7 Ways to Constructively Use Carpool Time

By Christine Coleman

With three children in different schools, I spend an average of seven and a half hours each week waiting in the carpool line for my children to be dismissed from school. With only 24 hours in a day and no more available slots left in my schedule, I was forced to utilize my carpool time more creatively and make the most of those precious hours. To make my at-home life less hectic, I created a to-do-in-the-car list to tackle at least one task each day. Here’s a roundup of the kinds of things I can get done without ever leaving the car:


Make appointments/return phone calls. With the fast pace of life, finding time to schedule doctor appointments, meetings and home repairs can be easily overlooked. Same goes for returning calls to friends, family and colleagues. In carpool, you only need to have a planner and a cell phone to call and schedule appointments. Once the schedule of appointments is complete, the remaining wait time can be spent catching up with friends and family.


Plan meals and write grocery lists. Planning weekly meals on the run is a hassle and typically means forgotten items and an unexpected visit to the grocery store. Toni Connor, a preschool teacher and mom to three boys, uses her time in carpool to clip coupons. She uses the weekly ad flyer for her local grocery store to plan meals and make her grocery list. Planning meals a week in advance, allows time to compile a grocery list of the needed ingredients and sort coupons for the items on the list. In taking time to sync the grocery list with coupons and meal planning, you shop less often and avoid impulse buying.


Volunteer. Each year, schools look for parent volunteers for various projects and programs. Volunteering to grade papers, coordinate programs or cut out materials, allows parents to help out the school without being in the building. Tasks like these can all be completed from the car and help the school reach volunteer hour requirements. You give your time and the school earns money for the service of their parent volunteers. That’s a win-win.


Take care of correspondence. With the chaos of the morning rush there is not always time to take care of correspondence. Filling out school permission slips and writing notes or birthday cards can be completed while waiting for the kids. Mom of four, Tara Piatek, uses carpool time to catch up on correspondence. “Right after the twins were born, I put together and stuffed their birth announcements while waiting in carpool,” said Piatek. In this way, she cuts back on time spent at home doing tasks that can be done in any environment, unlike laundry or meal preparation.

Journal. Finding time to reflect and record thoughts or ideas is difficult when constantly on the run. During the carpool wait, take the time to journal, jot down ideas for work and upcoming projects or sketch.  Journaling allows time to organize thoughts and ideas. By taking the time to note ideas for a creative project, outline a solution for a client or sketch a home improvement project, you record your ideas and thoughts while they are fresh in your mind. By committing ideas to paper, you group thoughts and ideas in a constructive way, enhancing productivity at home and at work.

Pay bills/balance bank account. “I have been known to reconcile my bank statements in the carpool line,” Piatek says. She works as a virtual assistant and dedicates some of her carpool time to completing business tasks. At least once a week, go over bank statements, pay bills, note future bill dates and go over budgeting needs. By allocating time in carpool to attend to tedious tasks like balancing banking statements, attention can be focused on where the money is going, avoiding any costly mistakes.

Read or nap. Sometimes carpool time is a great time to read. Whether it is a book, junk mail or a magazine, spending quiet time reading can be a much needed break from a hectic day. Power naps also are a great way to take a little break and gear up for the homework and dinner time hour. Having this small chunk of time with no interruptions is a great way to relax and refocus thoughts.

Driving from one school to another waiting for the kids to be dismissed can get tedious. Using the time in carpool to complete mundane tasks, nap or read makes the time go by quickly. There are so many things you can do while waiting in your car: filing, cleaning your vehicle, even painting the toenails of younger children. By structuring time spent in carpool, your focus at home can be spent relaxing with family.


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