I´m in the Bay Area several times each year, but I never get used to the traffic here, which seems to get worse each year.
A good tip I am finally starting to follow is to avoid driving before 9am and avoid driving between 3 and 7pm. Obviously that is sometimes not possible, but often you can arrange meetings and schedule around that.
I am usually driving alone here, but if you have two or more in the car you can use the carpool lanes which always seem very clear. I think in that case the hours are not as important, though you will still get gummed up when there is no car pool lane.