Harry here. As someone who’s always thinking about ways I can be more efficient with my driving, today I wanted to share an article from RSG contributor, Christian Perea, about what to do while waiting for an Uber ride request. I know I’m guilty of just scrolling through Facebook while waiting for that ping, but there is actually a lot of productive stuff you can be doing in your down time.
Sometimes we spend a lot of time waiting in-between calls. Maybe your market is heavily saturated or maybe there just isn’t a lot of demand. Of course, some markets have more downtime than others. When I drove in Santa Barbara, I would often go an hour or so without a ride. Luckily, Santa Barbara had a lot of beaches and a lot of parking, so it wasn’t so bad.
However, I got to wondering, what are some of the more productive things I can do to minimize the shittiness of sitting in a car all day? There has to be something else to do right?
I know a lot of us tend to kickback in our seats after finding a place to park and proceed to scroll through our Facebook feed on our cellphones. Some of us will use our time between rides to check the local Facebook lounges to see how other drivers are doing and to confirm with others that it’s slow.
However, we spend a lot of time looking at our smartphones. Too much time. Obsessively punching the touchscreen on our smartphone until it gives us money like lab rats pushing a nicotine lever. Here are some other things to do that might improve our time on the road, and even make us hustle a little harder when it gets busy.
Get a Sweet Camping Chair
I have seen some drivers with camping chairs that they can break out almost anywhere (here’s a good one on Amazon). These are especially useful for those of us who like to stand around random parking lots with other drivers and talk. I think they are brilliant because it allows me to get outside of the car while still being able to take a call within a minute of receiving it.
Coolers are also a good compliment to this, as they make it easier to plan your own meal while saving money (and your health) from another 7-11 meal that costs seven bucks. Face it, we eat a lot of convenient food on the road. This doesn’t mix well with the sedentary nature of the job.
I like to find places with a nice view and break out a chair and relax. I especially like looking down at the city from a hill and reflecting on how much it would suck to be in an office at that moment.
I think one of the benefits of this gig is that we end up everywhere in our local area when we normally wouldn’t. When did you last visit that area before you were a driver? Building breaks into our downtime should take advantage of that. These chairs are perfect for parks or other areas where you can hangout in peace.
They also work for random driver meetups in obscure parking lots. The drivers I saw with these were in San Diego back when drivers still hung-out at the Hillcrest DMV parking lot. They also work well for reading and just generally chilling outside of the car.
Get Out of the Car
Do you spend hours with your butt glued to the seat of your car? Does your lower back feel compressed or destroyed? I usually find somewhere around the third hour that there is no comfortable position or configuration to my seats that won’t make me feel terrible. At the same time, we realize the more we work, the more money we can make. So what are we to do?
Stretches and Exercise
I’m going to be the first to admit that it’s hard to commit to finding a place to stretch in a field or parking lot. It can also look a little silly. However, stretches are extremely effective, and when I actually do them I find that my back and legs hurt a lot less. I won’t profess to be a fitness expert, but here are the ones that I tend to do that address my back and leg pain.
- Increased blood circulation
- Increased focus on the road
- Alleviates and prevents back and leg pain
- Releases endorphins “and stuff”
- Increased earnings by driving longer
Exercising offers a lot of the benefits of stretching but with increased intensity. One of the things that may hold us back from getting crazy on the exercise is the awkwardness of getting all sweaty and driving people around. Here are some things I do to wake myself up without breaking too much of a nasty sweat:
- Lunges: I usually do ten forward and ten backwards and stop when I want to.
- Push-ups: I do enough to get the blood flowing and to think more clearly.
- Dumbbells: I don’t have them, but you can get varying sizes that work for various exercises. They are a good fit because they don’t take up too much space in the trunk and are very adaptable.
- Yoga: I haven’t tried yoga yet, but I imagine it would be good to do in parks and stuff. Like the sweet camping chair, it’s easy to store a yoga mat almost anywhere in a car.
Education and Self Improvement
A lot of us have aspirations other than carting around our passengers for the remainder of our life. Having so much downtime could be an excellent way to learn a new skill to help us in the future. You should always be learning.
If you are like driver Isaac Yonemoto, you can work on curing cancer while brushing up on your Italian via Duolingo.
College/Grad Students: I really wish I would have driven in college. It would have been the best way to crush my readings while also earning money effectively killing two very large birds with one stone. This is where that camping chair comes in handy. Now you have the means to get your reading and homework done in the most zen-monk areas of your city and earn money every time you study.
Language Apps: Duolingo is the first that comes to mind but you can also download free podcasts or rent audio books from your local library. The benefit to many of these platforms is that they are convenient and can be picked up again where you left off. If you are studying a language that is popular in your area you may even get a chance to practice on your passengers. It also adds a solid skill to your resume.
Code Academy/Coding Apps: A lot of drivers have expressed an interest in coding. I don’t know anything about it, but I know there are tools to learn like Code Academy and General Assembly that can be easily accessed from anything with an internet connection and a keyboard. We could all probably immensely benefit from learning a little bit of coding!
Read an Actual Book: Before we had screens, there were these things called “books”. Some people would actually read them for fun. This also fits well with finding a scenic place to wait for your next call. I actually sometimes miss having slow days where I would just read near the beach and go run a few calls.
Business/Real-Estate: A friend of mine, Abe Thomas, was able to study for his real estate agent’s license while driving. He drove around with giant books in his car and when things were slow he would hit the books. The material made good conversation pieces and allowed him to occasionally get face time with other agents or people in the business and look for potential clients. Real estate (and life in general) is all about networking!
Start a Business
Maybe you have had some business ideas in the past that you wanted to explore but didn’t necessarily have the time for. Well, now you have the time to experiment a little bit. For Abe, that meant laying the groundwork to be a real estate agent. For Isaac, that meant putting together a non-profit focused on cancer research. Another friend started a toffee-based candy business. A few other drivers in San Francisco were able to start DJ’ing at parties and events, all the while generating leads and conducting research from the very people we drive. As their side-hustle expanded, their driving declined.
For many of us, this sort of endeavor could be what gets us to a position where we never have to apply for a job again. I personally hope I will never have to submit a resume to anybody ever again.
You may find value in volunteering during your downtime.
- Keith Maddock is a driver in San Francisco who helps organize drivers to volunteer with Project Open Hand, a nonprofit organization that provides meals to seniors and the critically ill.
- Ben Gotro is a driver who organizes rides for Little Brothers Elder Transportation Escort Program in San Francisco.
Having downtime creates the opportunity to give back to your community and to make a difference in somebody’s life. Meals on Wheels is available in almost every city and, frankly, there are a lot of organizations that need drivers who know the city well.
With some searching, you can find a cause that fits you best. Also, if you have a volunteering gig that you would like to relay to other drivers, feel free to leave it in the comments section and I’ll even add it to this section of the article.
Being a Little Bit Happier
If we find other things to do with our time that are productive or fulfilling, we can get a lot more out of this gig. Uber and Lyft shouldn’t be the determinant of whether we have a good day or not. By taking our focus away from constantly searching for rides, we may find that we are in a better mood to drive and actually earn more money.
The point here is that we are going to have downtime. We can make the best of it and do something worth mentioning while living better lives or we can just refresh our Facebook feeds and feverishly check the driver apps in a futile attempt to chase a surge that is ten minutes away.
Drivers, what do you do in-between rides, during longer breaks and when you have down time away from rideshare? Do you think there’s value in bettering yourself or will you continue browsing Facebook?
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-Christian @ RSG