Commute/convenience. Do you love everything except the location and hours of your work? Do you have a life that work is inconveniencing? Does your work give exceptional support to your life, but you hate some other aspect of it? Is your commute just sheer hell?
These days, many people feel they have to go where the opportunities are for work, but housing and relationships can tie us to fixed locations which may or may not be convenient for that work. Result? People end up tying themselves in knots trying to get to different locations through hellish transport networks. Add in other requirements – children at school, elderly parents who live far away and a worker can end up spending half their week trekking round the country and feeling miserable. Not to mention jobs which require you to be away from home all week.
Why do we hate commuting? Two reasons: 1. We find it unproductive time, 2. However we commute, it provides more sensory overload. We have to endure traffic, noise, cramped conditions, wild temperature swings – there is just a bunch of stuff that is out of our control, and makes it feel like more of an endurance test than living.
What to do?
If you are stressed out about your work purely because of your daily commute, then look at this very, very carefully. Sometimes we start a job, pick a way of getting there, and never look for alternative options. So, what stresses you out about your commute? It is how long it takes? Is it what it involves? Is it too tiring? Does it run to un-realistic deadlines? Are your plans very frequently disrupted, e.g. by heavy traffic or late trains?
Identify your source of stress, and then: eliminate it, reduce it, or mitigate it.
- Eliminate it. Possibly the most drastic approach – is there anything radical you can do to make this situation better? Can you move either your home or your job on either a permanent or temporary basis? If you are racing to get to school/nursery before they close, can you get anyone else to take this job away (either friends, family or paid)? Can you travel in a different way or at different times? I know someone who worked in a very specialised government field who had to travel 3 hours away to do her work. She didn’t want to move, because she lived with her boyfriend, however he ran his own business and was flexible. There were many possible solutions for her. She could simply accept the situation and keep applying for any roles more locally that came up – one would eventually. They could have moved to be near her work, maybe wrapping that up with another goal like buying a new house together – they could also have moved half way to her work. She could have considered a career change, she could also have looked into any commercial opportunities for what she did for a wider range of geographical opportunities and probably a pay raise, or considered a career change. There were many options, all of which offered other possible benefits.
- Reduce it. If you are stuck with your commute, then how can you make it better? Can you get one day working from home or a more convenient location and miss out 2 journeys a week? Can you do it differently? Do you need to drive? Conversely are there any public transport options you haven’t looked at? Can you car pool? Cycle to meet your fitness goals? I recently got an hour a day back by deciding to take a train instead of driving. It was an option I had not even considered before, and it’s been a real winner in terms of my personal productivity and happiness.
- Mitigate it. We find commuting frustrating because we think it is unproductive time, can you make it work for you instead, by using it to get more of what you want in your life? My train change has been working really, really well for me. The overall journey is longer than it would be if I just drove directly, but I get a half hour buffer each side of my day, which I use for a combination of things. Work if necessary, but I stop when the train does. Literally a buffer – I use it to reflect on things that have happened at work, get them out of my system and wind-down before I go home without distractions like battling traffic. My projects – if I want to write a blog article or do some goal-setting I get a total hour travel time to do that. Or I just use it for R and R, which it was one of my goals to get back in my life, and I have been reading some fiction books I wanted to get round to. Basically I get an hour a day of flexible me-time I can use for what I want. It’s a big improvement.
Just like we do with all stressors, if you commute is dragging you down, break it down into the component, pinpoint the stressful aspect, then look at your options. What’s your situation? Have you tried any changes? What were the results? Leave a comment below, and let me know.