Whether you’re on a road trip or you’re just commuting to work, time spent in the car can be time that feels wasted.
Emphasis on “feels” because if you check out this list of productive things to do in the car, you might just figure out how to use that time more wisely than complaining about traffic.
In this guide, we’ll talk about productive things to do in the car for both the driver and the passengers, because obviously the driver is a lot more limited and really your eyes should be on the road, not anything else!
Productive Things to Do in the Car when You’re Driving
Let’s say you are the driver, responsible for getting yourself or you and your family from Point A to Point B without any major mishaps.
If you’re on an 8 hour journey, it can feel like the time is just slipping away from your while you sit there, looking at the same stretch of highway.
But because you’re the driver, you can commandeer the radio or sound system and do certain things to be productive!
1. Listen to Podcasts
Whether it’s a podcast about food blogging or financial news or a true crime podcast, there’s something about listening to podcasts rather than music that feels inherently more productive.
You can learn, engage your brain, and keep yourself updated on all of your favorite topics.
Choose shorter podcasts if you just want a quick dose of productivity, ranging from about 15 to 30 minutes, or you could settle in for the hour long ones (or more) if you have time to really get involved.
There are interview style podcasts, inspirational podcasts, practical podcasts to teach you any number of things – don’t think you’re “not a podcast person.”
You just haven’t found the right one yet if that’s your stance.
Here’s a handy list of podcasts to try:
- Up and Vanished: true crime
- Office Ladies: for fans of the hit show, the Office
- Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard: an interview style podcast led by Dax Shepard
- Stuff You Should Know: a practical podcast with, well, stuff you should know!
2. Listen to an Audio Book
For those who prefer the written word instead of a chatty type of podcast, choose a book you’ve been wanting to read and listen to it in an audio format during your drive.
Audible is great for this (get a free trial here), and there are so many books that actually sound even better when read out loud by the author or by voice actors.
3. Make Work or Personal Calls Wirelessly
If you’ve got a Bluetooth system like this one or the ability to make calls wirelessly within your car, you could make calls during your drive to be productive while driving if it’s allowed in your country or state.
From catching up on work calls to just calling your mom, there are so many people we need to and want to talk to that it can be overwhelming to fit everybody in.
Instead of spending time at home calling people, use the time in the car when you can’t do much of anything else!
Productive Things to Do in the Car as a Passenger
If you’re a passenger in the car, your list of potential productive things to do in the car goes wayyyy up.
Unlike the driver, you can focus on a screen, actually read a book, or do other things that are possible because you don’t have to keep your eyes on the road.
Here are some of my favorite things to do in the car as a passenger, brought about by lots and lots of road trips!
These are in addition to what you can do as the driver, as passengers can also listen to podcasts, listen to audio books, and make calls.
4. Do Offline Work on your Laptop
Whether it’s writing or some classic spreadsheets, you can catch up on work by doing it on your laptop in the car, as long as you choose tasks that don’t need internet access easily.
I find that I am able to get a lot of blog work done in terms of writing and editing when I’m a passenger, or I can also do things like graphic design.
If you want to keep it smaller, bring a tablet instead of a whole laptop, but don’t underestimate the amount of work you can get done in a car.
5. Organize Your Phone
Your phone gets bogged down by so much – apps, notifications, pictures, videos.
But the more clutter we have on our phones, that more clutter we have in our minds.
One of the most productive things to do on your phone and indeed in the car, is to clean it out!
Get rid of notifications for things you don’t want (my husband used to get notifications for his bank account every morning..why?!).
Delete pictures or screenshots that you no longer need.
Delete apps that you never use.
Use your car time to clean out your phone’s files and folders and you’ll feel better for it.
6. Clean Out Your E-mail
So many of us get e-mail on our phones, so we have full access to all of the newsletters we’ve accidentally signed up to and the junk that comes through.
Take time to purge your inbox from your phone, including clicking “unsubscribe” to every single newsletter that you don’t read regularly.
Seriously, you’re not going to read it in the future, even if you think you are.
Only keep what you regularly open and find useful.
For the others, hit that handy unsubscribe button and enjoy the clutter free life.
Studying for the MCATs, a job interview, or just a math test?
Bring your study materials along in the car with you to study.
From flashcards to study prep books to paper for practice problems, motivating yourself to study can be hard enough anyway, so why not do it during a time when the other available options of things to do is much more limited?
If the other people in the car are up for it, you can even get them quizzing you or asking you questions from your flashcards.
Got long stretches of road and nothing to do?
Use a meditation app to get your mind focused and practice your breathing and mindfulness.
Meditation isn’t something where you have to sit with your legs crossed chanting mantras.
You could do it without anyone noticing!
Meditation helps us stay productive and focus on how we want to feel and how we want to train our mind to function, and a monotonous car ride is a great time to focus on our innermost thoughts.