For those who take mass transit to and from work, the time in motion can be anything from frantic to feeling like forever. Sure, it may seem like staring at the seat in front of you or doing your best to avoid being accidently tossed about like a ragdoll in a jam-packed subway car is the most you can do until you reach your destination, but this time can be spent in a far more meaningful way.

Don't let this time go to waste. Here are 3 productivity hacks that will make your commute one to be proud of. OK, reading a celeb gossip rag now and then or flipping through Facebook is fun once in a while, but with some strategic planning, you can make those minutes (or hours) life-changing. Take a seat (hopefully next to someone courteous) and move the needle as you move towards the office!

1. Plan Your Day

Once you find your spot on the train, bus, subway, or some other mode of transport, unless you're driving, it's the perfect time to create a "to-do" list to organize your actions and activities for the day ahead. By getting all your meetings, work responsibilities, and other scheduling in order before you set foot in the office, you're already one step ahead of the game – ready to get to work as soon as you clock in.

Hubspot notes, "Taking that extra time to think about each task can help you prioritize and set realistic expectations." Business Insider adds, "By creating a to-do list and prioritizing the day's responsibilities, you're setting yourself up to have a more organized and focused workday. If you can't actually write a list because you're driving, it can still be useful just to have a mental checklist."

Jot down your notes on pen and paper (the old-fashioned way), or try an app like Evernote. Once you capture your note, it's instantly available on all your devices. Type in your to-dos or use the voice recording feature. Planning will make your day more structured and less stressful.

2. Catch Up on Email

For nearly anyone with an email account, the morning means an inbox filled to the brim with both important information and a whole lotta junk. Use your commuting time to dump the spam and annoying advertising messages and sift through the important work email. If you can get back to some of the senders, do so, otherwise read through the messages and asses which are the most pressing so you know how to proceed once you get to the office.

Hubspot notes the satisfying feeling of arriving at the office with a clean inbox. Tending to email before the workday begins can "save at least a half hour and a loss of momentum during the most productive time of day."

An added perk of getting back to some open items in your inbox is that the recipient will see your email at the top of their box once they get to work. Your timeliness and top-of-the-morning work ethic will be looked upon fondly.

3. Read a Book or Newspaper

Stimulate your mind, invest in your interests, and catch up on the happenings going on in the world by doing some reading as you're stuck in rush hour. Business Insider writes, "These activities support your ongoing learning and development."

Bring along an eBook reader such as Kindle, or go the old-school route with a favorite hardcover you've been meaning to dive into. Grab a paper at the newsstand or log into apps or newspaper websites on your tablet or laptop.

While reading books or newspapers may not effect what you need to do for work directly, it broadens your mind, gives you a variety of perspectives, and educates you on general and specific information which can be useful in an array of workplace settings. Plus, it's far more entertaining than reading the poster above your seat for the length of the commute!

Are you ready to get moving with productive ways to spend the commute? No more nodding off and arriving at the office in a fog. Use your commute wisely and the benefits will be as rewarding as arriving at your destination on time.

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Developing further skills can boost your career at any stage.

Whether you are looking for a new job or trying to grow in your current one, getting a certification can be a great way to improve your skills.

Anyone can put that they are proficient in a computer program on their resume but having a certificate can help you stand out amongst the competition and give credence to the strength of your skills.

But what's the best way to invest in yourself without breaking the bank? Some certification programs can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. We are going to walk through six of the best certifications you can get for $100 or less.

Tableau

Tableau's data visualization capabilities are comparable to Domo and Power BI.

Who is it best for: Those who work with analyzing and presenting data.

Cost: $100 for Tableau Desktop Specialist; additional certifications are available for a larger fee.

More companies than ever see themselves as data companies. Being able to understand data and use it to guide decisions at your company is often critical to taking on a leadership role. Not to mention, being able to present the data in a clean, attractive, and compelling way can help get buy-in from others in your organization or clients. That's why Tableau is a great tool to have in your toolbox.

Tableau allows you to create interactive visual analytics dashboards. In layman's terms, you can take data; create graphs, maps, or charts; and then allow end-users to interact with these graphics to better understand the information. It's a fantastic tool allowing non-technical users to gain insights for data-driven decision-making.

Tableau Desktop Specialist certification starts at $100 and has no expiration date. There are many videos on Tableau's site to prepare for your exam as well as Tableau Starter Kits allowing you to play around and learn the different capabilities of the program. Tableau offers a 14-day free trial as well as free license for one year for students.

Additional certifications after Desktop Specialist are Desktop Associate and Desktop Professional. Those working with a Tableau server may also be interested in a separate certification as a Server Associate or Server Professional.

The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

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Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.

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