5 Items to Snap You Out of Your Daily Commuting Routine

by Brett & Kate McKay on March 22, 2011 · 565 comments

in Blog

This content is brought to you by the new Hyundai Elantra which helps you “Snap Out” of your routine to live your best life.  Click here to learn more about the new 2011 Elantra. What’s this?

It’s Monday morning. Another work week has begun. You’ve finished your manly morning ritual without breaking a sweat. “Maybe this week won’t be so bad after all?” you think.

You hop in the car or head towards the subway or bus stop. Your high hopes quickly turn into despair as you encounter traffic jams, rude subway passengers, and the monotony of sitting in a car, train, or bus for an hour or more just so you can get to work.

Commuting is no fun. It’s a routine that millions of men must battle each day. We want to help you make this annoying, yet necessary routine a bit more bearable. So here are five things that can help you snap out of your daily commuting routine.

Stanley Thermos

Instead of stopping at the coffee shop on your way to work for a $5 cup of joe, brew the perfect cup of coffee at home and take it with you in this Stanley thermos. You’ll save money and time with this handsome looking thermos. Stanley thermoses are solidly constructed, so they can take years of beating and abuse on your daily commute or on a weekend camping trip with the boys and still keep your coffee piping hot. Stanley thermoses are guaranteed for life!

Price: $25

Saddleback Briefcase

A man needs a bag to carry his stuff from home to work. But not just any bag. A man needs a bag that puts a little pep in his step simply from looking at it. A bag that makes him feel like he’s headed out on an adventure each day. A rugged, manly, handsome bag that provides the smell of leather as he drives to work.

The Saddleback Leather Company Briefcase fits this bill.

Made of 100% full grain boot leather, the Saddleback bag will protect your delicate electronic gizmos from the nastiest of elements. The outside of the bag comes with plenty of D-rings to attach umbrellas, water bottles, or the buffalo skull you happened to find on the way to work. It has plenty of pockets so you can transport important work documents. You’ll be the envy of all your co-workers as you pass their cubicles with this bad boy on your shoulder.

And all Saddleback products are guaranteed for 100 years, so you can pass your briefcase on to your grandson when he begins his new career.

Price: $550

Great Courses Audio Lectures

If you’re like most people who commute, you probably just listen to the crappy morning local radio show or whatever is on your iPod. Nothing really uplifting or edifying about any of those options. They basically just provide background noise to help pass the time.

Instead of listening to the morning DJ make fart noises, grow your mind, intellect, and understanding of the world by listening to lectures from some of the best university professors in the United States. The Great Courses Company offers hundreds of college level courses from a variety of disciplines that you can listen to during your commute to work. Courses are made up of several lectures and each lecture is about 30 minutes long, or the average commute time. If you listen to just two lectures a day–one on the commute to work and one on the way home–you can finish the longest course in just a few weeks.

Check out the Great Courses website to see their course offerings. You’ll be blown away. One week you can learn about quantum mechanics and the next week you can delve into the history of Greece. My favorite courses are from my old Classics professor, J. Rufus Fears. His Famous Romans and Famous Greeks courses are a must-listen. You’ll learn about great men like Alexander the Great and Socrates. Right now, I’m listening to his Life Lessons from the Great Books and am feeling inspired after each lecture.

Price: $200-$85 depending on the course and whether you download the MP3 or buy the CDs.

Standing Valet

A stress-free commute to work begins before you get in the car. If you don’t time your departure just right, you can end up inching towards downtown in traffic that’s backed up for miles.  To ensure you walk out the door on time (and don’t have to come back to retrieve something you forgot!), consider incorporating a standing valet into your daily routine. A standing valet is like having your own personal “silent butler.” It has a hanger for your suit coat, a pant bar, a tie and coat hanger, as well as compartments so you can store your wallet, keys, phone, and other manly accouterments.

The night before, you can lay out everything you’ll need the next morning in this easy to access space. Instead of rushing around in the morning looking for a tie that matches your suit  along with your lost car keys, the standing valet will help you get out the door on time so you miss the morning rush hour traffic. Like a boss!

Price: $100

Dragnet Radio Show Collection

I’m all for taking advantage of our commute time to expand our minds, but sometimes after a long day’s work, you just want to listen to something relaxing and enjoyable. How about passing the time with Sergeant Joe Friday while he solves crimes on the mean streets of L.A.?

