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Career Advice

5 Ways You Can Be Productive While Stuck in Traffic in Manila

By Krisha Maclang on October 10, 2015

We know, we know, traffic in Metro Manila is nothing short of horrible these days. When a 30 minute trip home can sometimes take four hours on a bad day, the regular Pinoy would be tempted to strike a bargain with Father Time to ask for precious minutes of his life back. But until we find a solution to our traffic woes, there’s not a lot we can do when Carmageddon strikes except hope to get home before dawn.

Or is there? Instead of thinking of it as a huge drain on our time, we can choose to use this time getting other things done. Since you’re already stuck there in your car, shuttle or even the MRT, you might as well be productive and use this time doing things you have always wanted to do but could never find the time to accomplish. Take control of Carmageddon and make it work for you!

1. Read a book/ listen to an audio book

Raise your hand if you have an ever growing reading list of unread or unfinished books because we’re always “too busy”. Manila’s Carmageddon may be a huge drag but instead of just sitting in your car, you can use this time to read a book or two. It will make the time go by much faster and you may just emerge from another day of awful traffic more well-read than ever!

But if lugging around a book seems a little too cumbersome, you can also download eBooks on your smartphone or eReader. This is actually the cheaper option since there are many resources online that can provide thousands of free eBooks that you can download legally, such as Project Gutenberg. If reading in your car isn’t your thing, you can also listen to an audio book version of your reading list instead. Check out this list of more than 200 sources of audio books that offer free downloads legally here.

2. Beef up your career and personal development skills

Instead of sulking in your vehicle, why not use this free time to develop your skills? All you need is your smartphone or tablet to download some apps that are geared toward personal and professional development. Don’t worry, unlike classes conducted IRL, these are all free.

You may not know it yet but you have access to countless classes offered by some of the most distinguished institutions in the world, such as Harvard University and Princeton University, right in your phone. Coursera, eDX and FutureLearn, backed by some of the world’s best universities and topnotch industry experts, all have apps that help you pick up new skills or brush up on old skills from a wide scope of interests from HTML5 Coding Essentials, to Digital Storytelling  to Introduction to Public Speaking. You can explore almost any topic under the sun with thousands of available classes.

Want to learn Marketing from one of the world’s most marketable tech companies? Google Primer is Google’s app for brushing up on various digital marketing skills using bite-sized lessons and mini tests. These “classes” only take up a couple of minutes each, so if you’re not in the mood for a full-blown marketing lesson in the middle of rush hour, this is right up your alley.

3. Listen to a podcast

Tired of the usual radio stations playing the same music and talking about the same things? Why not try listening to a podcast? Podcasts let you choose what you listen to while waiting for traffic to subside. Think of it as being the DJ of your own AM radio. There are a countless number of podcasts of varying interests available online and you can simply pick the ones you want to listen to at your own pace.

It can be hard to figure out where to start so here are a few ideas to get you started:

Serial is an investigative journalism podcast that covers one non-fiction story over a number of episodes per season. Launched in late October 2014, the first season of Serial explores the death of Min Hae Lee, a student in Baltimore, Maryland who was allegedly murdered by her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Sayed, who has sworn his innocence. Serial such a massive hit and gained a lot of press that it has renewed interest in having the court further explore circumstances surrounding the murder.

Looking for something local? is a place for Filipino podcasts have a place to promote their work. Launched in 2014, it already has 21 podcasts available for you to enjoy. It has something for everyone with topics ranging from comedy, real crime, love and relationships, sports, motoring, and many more.

4. Meditate

Channeling your inner peace will probably be the last thing on your mind while you’re stuck in the midst of an EDSA traffic jam. But the stress caused by the constant traffic is probably why you should give meditation a shot. Meditation is one of the best ways for you to leave such a frustrating situation with a positive frame of mind instead of piling on more stress after a long day at work.

A bit intimidated because you’re a beginner? There are a few free apps available that can guide you through your first foray into meditation.

Headspace gives you a free 10-day meditation guide (although you have to pay to unlock other special features) that will sufficiently guide you through just 10 minutes of meditation a day.

Offering more than just meditation, Omvana is a transformational audio app that offers 25 free tracks (pay to access hundreds more) to help you meditate, focus on your priorities, inspire your work, boost your creativity, and other goals to care for your mental well-being.

Calm is a free meditation app that lets you choose between 2, 5, 10, 15 or 20 minute guided meditation sessions and also has a free 7 day program to kick things off.

5. Learn a new language

“Learn a new language” is often on people’s bucket lists but we never really get around to actually doing it. Classes can be rather expensive and time-consuming. But thanks to some free language programs, you can learn a new language or two while waiting for traffic to get better.

Duolingo will teach you the basics of French, Spanish, German, Turkish, Swedish, and a few other languages by incorporating reading, speaking and listening to its modules. Its interface is fun and user-friendly so it’s not intimidating at all for first-timers.

If you prefer to talk to native speakers of a language, Busuu might be for you. It considers itself the largest social network for language learning, because aside from teaching you the basics of a range of languages, it also lets you talk to native speakers who will give you feedback on your work.

Looking for lots exercises to flex your newfound skills? Memrise is a flashcard-style learning system that lets you learn not only a new language but also about its history and culture. There are many courses to choose from since its users can create and contribute to the catalog.

Getting stuck in traffic is the worst but you can always make the best of it. While it can be a huge drain on your time, you can always use it to your advantage and turn it into an opportunity to explore new interests. How do you keep yourself busy when you’re stuck in traffic? Share it in the comments below!


Feature image: Ramon FVelasquez for Wikimedia Commons - CC