This week’s episode of the Work Awesome podcast features David Sparks. David hosts the popular Mac Power Users podcast, maintains a regular posting schedule on his MacSparky website and finds time to work as a full time lawyer. How does he do it? You’ll have to listen to find out…

Show Notes

  • David reveals how he manages to get all of his stuff done.
  • How he feels about the feedback he gets on the Mac Power Users podcast.
  • What David feels should come with the Mac…that doesn’t.
  • . . . and we talk tea, desks, what music spurs him on (if any) and much more.

This Week’s Sponsor

This episode of the Work Awesome podcast is sponsored by Memonic. Memonic makes note-taking a cinch. From clipping to filing and organizing information, they make the whole process a no-brainer, with the best web clipper out there, and an interactive dashboard that even lets you collect information socially, in groups, with your friends and colleagues. To get a free one-month premium trial of Memonic, enter the promo code G-6E7754W on their Plans Prices page.

If you enjoy the podcast, please let us know — and help others find out about us. Leave us a rating and review in iTunes. Thanks!


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In American football, there’s something called the “Red Zone.” It’s the part of the field inside the twenty yard line, and performance (both offensively and defensively) inside this area is one of the key determining factors of a team’s success or failure.

Teams that easily advance the ball down the field but can’t score in the Red Zone will lose football games. Similarly, teams that play great open field defense but can’t prevent scores in the Red Zone will lose. Performance within this very small sliver of the field often determines overall success or failure for a team.

A Red Zone of Success

A similar principle applies to life, work and productivity. There are certain activities that will determine success or failure, depending on how well and how consistently they are performed. It’s important to identify these Red Zone activities in life–the ones that will most affect your success or failure–and execute them flawlessly every time.

For example, here are some of my Red Zone activities.


If I am not constantly filling my brain with new thoughts, I’ve noticed that I start to wither and die. Regardless of how busy I am or how much demand is on my attention, I know that neglecting study will soon reap a dearth of new ideas and an overall lack of passion for my work. It doesn’t always feel like the most productive thing in the moment, but I know that it’s essential and that I must do it well and consistently.

Idea Time

I must constantly be building time into my schedule to generate ideas. I’m not an “a-ha!” in the shower kind of guy. Most of my great ideas come in the midst of purposeful ideation. When I don’t have these times structured into my life, everything else seems to become more difficult. I need to put these times on my calendar and execute them well each time.


I write a lot, but I’ve realized that if I don’t get at least a thousand words in each day, I tend to lost my momentum. The simple practice emptying my brain of new thoughts ensures that they don’t clog up the works. I’ve found that my writing endurance in on-demand situations is connected directly to this principle of forcing myself to write even when I don’t feel like it.


I need to protect the first part of my day and the window of time right after work for my family. I am not always great at this, but it’s something I’m aspiring to improve because I realize that the biggest impact I have on my family happens during these two windows of time.

As a result, I have tried to build “buffers” between work and family time so that I’m not rushing home, spending ten minutes in the driveway finishing a phone call, then storming into the house with a hundred things on my mind. When I am out of rhythm with the family, I am out of rhythm with everything.


None of the items on my list would traditionally be considered “highly productive” activities, yet they are critical because they increase my effectiveness when I’m engaging in my most important work. I’ve learned that it’s necessary to develop an effectiveness mindset, rather than one based on efficiency, in order to produce consistently over the long-term.

We need to identify the important practices that make us effective rather than relying on flash and show. It’s the linemen–the grunt workers–that provide the foundation for success in football. And it’s our willingness to stay disciplined about our effective (grunt work) practices that will provide the foundation for our everyday engagement.

These are just a few of my Red Zone activities. I’d love to hear about yours!

Image by americanistadechiapas via Flickr.

Increase your productivity

You see, we have all these tips around us that can dramatically increase our productivity, but we fail to incorporate them into our life.

I have heard some of these tips over and over again. I dismissed them and never used them because I thought they were nonsense.

Oh, how wrong I was!

By using the tips below, I was able to increase my productivity by over 500% practically overnight, and you can do the same.