Before Dragnet was an awesomely manly cop TV show, it was an awesomely manly cop radio show. And thanks to the wonders of technology, you can enjoy this groundbreaking 1940s radio show while sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. You can find many old Dragnet radio episodes online for free, but they’re scattered all over the place and the quality is often crappy. If you want the entire series remastered for the best listening experience, pick up the CD collection.

I’ve listened to a bunch of different old time radio shows, and Dragnet is definitely my favorite.

Price: $6

Win a Stanley Thermos

Hyundai will be giving away a Stanley Thermos to one lucky AoM reader, so he can start snapping himself out of his daily commuting routine. Here’s how to enter the sweepstakes:

Leave a comment sharing what sort of tools or methods you use to snap yourself out of your daily commuting routine.

Deadline to enter is March 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm CST.

501 Aaron March 24, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Herbal Tea, and a quick jog with the dog before leaving for work!

502 Lou B March 24, 2011 at 9:35 pm

My commute is 150 miles round-trip. Fortunately, most of it is on the Interstate. the morning drive is spent nursing a large travel mug full of coffee and listening to two podcasts, wondering why in the world I took a job so far from home. Afternoons are spent with the Wall Street Journal This Morning podcast and watching cars jockey for position as they weave recklessly from lane to lane trying to get somewhere 30 seconds quicker.

503 Chris Homan March 24, 2011 at 10:39 pm

During my morning commute, I head for work with some orange juice and entertainment courtesy of my favorite area morning show crew.

504 Chris March 24, 2011 at 11:00 pm

With gasoline prices at almost $4/ga, I snap myself awake during my commute by feeling the wind in my face as I pedal my bicycle.

505 Jeff McGowan March 24, 2011 at 11:47 pm

My best morning commutes begin the previous evening. An early turn-in makes it easier to wake up early. Then I can take my time wet shaving instead of being one of those guys dragging an electric shaver across my face at 70 miles an hour. (Not to mention those ladies who put on their mascara in stop and go traffic. Aren’t they afraid of putting an eye out?)

506 Bharath Sitaraman March 25, 2011 at 1:29 am

My commute is about 12 miles one way. On the nice days during Spring and Summer, I bike into work. Gives me nice exercise and I feel alive when I step into the office!

507 Michael Moore March 25, 2011 at 3:07 am

I work from home these days, but when I had to commute I would always turn on the news. Usually NPR had an overview of international news during that time, and I’d switch to a local channel for local updates.

508 Steve March 25, 2011 at 3:56 am

Three words for you: four oh five. The most congested freeway in America is my reality every morning and evening as I head to and from work. A thirteen mile commute takes me, on average, an hour and fifteen to thirty minutes in each direction. It’s hellacious. That being said, I do my best to make that “wasted” time somewhat productive.
I have taken to books on “tape” (a.k.a. my iPhone) as a way to kick start my creativity and imagination in the morning. Since starting this routine breaker I have felt more alert and productive once I step foot in the office in the morning.
Love the idea of the Great Courses audio lectures! I’m definitely going to look into that. Thanks for all the great content, this site is indispensable for a single man in his late twenties!

509 Trent March 25, 2011 at 7:44 am

I usually change up what time I go into the office each day. That way when I get up and want to take my time rather than rush to get into the office, I can and will do so. On the way into work, I usually tune into the local talk radio station. Other days, I ride in silence and clear my mind before entering the work environment. The latter is very therapeutic.

510 Chris March 25, 2011 at 8:45 am

Audiobooks, audiobooks, and audiobooks. I have an 80-mile roundtrip daily commute and have been doing it for over 3 years. In that time, I have listened to everything from the story of the Pilgrims to doing lecture series on appreciation of Jazz.

I just finished Garrison Keillor’s “Homegrown Democrat” yesterday and started Bill Bryson’s book on Shakespeare today. The previous two weeks were a basic course in conversational Spanish.


511 MNpilot March 25, 2011 at 8:52 am

In an ideal world, my commute would easily be confused with scenes from Bullitt – the heavyweight champ of car chase movies.

Since I value my driver’s license, however, I typically take advantage of the time by practicing rhetorical techniques. How? By “responding” to callers on talk radio. I’ve never lost an argument.

512 Andrew Breza March 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I bike to work whenever I can. It turns a commute into a fun workout.

513 Jordan March 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Best way to not feel horrible heading to work is by biking to work. Whenever I’m unable to do that, I’ll usually listen to my Rosetta Stone MP3s or whatever Smith’s album I’m feeling at the time.

