As a busy freelance musician, I spend a lot of time in my car. Can you relate? It seems that Americans are spending more time in our cars now than ever before. According to a recent article from the website Newsroom.aaa.com, "Americans spend an average of 17,600 minutes driving each year. 'The amount of time the average driver spends behind the wheel each year is equivalent to seven 40-hour weeks at the office,’ says Jurek Grabowski, research director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.”
Seven 40-hour work weeks, you say? Are you comparing my car to an office desk? Hmm. When I look at it that way, time in my car changes from a hassle and waste of time, to something that I can use to further my own work. I’ll share some of my own uses of my "car office" time, which we hope will inspire you with your own ideas of how to use this valuable, amazing treasure of time!
One of my favorite uses of my car time is to study recordings. I listen to recordings of pieces that I’m preparing for performance. I like to find a few different recordings by ensembles and conductors that I admire, so I can hear a few different interpretations from the Greats. Another use of my car stereo system is to study recordings of myself. This sometimes painful, but incredibly useful activity, can really help me develop a better understanding of the pieces I’m working on. I can hear what’s going well, and what I can improve upon. It’s amazing how often the message I thought I was communicating is not what is coming out the end of my bell! The time alone in my car is a perfect listening studio. I can hit pause and replay, over and over, until I know just what I’d like to do with a piece.
I myself don’t like to buzz in the car, but there are still other playing exercises that can be done. One of my friends does breathing exercises in his car as part of his warmup. Isometric exercises and strengthening exercises can also be a great use of time with minimal crash potential.
Lately I’ve also been utilizing audiobooks and podcasts. There are many great speakers and authors who can help us further our own careers, our mindsets, our finances … you name it. I’m all about positivity, so I look for people to study who will help me grow as a person as well as a performer.
Of course, the phone is an obvious use of time while driving. This can be a time to catch up on business calls, contact students and parents, and hash out performance details with colleagues. It can also be time to work out with your family who will prepare the turkey, who will bring the pumpkin pie, and try to remember how to make Grandma’s amazing stuffing. Thanksgiving is almost here, people — time to get cracking!
Sometimes at the end of a long day or long week, the car can be a great place to decompress and think about NOTHING. Whether you do it in the car or on your sofa, I encourage you to set aside a little time each week for absolutely nothing — your brain will thank you!
How do you use your commuting time? We’d love to hear from you!