1. Get Clear on What You Want

The first step is to get clear on what you want. In other words, set clear goals that motivate and inspire you to take action, right now.

Set one primary goal that if you achieve will have a dramatic impact on your life. When you focus on one goal, something funny happens: All of your secondary goals get the benefits as well.

But if you dilute your focus and try to do too many things at once, you won’t succeed in any of them.

So set specific, measurable, realistic and time sensitive goals in order to give your subconscious mind a target to aim at.

2. Figure Out Your Valuables

After you’ve set your goals, it’s time to figure out the 20% of tasks that will give you 80% or more of the results.

Focus only on high-value tasks that catapult you toward your goal. These tasks are usually the ones that you tend to procrastinate most.

The difference between productive and unproductive people is that productive people are willing to tackle the uncomfortable tasks head on. They have cultivated their self-discipline, and they know that while focusing on these tasks may not be the most fun thing in the world — this produces dramatic results.

3. Plan Your Day

Number three on our list is to plan your next day before you go to bed at night. This is as simple as writing down the top five things that you have to get done the next day. If you can accomplish these five things, your day will be a success.

Again, make sure that these tasks are high-value and produce dramatic positive consequences in your life if you accomplish them.

By planning your day before you go to bed, you give your subconscious something to chew on during the night. If you want to take it one step further, you can visualize every task going perfectly the next day.

4. Single-Task

We are inundated with distractions in this digital age. We have Twitter, e-mail, and Facebook distracting us all day long.

By single tasking and focusing on one thing at a time, you can dramatically increase your productivity. This step alone can make a huge difference in not only the speed at which you work, but the quality of work that you produce.

You can also take this one step further by setting an egg timer for each task. Estimate how long one task will take you and then set the timer for half the time.

You will be surprised at how fast you can get stuff done under pressure.

5. Practice Relentless Focus

It is easy to get distracted by other projects and opportunities that seem much better than the one you’re working on now.

Constantly focus your mind on your primary goal and let everything else fall to the wayside. You will be much more successful and get much more done.

Cultivate the habit of saying no to the things that do not bring you closer to your primary goal. And don’t worry, because you can always come back to other projects later on, but first you have to finish what you have in front of you.

6. Get Passionate

One of the big keys for me has always been to do work that I love to do. When you find your passion and go after it, you will be on fire and feel extremely motivated to get results.

I accept no other alternatives other than getting paid to do what I love. I’m willing to face my fears, overcome obstacles, and take risks to make it happen. When you have this kind of determination, your productivity will skyrocket, and you will feel amazingly good.

These are just some of the tips that if incorporated, you will increase productivity by many times.

And if you keep reading and applying just one new productivity tip into your life each and every week, you will be amazed at the results within just a year.

It all starts with the decision to become more productive. The choice is up to you. What do you choose?

Manage Work Life Better

The commute is killing you, the caffeine has you on edge and the shirt and tie is getting you hot under the collar. And that’s before we even mention the workload.

Modern life is a demanding beast and if you’re looking to manage your work life better, there’s one thing you need: Mobile broadband.

So how does a little thing like a dongle or a smartphone solve all of that? Remember when you used to stand in line for your morning coffee and look at the girl with headphones, her laptop and mug and think “she’s not really working”? Maybe there was a time she wasn’t, but today you can bet that she is working in an environment she likes.

“But how does she talk to her clients?”

She probably uses communications platforms such as Skype or Oovoo. Calling computer-to-computer is free and calling a landline is less expensive than using the blower.

“But what if she needs to have a meeting?”

Then she gets in her car, or catches a train and still manages her work life. If there’s no time, or getting to see clients is expensive, video conferencing will give her the face-time she needs without hours or days of travel. If the job is a short one, it can probably be finished more quickly this way than if travel were added to the equation.

“How does one share paperwork?”

If she’s dealing in office documents like Word, or Excel, she might be using Dropbox, which is an online storage system that allows documents to be stored in files on the Internet. The file is shared via an email invite. Suddenly the need to be in the same room as the person you’re working with is gone.