514 Zach D. March 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm

I ride the amazing and SUPER clean NYC subway every morning. I survive through a hefty combination of podcasts, Earl Grey tea, and currently, the second season of Deadwood.

515 Ike Goodman March 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Sometimes I’ll try to memorize a short poem or bible verse as I drive. By the time I arrive at work, I usually have it down.

516 Robert R. March 25, 2011 at 12:57 pm

I turned to audio books a year or two ago for my crosstown commute, the Conan the Barbarian, Doomsday Warrior, currently working through The Black Company series.

I’ve been wanting to get something more educational, I’ll have to look into “The Great Courses”

517 Stephen March 25, 2011 at 1:37 pm

I get my daily dose of NPR. My commute is about 10mins, so not much time. However the Valet could help reduce stress in the morning. Its on my wish list now.

518 Pat March 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Reading Books. I go though about a book a week during my commutes. Possibly getting an e-Reader soon.

519 Cameron March 25, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I use a few techniques to keep my morning commutes going smooth. First of all, I listen to news, preferably news that won’t make me angry or upset. Second, I sing. While my second technique may seem trite or common, I really do find singing to be cathartic and good for the morning commute.

520 Brandon March 25, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Hitting the snooze button a few times, driving to work and having some tea.

I try to stretch in the morning because I’m usually stiff from working out the night before.

521 Mike March 25, 2011 at 3:46 pm

If I have time I try to start my mornings with push ups or an ab workout, on the ride to work I usually listen to a podcast or the local traffic..

522 Casey LeClaire March 25, 2011 at 5:01 pm

I use the Phillips Blu GoLite, French Press Intellegensia coffee, and shave like a man with a Merkur 34HD.

523 Andrew March 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Hmm, got a problem with this.

I don’t know how manly a murse is that can attach umbrellas to it…

I’m pretty sure the only people carrying murses and umbrellas wear tight jeans and drink gin…

524 Evan March 25, 2011 at 5:16 pm

I freestyle for my 20 min morning drive, it gets my mind focused and snaps me out
of my haze.

525 Carl March 25, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Upgraded car audio!

526 Andrew Davis March 25, 2011 at 6:33 pm

I begin mornings by shaving with a vintage straight razor. They”re off ebay, so they’re not too expensive, but the old look and feel is pretty exhilarating. Nearly every morning I’ll strop these razors before i use them. This act seems to, at the shame time as sharpening my knife, sharpen my mind.
I have a variety of watches that I enjoy wearing, and the look and feel of a different watch keeps me looking at the time throughout the day.
Lastly, I commute using the bus, so I try to walk a different route nearly every morning, taking allyes and side-streets, just to mix things up.

527 Jim Tanner March 25, 2011 at 8:48 pm

I do something a little different to break up the routine. Some days, it’s listening to NPR instead of my iPod. Or stopping for coffee or a bagel at the local coffee shop to enjoy on the drive.

528 Craig March 25, 2011 at 9:19 pm

A different route makes the commute feel new.

529 Scott March 25, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Satellite radio is the cure for my hour-each-way commute. Just be sure to mix it up – blues one day, comedy, talk, album rock the next.

530 Damian March 25, 2011 at 10:12 pm

I commute by bike. That’s enough to keep me alert.

531 John R. March 26, 2011 at 12:34 am

Every now and then I’ll walk to work instead of taking the bus, especially ifmthe weather is nice.

532 Eric C. March 26, 2011 at 1:11 am

I listen to Waddle and Silvie in the morning on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. I hear them chop chop it up about the Bulls. It gets me invigorated to attack the day when I hear how good the Bulls are doing!! I also, like to quote verses from the Bible or talk to God just to allow him into my day. There is a peace of mind that settles over me. Those are my two routines.

533 Brandon G March 26, 2011 at 1:15 am

I don’t have a regular commute every morning. My job takes me to a different place everyday, anywhere from 5 miles away to 150, I never know. I like to mix it up with the music and morning shows. Sometimes the shock jocks, sometimes the sports talk. And some mornings I just need to wake up and blast some heavy metal. Like today when I left the house at 2:30am for a 1.5 hour drive. Good times.

P.S. I miss my Stanley thermos! It got lost in one of my moves over the years. I had that back when I was a contractor and it was another tool I couldn’t do without!

