From Hating to Looking Forward to My Commute

Over the last 15 years, I’ve had all type of commutes. A 10 minutes walk commute. A 30 minutes drive or public transit, a 90 minutes combination of driving and public transit commute. They all start benign and longer the commute, faster they burn me out.

My commute whether short or long always bothered me that I was losing precious time every day. Standing on the train platform or waiting at a traffic light, every minute that ticks by can seemed like a minute lost from an already jam-packed day.

We all get the same amount of time every day and time being the most precious asset, and I wanted to make the most of it. So, I focused on optimizing my commute. I’d take inner roads or commute off-peak hours or work from home. Most of these tweaks added some incremental value, but none of them completely solved my commute problem.

I later realized that I wasn’t after shortening my commute time. What I after was not losing valuable time every day. The negativity towards the commute did blindside me for several years. I wish I had dealt with my commute issues sooner. I blamed the external factors that weren’t under my control like traffic or inadequate public transit systems. Instead, I should have focused my energy on addressing the unique issues with my commute, i.e., the time that was taken away from me from Monday to Friday every week.

Two years ago, It came to me that I may not be able to change my commute, but I can change what I do during that time. I made a conscious effort to find something to do and commit to it. I started experimenting with ways to make use of the valuable time I’d spend during my commute. So here I was figuring out things to do that would make me happy when commuting. A time that was given to me to do whatever I wanted and it was my choice.

What to do during the commute?

I could work during this time. I could entertain myself. I could use this time to educate myself on topics that interest me. I knew I had reserved time for work and entertainment every day. So, I wanted to create a new category and use this reserved time five days a week, every week.

The new category became very clear — I needed a reserved time for personal growth. I wanted to create more time to read books, listen to thought leaders, educate myself to topics that interest me.

Having figured out how I wanted to spend my commute time, I now needed to figure out an optimal way to consume content based on my commute.

Everyone’s commute is different. Often, it’s a combination of trains, bus, drive to a station, walk or bike. Fortunately for me, my commute right now is the most flexible when it comes to the mode of transportation. I could drive in 20 minutes with 5 minutes walk. I could take the metro and reach in 30 minutes. I could take UberPool in 25 minutes. I could bike for 20 minutes. I could walk for an hour.

How to chose your mode of transportation?

I wanted to keep my commute reasonably constant. This makes driving, public transit and Uber less attractive as they can be variable depending on the commute time. That left me with walking or biking. Both walking and biking also brought an opportunity to get daily exercise which I also failed to create time for.

Biking reduces commute time by half. But, due to the lack of dedicated bike lanes in San Francisco, I would need to be more vigilant of my surroundings. This limited the amount of content I would be able to consume and thus became less attractive. The hills in San Francisco also make it a harder choice for the everyday commute.

Walk to work became a natural choice. It gave me an extra 30 minutes each way and a much-needed exercise. I like killing two birds with one stone 🙂 I was excited to use this time for my personal growth and daily exercise. My commute got a happier face.

Choosing the media format for your commute

Any mode of transportation has its benefits and challenges. For example, I cannot read or watch when driving. I couldn’t watch a video in public transit for privacy and being mindful to others. I couldn’t effectively read in Uber or bus rides due to motion sickness. I couldn’t read when walking or biking either. There is one format that can be consumed in any mode of transportation, i.e. Audio. We do it all the time in our commutes — listening to music, talking, radio.

I now have a reasonably constant commute time, a door-to-door hour commute by foot. I have enough audio content in my pocket from audio books to podcasts on topics that interest me. With 1.25x speed, I can finish 1–2 books a week. With 1.5x speed, I could listen to many podcasts every day.

My active mode of transportation, i.e., walking improved both my mental and physical health, a daily average of 15–20 thousand steps. The reserved time for personal growth inspires and help me create actions for problems. They both give me energy and excitement to invest a quality time that I look forward to spending every day every week.

Unless you work from home, commuting takes up a considerable chunk of your time. I invite you to change your attitude towards your commute and make changes to start looking forward to it.

Turn that commute into uninterrupted personal time. Do leisure activities that you like, from listening to books or podcasts if you’re driving to reading if you’re taking the train. When you don’t treat your commute as a chance to “catch up” on work (or think about it as Top Billboard ramble in the background), you’ll feel refreshed when you reach your destination.

Make the change today!