Alternatively, there are dedicated content management systems such as Basecamp that can house the entire content for a project and allow two or more people to collaborate on a single document at the same time.

There is also Google Docs which does the same. It has an added function of Instant Messaging Chat (IM) that allows collaborators to chat through their process as they are working. Colour coding allows users to see who has added what to the mix, so all the rules of collaborative working apply, just within an online framework.

Take a step back for a moment and you’ll see that using these tools, the gal in the cafe can hire and collaborate with people anywhere in the world. Add Paypal to the equation and she can unlock expertise in foreign markets and often for a better price than we would find it at home. That’s valuable. Equally, if her own patch is a little dry she can find work in foreign markets and receive payment in exactly the same way.

“What if one’s on the road all day?”

Then she’s on her smartphone. The name is no mistake, smartphones are smart.

Take Dropbox as an example: She has the app on her phone, which is synced with her online account. When documents are updated, the Dropbox app will tell her. If something needs her urgent attention, she’ll immediately know to make the time for it somewhere in her day. Documents are inactive for much less time this way than if they are sitting in an in tray in an office somewhere.

If she’s travelling a lot she’ll have an app like Kayak, which allows her to compare flight, hotel and rental car prices on the phone. Once her itinerary is booked, she can check flight status in real time and have instant access to the airlines contact information. If her plans need to change, she can make other arrangements before she’s late for everything.

“How does she manage her contacts if she doesn’t have an office?”

Social networks are the new rolodex. And it’s not just about Facebook. Professional networks such as LinkedIn allow colleagues past and present to stay connected. Profiles are regularly updated so that you can see what your contacts have been up to and whether you can be useful to one another today.

Networking itself doesn’t have to be a face-to-face exercise either. Twitter is a great platform for meeting new people in your field. Following their tweets also gives you an insight into what innovations they are interested in.

“So, I can manage my work life while sitting in a cafe too?”

Yes, technology has evolved to a point where it is working for us. All the frameworks are there to save us time and money, to breakdown geographical barriers and allow us to explore markets that were once out of the reach of the average working person. The number of online businesses have increased exponentially as individuals harness the Internet to make a living.

But there is a caveat to all this:

Just because it’s online doesn’t mean we can forget what it’s fundamentally all about: human relationships. And there’s no app for that.

Do you make your work life smoother with the Internet? Got tips?


This week’s episode of the Work Awesome podcast features Adam King. Adam is a highly-respected online writer, as evidenced by his inclusion in the Read Trust network, and last month he sparked a bit of a renewed interest for many in the power of paper-based productivity with his piece entitled “The Daily Rind”.

Show Notes

  • Adam King offers insight on why he has jumped back into using paper, and why he’s never totally left the digital realm of productivity behind, either.
  • He discusses a passion of his and his latest venture, Ethical Coffee.
  • Where (and why) he got started with his “online life”.
  • . . . and he offers his preferences when it comes to workspaces, whether music plays into his work environment, and the usual questions guests are asked to wrap up the podcast.

If you enjoy the podcast, please let us know. Leave us a rating and review in iTunes; it’s the best way to help people find us. For those who’ve been listening and have already left a rating and review — thank you!

We’re always looking for feedback so don’t hesitate to leave a comment on the episode post itself so that we can do what we can to make the podcast more awesome!


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Though many people dream of working designing their own work schedule and getting projects done in their pajamas, working from home isn’t always a picnic. Yet, if you have taken the telecommuter option or have embarked upon a home-based business, here are a few tips to keep you sane, thriving, and productive on the home front.

Set Up Your Working Space

Though the basement level of your home may seem like the ideal place to set up your home office, if there’s no sunlight and it’s cold and musty, chances are you won’t be very productive there. The kitchen table isn’t a great option either—constant traffic and homework mixed in with your work files doesn’t contribute to your productivity.

Try This Instead: Set up shop in different rooms of your home and see where you feel most ready for working and where you get the most accomplished. Some love to place their desk facing a window so they can look out. For others, seeing the neighbors hanging their laundry is too much of a distraction. Before you start any home office construction projects, figure out what space suits you best.