534 Levon Mkrtychev March 26, 2011 at 2:29 am

Wow! Great article with some great stuff. The things described above aren’t cheap, but they are of good quality and will improve your quality of life. You need to know how to spend your money wisely to improve your life and invest in yourself. That’s why I enjoy reading The Art of Manliness, you guys understand quality things, self improvement, and value.

535 NorCalMike March 26, 2011 at 3:07 am

I listened to a podcast every morning. Usually Thru the Bible with J. Vernon Mcgee.It’s great to start your day in God’s Word. In the afternoon I listened several different podcast like the Commonwealth Club, Priztker Military Library podcast, or Firehouse Radio.

536 Mick March 26, 2011 at 7:20 am

when i’m on dayshift, up at 5:20, do some kettlebell snatches/swings/presses, shower, straight razor shave, brewed coffee, check computer, ride motorbike to work, cheap on fuel, no traffic where i am, 70km round trip.
The kettlebells wake me up physically, straight razor shave focuses my mind and bike ride gives me time to have a good think about things.

537 Ed March 26, 2011 at 8:53 am

My commute is a five minute walk, an hour train ride and then another five minute walk. Twice a day, five days a week. I always have my iPhone for music and sudoku, sometimes I’ll bring a book (currently reading Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day) and other times my laptop to game, surf the web, or do some writing.

538 Aubrey Charpentier March 26, 2011 at 10:13 am

Satellite radio…I can’t stand terrible morning radio shows and commercials.

539 Nate March 26, 2011 at 11:30 am

I have a 45 min commute, I don’t do too much to break it up…..but have lately started playin scrabble with liscense plates

540 Jordan March 26, 2011 at 12:08 pm

I like to listen to Librivox audio books or Econ Talk with Russ Roberts on commutes and long drives. It keeps me awake and alert and they’re both free podcasts.

541 Jared March 26, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I use satellite radio…really saves the commute for me. Usually blomberg radio in the mornings

542 Steve March 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm

I catch up on the news with our local NPR affiliate.

543 Jack March 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm

My commute is always better in my diamond crown porkpie hat–it just get me in that manly commuting mood!

544 pedro March 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Being a student I look over my books and see what we will be learning that day or do some last minute studying for a test. Haven’t failed a test yet.

545 Nick March 26, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Books on tape are a nice change. Anything by Dave Barry is a good time killer. I also like standup comedy on C.D. to break things up. The library has many choices. Podcast are good as well. If you are real tech savvy, you can setup a DVR on your computer and export shows in audio format to listen to. I personally have this setup and enjoy listening to Jeopardy!

546 Matthew J March 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Brew up some Coffee and Drink it. Boom instant energy.

547 Tom March 26, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I like the cold shower and some hot, strong coffee to snap me out and get me rocking!

548 David March 26, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Sometimes I’ll get a hot chocolate instead of coffee on my commute, or stop at a different place to get it.

549 John Pedersen March 26, 2011 at 8:26 pm

5:00am P90x, Protein shake for b-fast and out the door with a thermos of joe by 7:15…. 45miles in my 40mpg Sonata to help me “Snap out of It”. Podcast or two of Dave Ramsey to help keep my wallet right. One the way home, working through an audio book!

550 Phil March 27, 2011 at 2:23 am

About a third of the week I drive my girlfriend into work. Going a different route really helps break up the commute. I also stop near work on the way home to do my shopping, thereby snapping me out of two routines.

551 ramón March 27, 2011 at 4:23 am

Music always makes the commute easier. I’m always updating my iPod with new music which makes the trip fly by and fun.

552 Daniel Starr March 27, 2011 at 4:44 am

I work an unusual five-day schedule, from 16:00 to 00:30 starting on Saturday. I’ve found this can often put a strain on my home life, because my wife works more of a banker’s schedule. It’s often enough it’s a real challenge to find quality time. Instead of wasting precious hours sleeping my life away, I’ve found getting up in the morning to have breakfast and coffee with my wife is a good way to stay connected. If she’s at work I find things around the house that need fixin’, or I work on my side gig/passion, sewing bags. This gives me the opportunity to create, and to be creative. I find the challenge is enough to keep me fresh, and besides that I love to do it. If the wife is at home we usually find something to do together, since our time is limited. On my regular work days i get on my bike (rain or shine), and ride like hell on wheels. It’s a great way to get the heart pumping before the work day begins, and subtle as it may seem, a great way to connect with the community around you. I often alternate routes and I’ve found many estate sales this way. Quite a few gems have been added to my record collection on these side trips. Kudos to all you guys out there on your bikes as well!

