Spend Your SEPTA Commute Thinking About This, Science Says

I know: The last thing you want to do is think about work before you get there. But a new study shows you probably should.

This morning, I spent my SEPTA commute — a super-short ride compared to the commutes of some of my coworkers, who train in from places like Bucks County every single day — doing what I do every morning: Listening to Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” for the trillionth time and mentally cursing the person lacking any sense of self-awareness bumping me with their backpack over and over and over again. Because there is always, always one of these backpack-wielding, spatial-awareness-lacking humans on the El at 8 a.m. on a weekday.

But a new study suggests that if you want to turn a somewhat miserable morning commute into a beneficial activity, then rather than spending your train time daydreaming about what life would be like if Beyoncé were to swoop in on a unicorn (I’m sure she owns one) and adopt you right then and there, you should think about work. Yes: Science says we should all be thinking about work on our daily commutes into the office.

I know, that sounds kind of terrible. But hear me out.

As Science of Us reports, new research found that folks who used their morning commutes to think about work and their work-related goals were better off, in more ways than one, than those who didn’t.

The research, led by a doctoral student out of Columbia Business School, split a group of 154 volunteers into two groups. Half of them were instructed to do whatever they usually do on their commutes (hey, Bey), while the other half of the group was instructed to spend their morning commute time reflecting on work (think: professional goals and strategies to kill their next presentation). At the end of the study period, which lasted six weeks, the group using their commute time to think about work reported higher job satisfaction and less emotional exhaustion than before the study. The first group didn’t reap those benefits.

According to the study authors, those who see their commute as an opportunity to plan for a work, rather than as a chore, “may use their free time to engage in future-oriented thoughts … thus expending effort that likely proves beneficial later.” In other words, using the time you’re confined to the train to plan for work pays off once you get to the office. Listening to Beyoncé, not so much.

Do with this information what you will, my fellow desk jockeys.

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