Dress for Success

Some work-from-homers insist that they can’t take themselves or their work seriously if they aren’t showered and put together for the day. While many envision that working from home means never getting out of your yoga pants and sweatshirt, that doesn’t work for everyone. And then there are some who are just as productive in their skivvies as in their suit.

Try This Instead: Experiment with different outfits to find which works for you. If you’re a freelance writer, maybe you can pull off the pajamas and ponytail. If you meet frequently with clients, you may not be able to evade business attire.

Watch Your Intake

When the refrigerator is just a quick walk down the hall and no one is monitoring your time card, it’s easy to get into the habit of taking breaks by visiting the kitchen for a snack. This can first lead to under-productivity, as the short breaks sometimes turn into long breaks when you notice the dishwasher really ought to be emptied and the silverware rearranged.

Secondly, it can lead to weight gain.

Try This Instead: Don’t get into the habit of rewarding yourself with food when you finish a project or popping into the kitchen when you feel bored or isolated. Set a regular meal schedule and then if you need a break step outside, not into the kitchen.

Strategize Your Work Schedule

Studies show that you are really only to handle about 90 minutes of solid work. After that point your brain starts to overload and productivity decreases. Eight hours of solid work isn’t always as productive as it seems.

Try This Instead: Schedule and divide your day’s tasks into manageable chunks, and then intersperse other activities. If you work for several different clients, take each one and plan to work on your project for about 90 minutes, then transition to something else.

Part of the benefit of setting your own schedule is being able to do your errands when the rest of the world is at work. So be strategic. Work for an hour or two then take that grocery store break. Come back, put in another hour or two and then take a break to meet a client or return some phone calls.

You get more done in more areas of your life when you break up the tasks and alternate them, giving you brain and body the chance to refresh and reset.

Get a Group

Now that you don’t have the office crowd, you’ll need to be more intentional about establishing community. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t need it. You will actually be more productive and saner while you’re working when you make the time for interaction.

Try This Instead: Consider joining a small business networking group or your local Toastmasters chapter. Meet other people doing work similar to yours. We all need encouragement and connections. And you never know when the connections may lead to more work. These groups have a mindset geared towards helping each other succeed.

Make time for your friends as well. Schedule lunch dates or, if you have other work-from-home friends, suggest meeting up at a coffee shop to spend the afternoon working there. This gives you the chance to have a little social time and a change of scenery, while still getting work done.

Work It Out

Being inside all day can drive anyone crazy. Working from home can be even more sedentary than an office job. The farthest you walk may be from your computer to the bathroom. This not only contributes to weight gain and poor physical health, it’s also is a recipe for depression and anxiety. Add exercise to your daily to-do list and give it the same priority as a work appointment.

Try This Instead: A daily walk or run, especially first thing in the morning, is a great way to clear your head, mentally organize your projects for the day, and stay in shape.

Though many think they’d love to work from home, it isn’t as effortless as it seems. Telecommuters and freelancers have to be intentional and strategic to make working this way happen.

How do you work from home efficiently? Got something to add to the list?

Photo by Anna Gay


Have you experienced the frustration of a job search or tried seeking the attention of a recruiter?

If you’re looking for a job, you’ve probably encountered a million articles and how-to tips about how to dress at interviews, or the right way to format your resume.

The truth is, however, that the majority of them are missing the point. They’re addressing the problem of how to land the job after you’ve already gotten a call back.

The Myth of Equality

Many companies and the job boards behind them paint an idyllic picture of how recruitment works. They would often have you believe that the world is an utterly fair place and they evaluate each candidate on the basis of their skills and history. If this were true, your resume would have as much chance as any other person.

However, the numbers paint a different story about how jobs are actually portioned out.

The Reality of Hiring

Having been on both sides of table for the hiring process as a recruiter and hiring manager, as well as a job seeker, I can tell you that the reality of hiring is very different.

It all comes down to one single fact: The number one source of hires is from employee referral.*

The reality is that recruiters and hiring managers often have to sort through hundreds if not thousands of resumes. If you’re going through a job board, your chances are very slim out of the gate.

