Nine months ago, I moved to be closer to my boyfriend after grad school. Unfortunately, it meant I was going to have an hour-long commute to get to work every day.

The drive itself doesn’t bother me, but it does mean that right in the middle of my most productive morning hours, I have to get in a car where I can’t do anything else. On more than one occasion, I’ve had to stop in the middle of working on a project at home just so I can get to work on time.

In a world where we try to accomplish something every waking minute, this can be really frustrating. It can be more so if that’s your only time to get personal projects done. Despite this hour chunk of time cutting into my most productive hour, I’ve found ways to still make that time useful, or use it to prepare for the day ahead.

Make an awesome playlist

While you can’t do anything with your hands except drive, making a music playlist to jam out to can help wake you up. On days where I had a hard time actually getting out of bed, I pull up my favorite music and blast the tunes. It immediately puts me in a good mood, so by the time I get to work, I’m ready to take on the day.

What’s also fun is that in the current novel series I’m writing, my story involves mentions of music and songs for scenes. It’s fun to shuffle my music and search for songs that might fit into certain chapters. I can’t physically write the book, but I can at least get in the right mood for it. If you want to check out new tunes and a great story, catch up with Soul Forgotten before the release of Soul Remembered.

Find inspiring podcasts or audiobooks

Another great resource when you’re struggling in the morning is listening to a great podcast or audiobook. I always save up my inspirational podcasts for my morning commute when I know I’ll be the most frustrated. I can just hop in the car and get humor, inspiration, and knowledge in a nice package. It really gets me pumped up, gives me new ideas, and helps me learn. Audiobooks are great as well, especially when you have a good narrator, are into the story, or are using it as inspiration. I’m always more excited for the day after getting some good life advice.

Record voice notes

Do you find that, similar to when you’re in the shower, you get your best ideas on a drive to work? Where are you going to write down these ideas?

I’ve heard of people dictating their novels on the way to work, and if I ever figure out how to do it for myself I’m going to have about ten novels come out every year. Until then, I use voice notes or voice-to-text to help write down some ideas or thoughts. I do have to remember to transfer those notes into a notebook when I get to the office so I don’t lose any ideas. You never know when inspiration will strike!

Talk to someone

Talk, not text. Use your commute to knock off a few other tasks from your list. No one is awake when I drive to work so I rely on my commute home to catch up with family on the phone. My mom is a great companion for the drive home, and if I don’t call her, she calls me worrying as to why I haven’t checked in. As long as you can talk and drive, use that time for catching up with people. When you get to work or get home, you’ll have more time to spend doing productive work.

Visualize, set goals, and review your MIT

My favorite part about my drive in the morning is the ability to visualize and set goals for my day, week, year, or life. It’s the perfect time to let my thoughts run wild and see where they go. Usually it starts with reviewing my most important tasks for when I get to work, but eventually it carries off on a tangent and I start thinking about my books, side-business, or some future exciting thing that could happen if I followed advice in a podcast.

My commute is the best time to think about my novels, play around with scenes, and come up with new plots. It’s also a great time to review my tasks for this coaching business and think of new value I can provide individuals. On top of all that, I can reflect on my goals and see where I need to realign my values to make them a reality.

I try not to let my time go to waste, but some mornings I just can’t handle anything thought-intensive. I always revert back to music to get my day going, and after a few songs, I find myself lost in thought anyway. It’s a great time for me to be creative without any other distractions.

My commute might cut into my productive time, but these are great ways to keep me focused on the right things and moving toward my goals.