For most people a daily commute to the office is unavoidable. We drive, carpool, catch public transport, or cycle/run/walk to work. Some people love their commute and others find it tedious and boring.
It was when I was spending almost 3 hours a day commuting (and almost as much time grumbling about it!) that a friend mentioned how much he loved that part of his day. Early every morning he’d set off on his bicycle for a 90-minute ride to work, and back again every evening. It didn’t sound appealing to me but he looked forward to it. He appreciated that he was able to exercise every day, he was getting fit and he felt happy and relaxed when he got to work and again when he arrived home in the evening.
I wasn’t keen on cycling to work! But it got me thinking if there might be other things I could do to stop viewing my commute as a waste of time. I asked a bunch of people how they viewed their commute and how they spent that time. Quite a few told me they enjoyed the “me time” – no kids, or coworkers or others to bother them. They could relax and do things that made them happy. Some said the commute home allowed them time to process their work day. I noticed a difference between those who begrudged that time and those who looked forward to it. Here are some of the things that made it more bearable, even enjoyable.
If you catch public transport.
This is one of the nicest ways to commute as you don’t need to keep your eyes on the road.
- Call people you don’t get the chance to speak to often enough.
- Read or listen to an audio book or listen to interesting podcasts. I love podcasts and have a long list of favourites – so many that I even use the Overcast app to get through them faster!
- Use Duolingo to learn a language.
- “Look up”. Switch off. Put everything away and look up. See what’s going on around you, notice your surroundings … daydream.
- Breathe. How you breathe has an impact on your stress levels and many other things. Here’s a good article with little-known but excellent advice “if in doubt, breathe out”.
- Whether standing or sitting, practice good posture, engage your core muscles and tuck in your chin to avoid the dreaded “computer hunch”.
- Improve your concentration and focus.
- Using your time to practice mindfulness.
- If your job involves sitting most of the day then your commute is a perfect time to stand. Standing engages more muscles than sitting, and there aremany associated health benefits.
Here’s a great blog from a freelancer in New York who now misses her train commute.
If you walk, run or cycle.
If you commute by using your own legs as transport then you are awesome! This is great for your health and mental outlook.
Quite a few people told me they use listen to loud music on their earphones but after a few near-misses they no longer feel safe doing that. If you are going to wear earphones then be vigilant about what’s going on around you. In addition to some of the public transport tips above, you could:
- Develop good posture – engage your muscles and walk with intent. Turn your walk into a workout.
- Practice feeling “actively relaxed” – focus on good posture and breathe evenly and try to feel calm.
- I was told about a “walking meditation” where a friend notices colours, practices relaxing breathing or listens to the sounds around her.
- Appreciate the outdoors. If you work at a desk all day then this is a good time to be out in the sun and breathing fresh air.
If you drive.
If you’re stuck in slow traffic here are some things you could do, provided you keep yourself and others safe.
- Dictate a blog or a bestseller for later automated or human transcribing.
- Listen to music or, my personal favourite, podcasts. I recommend these: Work in Progress, This American Life, The Moth, Heavyweight, Song Exploder, Women of the Hour, Invisibilia, Magic Lessons, Criminal, RNZ: Saturday Morning
- Do some car yoga.
- Sing! I’m pretty sure singing in the car makes everyone sound better. Who cares if you get caught doing it. At least you’ve made someone smile and that’s got to be a good thing.
If you can’t avoid commuting then doing these things can help to make it a positive part of your work day, even fun. And once you’ve reclaimed your commute then reclaim your job because that should be fun too!