The most important part of selling yourself for your next job or employer is about how to get them to even LOOK at your resume in the first place. It’s not to say that job boards don’t work (they are still the #2 source of hires), but if you don’t have a strong resume or aren’t a great fit for the position, your chances of getting a call back decrease dramatically.

Get a Second Look from a Recruiter

The quickest shortcut you can do to get to the top of the pile on the desk of a recruiter is to get an employee referral. As a hiring manager, I’ve phone interviewed people who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten a call back on the basis of a referral. This is because referrals are endorsements from employees.

If an employee took the time tor refer this person, it means that they are taking a personal stake in that person’s success within the company. Through their referral, they’re endorsing the person and saying they are a good cultural match for the company as well as a good fit for the job.

Also, there’s just the power of a relationship. If an employee sends me a resume, I’m going to give it a second look out of respect for that person.

Maximize Your Chances in One Afternoon

If you’re trying to get a job, the single most important thing you can focus on is your relationships. Here are three ways you can get started on becoming an employee referral, rather than just another resume in the pile.

1. Start by making a list of dream companies

The first thing you can do is create a list of companies you’re interested in working for. Getting to the list can be a simple project, and doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Think of it like a brainstorm to help clarify your thoughts about what kind of job you want, and companies you aspire to work at.

You can start this search by going to Monster, CareerBuilder or LinkedIn. If you’re looking for a specific job function, you can type in titles (like “Accounting” or “Marketing”) and filter by distance from your home to come up with a list of companies that are hiring.

If you’re less specific and instead looking for something like a startup job, you can visit some of the top blogs in the industry (e.g., TechCrunch for tech startups) and looking through articles and writing down a list of companies that sound interesting. This creates your target list of companies.

2. Send an email to your friends

The next step is to email your friends about your search. Your personal network is a very powerful asset. Many people are nervous about asking their friends for help. Think back about the last time you helped a friend. How did that make you feel? The reality is that helping a friend can feel really rewarding. The worst thing they can say is no.

Page through your address book, Facebook or LinkedIn, and start sending emails out to friends. Personal one to one emails are better. If they don’t work at one of your target companies, use the brainstorm step earlier to send them a general email describing what you’re looking for and asking if they have any suggestions or people you should meet. If they do work at a company your’e interested in, even better! Tell them you’re interested in working there and would love to hear about their experiences with the recruiter.

3. Clean up your LinkedIn

Finally, LinkedIn can be a very powerful helper in your job search because it shows the second degree connections to a company. If your target company is Microsoft and you have fifty friends on LinkedIn that don’t work at Microsoft, LinkedIn will still show you a list of your friend’s friends who work there.

Finding these second-degree connections through LinkedIn can be a great way to get in touch with a company that you’re hiring for. It’s always impressive when a candidate takes the initiative to connect directly with a company. It demonstrates that they’re actually interested in the company and not just out to get any job.

It Takes One Great Connection

The challenge of finding your next dream job can be a roller coaster of ups and downs. Don’t get discouraged. While it may feel like there are a lot of hurdles to get through or companies which won’t call you back, keep in mind that it only takes one amazing connection to land you in the job of your dreams.

How do you grab the attention of a recruiter?

*Source: (CareerXRoads 2010 Source of Hire Report)

Photo by meddygarnet via Flickr

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This week’s podcast features Pace and Kyeli Smith of The Connection Revolution. In this interview, they discuss the power of connecting with yourself and your true passions, which can go a long way in revolutionizing the way you work and live.

Pace and Kyeli are going to be attending this weekend’s World Domination Summit, as hosted by Chris Guillebeau and his team of dedicated volunteers. The summit (known as #WDS on Twitter) is going to bring 500 like-minded people from across the globe to Portland, Oregon for an truly inspiring weekend — and the connections that will be forged and the revolutionizing of lives that will take place are right up Pace and Kyeli’s alley.

