You can’t change the time it takes to get to work, but you can change how you spend it.

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Traffic’s terrible and only getting worse, and we’re all miserable about it. Your commute doesn’t have to be the drive of doom, though. Busy yourself by diving into the workday ahead of time or during the ride home and you’ll be less likely to grouse about gridlock or snipe at other drivers.

Whether you’re the driver or a passenger, here are seven ways you can get some work done while stuck on the road.

Outline a pressing talk or report. Is an important document or presentation you need to create weighing on you? How about a talk you need to have with your boss, a client or a direct report? Besides giving you a jump-start, taking notes can help ease some of that back-burner tension. Drivers who have a smartphone car mount can use their phone’s audio features to do this; passengers can use their writing implement of choice.

Read or listen to industry news and ideas. If you’re driving, there’s an entire world of podcasts and audiobooks you can choose from on any business topic under the sun. If you’re a passenger, the web is your oyster of professional development information.

Conduct research. This one’s for passengers only. As long as you’re not driving, the commute is a fine time to track down that that data your boss asked you to provide or find a couple studies to back up the argument you want to make at an upcoming team meeting.

Refresh your to-do list. Update your action items for the day or week ahead. Getting all those miscellaneous reminders from your head onto your phone helps declutter your mind and lets you focus on other thoughts. I do this even when I’m driving by recording an audio note on my phone.

Look for a new job. Want out of your current position? You don’t have to wait until your next day off to do something about it. If you aren’t driving, poke around your favorite job sites to get a feel for the positions listed in your field. Also check out Glassdoor and PayScale to see how other companies rate and what salary range you can expect. If you are driving, take some audio notes on updates you can make to your résumé and LinkedIn profile.

Work on your side hustle. Maybe you sell collectibles on eBay, run a jewelry shop on Etsy or write short stories in your spare time. Tending to your passion project while commuting is a nice reminder that there’s more to weekdays than your job. It might even earn you a bit of mad money. If you’re driving, you’ll of course be relegated to taking audio notes. But if you’re a passenger with the relevant apps on your phone, the sky’s the limit.

Relax. Rather than getting miffed at the traffic, practice being calm, mindful and positive while you drive. For tips on how to do so, check out the e-book The Drive to Inner Peace: How Your Commute Can Make You Happier & Less Stressed, which Seattle coach Curt Rosengren is offering as a free download for a limited time. (Obviously, wait until you’re not behind the wheel to read it.)

If you aren’t driving, you also might try a guided meditation app or podcast during your commute. Remember: You can’t change the time it takes to get to work, but you can change how you spend it.

Seattle Times Jobs columnist Michelle Goodman (Courtesy of Greg Beckelhymer)
Seattle Times Jobs columnist Michelle Goodman (Courtesy of Greg Beckelhymer)