553 Natalie March 27, 2011 at 11:22 am

Dancing and singing unapologetically to goofy music while driving first thing in the morning, preferably with the windows cracked, keeps me alert and happy on my drive to work.

I’ll zone out and plan my evening’s activities before arriving home so I can maximize my few precious hours outside work.

554 Victor March 27, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Remember when you’re commuting, you’re driving. Not daydreaming, putting your mind elsewhere, forgetting where you are–you’re driving. Man up, watch traffic, strategize your role in traffic flow, let the next guy merge in front of you, signal your moves. Be kind and courteous to other drivers, like a real man, and get to work safe. Don’t let yourself get distracted, your main job is to drive.

Is that an accident up ahead? If you have the training and guts, stop and offer help, dial 9-1-1 in the very least if there are no emergency units on scene. Who knows, your actions might save a life or reduce debilitating injury for some unlucky soul-before you even get to work and pour that first cup from the office coffee pot.

555 Brad March 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm

You neglected to mention your own podcast as a commuter resource. That’s when I listen. Or a podcast called Hardcore History.

556 Ryan Waldron March 27, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I go to work early (before 7), so I rarely have any problems heading to work, but when I leave work at 5:30pm, I’m jumping into the thick of things. If my commute starts to wear on me, sometimes I’ll just get off the interstate t the next exit and go exploring. If it’s going to take me more 45 min to get home I might as well take a few more minutes and have a more interesting drive.

557 emolina March 27, 2011 at 8:58 pm

I like to brake routine with an alternate route and or taking a motorcycle. The motorcycle can really break up the routine if the weather is not especially compatible. I find the motorcycle to be a great conversation starter. People are just amazed that someone would ‘expose’ himself to elements by choice. i just politely remark that I’m a man and i enjoy the challenges and excitement.

558 David March 27, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Music. Music makes most drives pleasurable, and any drive bearable. Stopping at shops or stores I’ve never visited before also breaks up the monotony. The whole world is out there, it’s foolish to keep going the exact same way!

559 Guillermo March 28, 2011 at 8:19 am

As an alternative to the courses listed, there are a great many free podcasts available with an educational focus. For example, The History of Rome (http://thehistoryofrome.typepad.com/) is 100% free, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better way to understand this culture than to listen to this entire series, one commute at a time.

560 Ralph March 28, 2011 at 8:53 pm

I can vouch for the durability of a Stanley thermos. I’ve had one for about 8 years and the thing is damn near indestructible. As for making the daily commute more endurable: it’s called NPR. National Public Radio. I tune in to VPR (Vermont Public Radio). Morning Edition followed by the BBC News Hour in the morning. On the ride home its All Things Considered followed by Marketplace and Fresh Air or The World. If it wasn’t available I would invest in one of the Great Courses.

561 Steve Ingersoll March 29, 2011 at 1:46 am

I work all different hours and rarely in the same place which is a way to break up the monotony of a commute in itself, but if I find myself at the same place more than a few times I tend to get creative with my gps settings. This has allowed me to have some spectacular drives through some more rural areas where I can let the V-8 roar a little.

562 Stephen Bourque March 29, 2011 at 12:54 pm

For the same reason that the standing valet is a time saver, I find it helpful to have the next day’s lunch ready to go in one spot in the refrigerator.

I use my Stanley thermos every day and love it, though it doesn’t really lend itself to drinking coffee while driving. I exercise patience and wait until I get to work to have my first cup!

563 steven jones March 29, 2011 at 6:56 pm

A bicycle. Riding a bike to work, unlike riding a car, cannot become monotonous. You experience constant awareness of your surroundings, from bird songs to honking horns. And bad weather days are even better. When you’re wrapped in a neon yellow poncho w/ rain pouring down from the sky, wind buffeting you from all sides, when you finally do get to work, exhausted and soaked, you suddenly realize you’ve actually achieved something. You’ve met a challenge head on (literally) and powered through it. And that’s before you even walk in the door at work.

564 Matt March 30, 2011 at 1:41 am

I take my own coffee (although, not in a Stanley thermos) and listen to a music (no radio commercials, but no traffic/weather, either), audio book (one with a good plot or interesting knowledge helps), or NPR if I need some intellectual conversations starters when I get to the office.

In addition to laying out my wardrobe (that standing valet looks nice), I lay out my toiletries and pack my lunch the night before.

565 Shaka April 2, 2011 at 9:00 pm


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