Show Notes

  • Pace and Kyeli discuss their 52 Weeks to Awesome e-course.
  • Their thoughts on the notion of New Year’s Resolutions.
  • What are their stories behind their successes?
  • What they think people can do to elevate their game.
  • . . . and they each reveal their drinks of choice, work areas and tools that help them, well, work awesome.

If you enjoy the podcast, please let us know. Leave us a rating and review in iTunes; it’ll help people find us and build up our listenership. For those who’ve been listening for quite some time — thank you! We’ve got some great guests lined up (David Sparks, Adam King, among others) in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. . .!


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Do you know what the First Law of Freelancing is? “It’s all right to have a 9-5 job and slack at the workplace. But if you freelance from home, you can’t afford to.”

Needless to say, if you’re a freelancer, you must adhere to the First Law. Freelance writers must monitor themselves all the time and stay disciplined as they enjoy working on their own terms. But how?

Following are some ways you can combine freelancing with discipline.

10 Ways to Freelance with Discipline

1. Sleeping Habits

If you are a morning person and get the flow going in the morning, it’s important that you sleep early. Similarly, if you are an afternoon or late evening person to get your mojo working, you can afford to sleep late and wake up late. Whatever works!

2. Perseverance

When the going gets tough, the tough don’t go to sleep. By this, we mean the shortage of freelance work. In an ideal world, there should be enough work for everybody. But it’s never the case. And again, it’s all about timing and knowing the market, which means, you have to keep exploring different markets until you find what is right for you. It took me almost a year to get some semblance of income from freelancing. The upshot? Keep at it and you will succeed sooner or later.

3. Writer’s Block

Sometimes, you just don’t feel like working.You would rather be watching TV, reading a book or going outdoors. But there are deadlines to meet and someone’s got to meet them. Since you are on your own, it’s got to be you.

So how do you beat the block? To begin with, by writing about the absence of your muse. When it happens again, you can have “conversations with god”. Open up a word document and ask your questions on writing and then, answer them on behalf of god. It works. Just try it. By the end of this exercise, you would have got into the writing groove and ready to take the writing plunge.

4. Versatility

You have to be game to do any kind of writing, be it technology, health, business, parenting, economics, and what have you.

The moral? You have to say ‘yes’ to every writing assignment that comes your way if you want to find your nichethink. This includes writing for magazines, newspapers, greeting card companies, advertising and PR agencies, websites and posters. Not to mention, t-shirt slogan writing, resumes, ebooks, ezines and even ghostwriting.

5. Complacency

It’s very easy to get lazy once you start freelancing. And now, with the internet, it gets easier to copy ideas and even copy-paste key phrases and paragraphs. But the moment, the editor runs a Copyscape on your writing, you will be found out.

Therefore, it’s always best to stick to original writing.

6. Syndication

There was a time when one could send the same writing to different publications and they would accept them. Today, most publishing houses prefer exclusive content. And those who accept reprints pay a lot less and are a rarity.

But this should not give you the license to con the editors by sending the same piece to different publications in different markets. Remember, sooner or later, you could be found out. However, you can always rewrite and re-orient your piece to suit different publications. The lack of syndication will only make you work harder. Be up to it.

7. Portfolio

To showcase your writing to prospective clients, it’s important to assemble the best of your work online. It’s easier for them to view it. Therefore, it’s important to be professional about it and create a website to showcase the same. One page that links your key articles to the newspaper/magazine websites and another page that has a brief profile on you should do the deed.

8. Blogging

For freelance writers, it’s important to write all the time, even if they don’t have anything to do. This will keep them in the writing groove. It’s like a vaccine shot that keeps the antibodies ready to counter any new virus. If your writing ammunition is sharpened every day, your mind is ever ready to take on any writing assignment and do it well within the deadline. Therefore, cultivate a blog and ramble along. Who knows, if your blog attracts a good readership of its own, you could make money through it too.

9. Reading

If you want to be a good writer, it’s important to keep reading. The more you read, the more you will get into the groove of a writer. And the more you will think like one. Therefore, it’s important to surround yourself with exceptional writers and thinkers. To begin with, you could visit aldaily.com. It’s the best compendium of all news that’s hot in cyberspace.

