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The Simple Hack That Made My Long Commute So Much Better

It's helped me be a better husband and dad, too.

fatherly logo How I Stay Sane

Welcome to “How I Stay Sane,” a weekly column where real dads talk about the things they do for themselves that help them keep grounded in all the other areas of their life. It’s easy to feel strung-out, and unless you regularly take care of yourself, the parenting part of your life will get a lot harder. The benefits of having that one “thing” are enormous. For David, a 31-year-old dad of an 18-month-old and marketing and advertising guy, his super long commutes were becoming a drag. So he decided to make them better by turning off the pop radio and turning on podcasts and audiobooks.

I live on the outskirts of LA and work in public relations and advertising for an agency. My drive is, on any given day, either traffic intensive or distance intensive. I’m either driving into the city (traffic intensive) or out of the city, which is a longer distance, about 40 miles each way, round trip. That’s close to 100 miles.

I needed a distraction from my drive. It’s just so long, and it’s so full of traffic, and I didn’t want to listen to hit radio all day. I love books. But with an 18-month-old at home, I quickly figured out that my reading habits were struggling. I like learning. That’s always been my thing. But, now,I don’t get to read a book every day. I had to find a way where, in between all that, parenting and working, I could keep learning stuff for myself. So I thought: I have all of this time in the car every day. Why don’t I just start listening to audiobooks?

So, I do that. I play the books at at 1.5x the normal speed so I can get through a chapter or two. I listen to a lot of marketing audiobooks, stuff that relates to my industry. I want to know what makes people successful. But I also listen to a lot of stuff about self-care, which totally has a stigma. There’s this connotation about self-care, self-help style books. A lot of people say, “Oh, these books are only for a certain type of person,” or “They’re for quacks.” But I disagree. I’ve taken a lot of small, certain things from these books. I don’t listen to the books and adopt a whole ethos; I take it all with a grain of salt. But whatever I believe will help me or my family, I’ll try it.

Right now. I’m currently listening to this book called Essentialism. It’s all about doing more with less. It’s like minimalism. One of the first topics it talks about is this guy who recently has started saying ‘no’ to certain projects at work. That resonated with me. I didn’t apply it to my career. But I did apply it to my personal life. I realized it’s okay to say no, that I can’t do things on the weekends, because I want to spend my weekends with the daughter and my wife.

So from that book, I learned the discipline of saying ‘no.’ It feels like something has been lifted off of my shoulders.

With audiobooks, It’s also nice to feel like I have a system. In the morning, I usually listen to the news. At night, on my drive home, it’s all about the books. But I’ve got this all queued up by Sunday. I schedule it all out when my daughter is taking her Sunday afternoon nap, so on Monday, I’ve got my news podcasts so I know what’s been going on in the week, and then on the way home, I listen to my books.

I used to be super energetic going to work before I had a kid, always ready to start my day. But now I’m super energetic coming home from work, because I get to see my daughter. It’s a different feeling, especially now that she’s getting older. She watches everything that we do. She mimics us. I just want to set a good example for her. I just try  in my own small ways. Books help me with that.