Off-campus living Student-made Travel

Keeping engaged on a long commute

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I miss the days when waiting for the 142 on a busy Monday morning was the extent of my commute. It’s been over a year of placement and we’re coming up to the anniversary of the beginning of my complicated love/hate relationship with the British Public Transport system. Some of my commutes door to door can take over 90 minutes on a good day, not accounting for the inevitable rain that shuts the roads down.

It’s a lot of time that goes unaccounted for. Fortunately, a year of experience has made me the expert of squeezing the most out of every spare minute of my commute as I can. Here are my top tips.

I want to be productive!

Whether it’s the looming fear of January exams or a genuine desire to stay on top of your work, being productive on a long commute isn’t as difficult as it might seem. It’s important to consider your environment firstly when planning any revision or reading you might want to do.

Wifi: This is by far the easiest obstacle to overcome as most trains now offer free wifi onboard and so do Stagecoach buses. If you must use data, make sure to turn off background refresh. Ideally you can pre download or print resources beforehand.

Space: If you’re on a train, try to bag seats with a table. Most of these will also have plug points! Perfect if you don’t want your devices to drain their battery before you get to your destination. Just don’t do what I have definitely not done and leave your charger on the train – you’ll never see it again…

Time: You might not be able to get through a fair chunk of reading on a 10 minute bus, but the 20 minute wait for your next one? The inevitable delay of a Northern Train? It’s a great opportunity to get through some reading. If you only have shorter bursts of time, try doing shorter forms of revision such as using flashcards.

Safety: In an ideal world, this wouldn’t even be a consideration. But you always need to be mindful of flashing expensive devices around in crowded areas. Make sure you always have your valuables in sight and stick to using one device at a time. You might not be able to write up your thesis on your phone but you can always download reading to save time later.

My personal favourite study method is using active recall. I’ve gone into depth about this before (which you can read about it here) but essentially it’s about using short bursts of productivity using specific clues to reconstruct a concept from your long term memory. I can download flashcards onto my phone and study. I don’t need to consider wifi, space time or safety!

I want to be entertained!

I personally don’t like studying after a long day at placement. My capacity for productivity wanes as soon as the sun sets – so currently that’s at about 4pm. Fortunately there are so many ways to keep entertained on a long commute.

Music: A tried and true tested method which never fails, the Spotify algorithm is ever evolving and I’m pretty sure it knows me better than I know myself. Want to listen to something new? Content Ambassador Megan has put together a great list of bands local to Greater Manchester. The Blossoms are a new favourite of mine with their track Charlemagne making international waves! Cara has a series of albums both for winter and exam season.

Podcasts: I definitely grew to appreciate podcasts over lockdown. I would recommend “The Psych Files” if you’ve got 20-30 minutes to kill on your journey. My favourites include ‘The psychology of the Matrix” and “The Psychology of Vine”. I also adore “The Night Vale”: a little mix of conspiracy, crime fiction and fantasy all wrapped up in one! Check out Content Ambassador Nana’s and Kirstie’s recommendations too.

Reading: I can credit long train journeys for finally allowing me to fit some reading into my schedule. Whether it’s paper (I’m a sucker for a good hardback), e-books or Audible, there’s something for everyone! If you want some suggestions check out my recommendation for a diverse reading list.