Time sinks: Apps, games and tech things to do on a quick commute


It’s a ridiculous time in the morning, and you’ve just about got out of bed. At this point, you’re extremely tired and could do with an extra few minutes of shut-eye, but you know you have work in an hour.

You quickly get washed and dressed, before making your way to the kitchen to fix up some breakfast and grab a cup of coffee. Now it’s time for that painfully boring commute, which could easily make you cry at any given moment.

Whatever you tell yourself, the fact is you can make your journey to work even better. You’ve no doubt got a smartphone tucked away in your pocket, so why not make use of it and the time you have on the bus or train? 

Time is precious, and you can potentially achieve a lot during your commute – even if it’s pretty short. Get productive with an app, or have fun with a game to kill the time. There are plenty of them out there, and we look at the best apps and services for quick commutes.

Things to do in 15 minutes

Medium (Android, iOS, free)

Reading is powerful, and there’s so much you can learn by doing it. On your daily commute – especially if you’re on a train or bus – you no doubt see people with their heads buried in books, newspapers and magazines. Well, with Medium, you can read quality content straight from your phone. What’s cool, though, is that the app has a ‘read time’ feature, meaning you can identify how long an article will take to read. Most are pretty easy to get into, and you can easily get through a piece within fifteen minutes.

Stronghold Games Timer (Android, iOS, free)

If you’d like to kill time and have a bit of fun as well, then it’s worth checking out Stronghold Games Timer. Available on both Android and iOS, the app offers a selection of easy games that are controlled by sand timers. They’re based mainly on the theme of space, but there’s also a whacky game about the UN Security Council. You can set a timer for each game, lasting from a few seconds to a few minutes. There’s a pre-timer option of five minutes, so you could easily play a few while you’re on the bus or train.

News In 60 (iOS, free)

Sometimes, it can be hard to keep up-to-date with the things happening in the world when you have so much going on in your life. But you can change that with News In 60. The app finds all the important news in a day – covering areas such as current affairs, technology and sports – and summarises them so they only take a few seconds to read. You can easily share your favourite articles with friends and save them as bookmarks to access later on. It’s been optimised for high-download speed, low bandwidth and night use.

Things to do in 15 minutes

Map My Walk

There are many people who commute to work by walking, especially if they live in interconnected cities and towns. Perhaps you’re one of them. You probably see it as a great way of exercising, and with Map My Walk, you can calculate your pace, route, distance, calories and steps. It’s a handy way to look at how much your daily commute contributes to your health and wellbeing. You can import data to connected devices from Jawbone, Misfit, Fitbit, Garmin and Withings. There’s also the ability to map and plan your route before you leave your house.

Serial Reader (Android, iOS, free)

It feels great to get ingrained in a good novel, but in reality, not everyone has the time to get through long-read prose. There’s just not enough time in the day. With Serial Reader, though, you can use your commutes to delve into small chunks of books. This smart app lets you subscribe to classic books and sends you an instalment to read each day. You should be able to read each issue within 20 minutes, and if you manage to do that, then there’s no reason why you can’t finish a whole book within a few days. The app has over 300 books available, including classics like The Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, Wuthering Heights, My Antonia, Les Miserables and Peter Pan.

Duolingo (Android, iOS free)

Long commutes may feel like wasted time, although they don’t have to be. You can easily do something productive when walking or on public transport – like learning a language. Duolingo covers a plethora of languages, including Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian. The best thing about it is that language learning is presented as a game, where you pick up words and earn points at the same time. There’s the option to learn in daily doses of 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes. 

Things to do in 30 minutes

30/30 (Android, iOS, free)

While the daily commute is an opportune time to sit back and relax, it’s also a good time to get productive and prepare for the day of work. Tasks managers are a brilliant for keeping organised, and 30/30 is a great example. It lets you create comprehensive task lists and track them to ensure you don’t fall behind. There’s a pre-set time of 30 minutes, meaning you could easily go over emails, documents and other work-related material while you travel to your office. Once the time’s up, you’re encouraged to start another task. It’s worth noting that you have the option to customise the duration of tasks.

Buddhify (Android, iOS, free)

When you have so much going on in life life – from family commitments to work deadlines – it’s easy to become stressed. Meditating is a good way to relieve anxiety and keep productive throughout the day, and Buddhify makes this easy. The app provides more than 80 audio-guided tasks, all of which have been tailored for different parts of the day. These include commuting, sleeping and taking a work break. They last up to 30 minutes, and you can track your progress through statistics.

Day One (Android, iOS, free)

The fact is, there’s so much you can do while you commute: play games, meditate and so much more. But what about journalling? That’s probably something that’s never come across your mind, but it’s actually quite fun. Using Day One, you can easily enter your thoughts and memories into diary entries that are synced and backed up in the Cloud. It lets you store up to ten journals with different colours and names, and you’re able to add as many photos as you’d like. These journals will help not only give you something to do while you get to and from work, but also map your thoughts and feelings. That’s extremely handy if you have a job in the creative world.


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