesn’t – additionally I can choose to focus heavily in a particular
    area of my life should I need to – for example August and September were focussed on career development, whereas October and November will have a writing focus.

In summary, having a
list makes my free time more targeted and cuts down on idle and unnecessary
procrastination while having the flexibility to mould and adapt to my lifestyle
and working practices.

What to do with your Routine Task List?

Following on from part one of how to write your daily
routine task list
, this time round we are thinking more about what to do with
your routine task list and where to put this list so that you actually use it –

Consider the way you work – where are your other daily
tasks, what dictates what you do in any given day – is it your phone, your
diary, outlook and emails? If you could pinpoint one thing that rules your life what would it be?

Paper-Based Systems

If you are a fan of paper-based systems write your daily
routine list in your diary or Filofax.  There
are some great methods of doing this including:

  • Using a grid.
  • Using a checklist.
  • Using your page marker.

For my blogging and writing daily routine I use a
personalised daily routine notebook each month.

Using an App

If you are tied to your iphone or other smart phone using a
dedicated productivity app might be the best solution for you. Whether you use
a habit tracker style checklist such as daily goals or a to-do list as your app
of choice – make sure you pick something that you like to use. Your
choice can be based on visual appeal or functionality – it doesn’t matter
provided you like to use it as the more you like it, the more likely you are to
use it.

What did you choose?

How to Write a Routine Task List

I love checklists. I believe that using checklists for your job can be a great way to streamline your working processes and save time. I use on the job checklists for routine tasks, specific projects and personal routines.

My routine task list is a daily checklist and is personalised to suit my daily needs. I find that having a routine task list focuses my daily routine so that I am not wasting time when there are things that need to be done.

How to Write a Routine Task List

1. Take a week to plan

a week as an experiment and write down what you DO each day. You can
use you binder, planner or a blank piece of paper to write this down.
The easiest way is to simply make a running list – you will be surprised
at what you do in any given day.

2. Analyse your week

you have created the list the next step is to analyse this list. Use
either different colour pens, highlighters and marks and identify the
tasks in the following categories:

  • those that you do EVERY DAY,
  • those that you do on a WEEKDAY
  • those that are DAY specific.

Strike out those that are not routine tasks.  We are ignoring those ones today.

3. Create your list

about the order you do these routine tasks in or the order that you
want to do them in. For example you could split your list into morning,
afternoon and evening. I do. Then simply order the items on the list in
an order that works for you. For example: in order of importance or the
order you want to do them.

Great. So you have written the list – now what? Check back next Tuesday for part 2:  ‘What to do with your Routine Task List’.