5 Productive Things a Data Scientist Can Do While Commuting By Subway

For the first time of my life, I have to go to work by subway. It takes me almost 2 hours a day. The travel is a mix of comfortable portions, where I can seat, and very uncomfortable ones, standing in the middle of the crowd or walking.

Instead of dozing off in the train, here are some tricks I experimented or learned from my colleagues, to make my commuting time more productive.

Read newspapers and magazines

You probably know this description of the so-called Data Scientist, being an hybrid profile knowing mathematics and computer science, and having also business skills, etc… Reading newspapers and magazines helps you to shape your mind for understanding (and after solving) real-life problems, and stuffs that matter.

One good point is that it’s very easy to buy press in the metro stations. You also have access to free newspapers if you want. To be broad-minded, you can buy newspapers from different political camps, or (non-technical) magazines focused on diverse subjects. It’s amazing, but you always learn something in a windsurfing, cross-stitch or drumming magazine.

Watch MOOCs

Some renowned MOOC providers have the smart idea to allow the downloading of the courses for offline watching. This is the case of Coursera.

This represents a gold mine to brighten up your commuting trips.

Read offline contents on your smartphone

One big problem in the metro is that web browsing is nearly impossible, as during rush hours data connectivity is awful.

To mitigate this, a good solution is to use apps allowing you to save contents for later offline read. I recommend “pocket”. It works on all devices, meaning that wherever you are connected (at work with your desktop, at home with your tablet, or at your favorite coffee-shop with your smartphone), you can add a link to your cloud “pocket”. From this moment, the content will be available on all your devices, even without internet connection.

This is awesome, as you can save pages from your favorite web sites, and read them later in the metro.

Prepare printed articles

Always reading everything on a screen can become unpleasant. To break the routine, a good alternative is to prepare printed versions of articles, and “live inside it for a week

Contrary to newspapers, that are large and sometimes difficult to read in the crowd, you can print your articles in a very convenient and compact recto / verso — 2 pages per side format. With this small footprint, you can even read when standing or walking.

Here are examples of good papers worth putting in your bag or your trouser pocket :

Just do nothing and think

Tackling a Data Science project is not a straightforward process. You have to experiment, try, fail, succeed, iterate, find new ideas … For example, you need creativity to invent new features.

Ideas can come at any moment (it is well known that some brilliant ones come while sleeping), and it’s good to reserve time for that. While during day-work it’s not always easy, as you have mettings, discussions, etc. … you can try to think of your issues during the commuting trips. Eventually while listening music as well.

To be ready to catch any idea without forgetting it, and always have my ideas buffer full, I use a to-do list app, like the elegant tomorrow.do.

You can also use a small Moleskine notebook.