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How to Make the Most of Your Commute, According to 10 Successful Women

Aspire to a better morning routine? Make the most of your drive (or ride).

By Emma Steinbergs

I think we can all agree that we’re bombarded with messages around self-care. Does it not feel like every other celebrity is launching a skincare line? Especially for women, it can feel like we’re slacking if we don’t have a beautifully curated series of morning rituals. While I’d love to find the time to take a pilates class, meditate, fill out my gratitude journal, eat a nutrient-packed breakfast, and read several news articles—all before opening my laptop—that’s not realistic for most of us.

But you don’t have to let unrealistic standards of what constitutes a good pre-work regimen discourage you from having one altogether. Trendy or not, routine is important. It provides comforting consistency and can help us start our day on the right foot.

To find out what type of morning routine is attainable for even the busiest of us, I turned to working women, and their insights boiled down to one piece of advice: Incorporate routine into your commute. From pump-up music to professional advice podcasts, here’s how 10 successful women like to get in the zone (or zone out) on their way to the office.

Kathy Bennett, Missouri

CEO and Founder at a packaging company

“It takes me around 40 minutes to drive to my office, and on most mornings, I talk to my children on the phone (in Bluetooth mode, of course) and stop to pick up some breakfast. To me, small treats—like a freshly made croissant and a hot latte—bring immense joy in the morning! If I have time, I’ll take a moment to have the croissant outside in the park before going into the office. As a busy woman, talking to my children and then having that moment of peace with some nice food is all that I need to start my day off right.”

Bonnie Whitfield, California

Human Resources Director at a travel company

“I take the train to work, and I love to observe how different people interact. I don’t intend to eavesdrop, but in a communal space, sometimes you can’t help but overhear what someone is saying about what they’re going through. I also find joy in the humorous stories that come out of their mouths—the kinds of stories you can’t make up if you tried. I’m an HR professional, and I’ve actually noticed that observing my fellow commuters has influenced how I read people and, therefore, helped me to better screen applicants.”

Christine Brownstein, England

CMO at a clothing brand

“I commute by car and like to jumpstart my day with energetic, motivating podcasts. I also arrive earlier than our call time to stop by our local coffee shop to buy my ever-favorite French vanilla latte with two shots of espresso. If I have spare time in the morning, I stay in the coffee shop and talk to the baristas with whom I’ve grown close. Podcasts and coffees have become extensions of my corporate life, and without them, I’m certain that I’d come to the office unmotivated and wobbly.”

Victoria Thomas, California

Communications executive at a skincare brand

“My company asks employees to come into the office, which requires a four-hour daily commute for me (ah, Los Angeles). The traffic I navigate is among the worst in North America, so when my radio died a while back, I panicked. But it’s actually been a godsend. I choose to sit in silence for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. The silence is an oasis. I choose not to enable my iPhone to connect calls while I’m driving. My job consists of writing web descriptors for moisturizer, which I realize is not that important in the grand scheme of things. I’m the same way when I fly. I don’t even bring a book. Idle awareness is a skill that I recommend acquiring. In Italian, we say dolce far niente: how sweet to do nothing.”

Sumeer Kaur, California

CEO and Founder of an Indian clothing company

“You can make your commute part of your morning routine if you approach it with intention and ensure you aren’t rushing or running late. For me, there’s something about getting in a car and turning up my favorite music that sets an energized tone for the day. I’m able to enjoy the solitude of being in the car and have no inhibitions if I want to sing or dance along. I also like to prepare tea for my drive in a to-go mug. I have a few different playlists queued up and pick one depending on my day and intention. If I know I have a lot of meetings or need to be social, I choose an upbeat playlist that can get me excited and pumped for my day. If I have a more serious, analytical day ahead of me, I go with a more relaxing playlist that can set me up with a calm mindset.”

Samantha Moss, Washington

Editor at a relationship-advice magazine

“When I go to the office, I always sip from my purple tumbler full of coffee and usually listen to K-Pop music, which makes me want to dance. This kind of music creates a positive atmosphere for me. If I have enough time, I’ll also stop by my favorite bakery across the street from my house to have their freshly baked sourdough bread before heading out. Once I get to the office, I like to make an effort to greet everyone. It’s nice to make people feel seen and acknowledged!”

Jean Will, New York

Co-Founder at a hair-care brand

“If you take public transit, you can use your commute to take care of your to-do list. On my phone’s Notes app, I list out all the things I need to accomplish and cross out all the things I might have already been able to get to that day. I also recommend checking your emails and messages, so things don’t pile up throughout your day. If I’m all caught up, I like to plan for my weekly schedule or daydream about my bucket list.”

Ann McFerran, Los Angeles

CEO of a beauty brand

“When you’re a busy entrepreneur, a commute provides an opportunity to do something nourishing for yourself. Commutes can be a valuable time to find inspiration and broaden your perspective and knowledge by listening to podcasts or audiobooks. When I don’t need to be on conference calls or team meetings, I like to use this time to engage with business podcasts or listen to audio biographies about people who inspire me.”

Ashley Chubin, Colorado

COO at a wellness company

“I typically do a lot of driving, so I like to grab a smoothie and listen to my favorite tunes or podcasts during my trips. I’m usually on my way to a meeting or running an errand for work, so I like to listen to songs that get me energized for the task ahead. When it comes to podcasts, I listen to a variety: some are educational and focus on current events, and others cover more light-hearted topics like pop culture. It’s a simple routine, but I enjoy doing it.”

Lara Fritts, Maryland

COO at a real estate company

“Living in the D.C. metro area, I often have long commutes to and from work or even to meetings. Before I head out the door, I grab my iced coffee, collect my voicemail messages, and tee up a good podcast queue. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with podcasts focused on entrepreneurial journeys as we look to grow our company. But, the number one way I spend my commute is by returning phone calls. Knowing I have dedicated time to return calls helps me resist the urge to drop what I am working on in the middle of my day.”

Written By

Emma Steinbergs

Emma is M.M.LaFleur's Brand Manager. She previously worked as an M.M. stylist and still loves thinking through styling challenges and solutions for customers.

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