10. Boredom

Like any job, freelancing can get boring after a point. But there’s a cure for that. As you write one assignment, and suddenly feel like stopping it and starting another, just go ahead and do it. Similarly, you are reading one book and feel like starting another, just go for it. Listen to your mood. You will be happier that way. And if it’s about taking a break altogether from work, go ahead and take it.

That’s the beauty of freelancing. You can set your time and pace and experience complete freedom from traffic and daily deadlines. Just don’t overdo it.

How do you practice discipline as a freelance writer? Got more tips?

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The daily commute to and from work can be a drag. Given the state of the job market, some workers are commuting more than an hour a day. But let’s get this: Our ride time shouldn’t necessarily be our dead time.

6 Ways to Make Most Out of Your Commute

Despite what many think, long, dull commutes can be made interesting and productive. Here are six tips on how to increase your productivity en route and make the most of your commute to work:

1. Get an Education

Ancient Rome, nuclear physics, the history of World War II—today there’s an online lecture series to tickle every intellectual curiosity. Go to a university’s website to see what free online audio classes are offered, or download courses through iTunes. Sync up your iPod and you’re stocked with brain-bending material to maximize your ride to work.

Online course through iTunes U courses are just like regular university classes minus the credits. Professors have recorded a semester’s worth of classes that you can download. Many even have syllabi to help you follow along.

2. Learn a Language

Your iPod is a great tool for more than tunes. Take that commute time and expand your horizons with a new language. Planning a trip to Paris next spring? Download French lessons. Always wanted to be able to talk to your Chinese neighbors? Find a Mandarin course.

After you’ve mastered the grammar basics, go a step further to seek out radio broadcasts and lectures in your language—all widely available online or through iTunes. People give you a stare as you’re speaking along with your Italian lesson, but the ability to parlare italiano will be worth the odd looks on the subway.

3. Keep Up With Current Events

Though not a new innovation on how to pass commute time, people have been reading the newspaper on the morning train for decades. It’s worth a reminder. Many of us get our news in mini-snippets when we pop open our web browsers, but we’re missing out on fine journalism and nuanced reporting when we just grab the bytes.

Find the best-quality newspaper in your area and get a subscription (you often save money over buying at the newsstand) and then toss it in your briefcase. Plug in to what’s going on in the world and your community. You’ll be everyone’s favorite conversationalist at your next cocktail party.

4. Talk to Someone

Not on your cell phone—this is a major annoyance to your fellow commuters whether on the train or in traffic. Step outside the comfortable norm and strike up a conversation with your seatmate on the train. And don’t judge your fellow rider by his suit or her handbag—you never know who you might be sitting next to.

People who are personable, friendly, and outgoing make more friends and business contacts than their introverted counterparts. Chances are you see a lot of the same people each day as you all ride to work. Start by saying hello to a fellow rider or ask about a book they’re reading. “People time” is never wasted time.

5. Read

Trash the trashy romance novels and use your time to get through the best literature the world has to offer. A solid reading list like the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels is a prime place to start. If your commute is spent with you behind the wheel, then book-reading isn’t recommended, but these classics are easily found in audiobook format. Listening to books still counts as reading!

Here’s the first five from the Modern Library’s famous “Best 100” list to get you started:

[Added by Tina] Or be motivated, pick up some of my favorite books that will give you a butt-kick in taking massive action for your creative and entrepreneurial projects.

6. Work Out During Commute

Few of us are fortunate enough to be situated so closely to our places of employment that we could walk or bike there, but if your job is less than a 30 or 40 minute walk from your home, you might consider hoofing it. Many job-goers have also taken up biking as their means of getting from point A to point B.

For train and subway commuters, while it isn’t exactly a workout, try standing instead of sitting and burn up to fifty extra calories. Take the stairs to your train platform, park in the farthest corner of the parking lot, skip the elevator on the way to your office. Little fitness efforts can have a big payoff.

Your commute time doesn’t have to be dead time. What are you doing to get the most out of your ride?

Photo by Mikael Colville-Andersen via Flickr.com.

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