Now Arriving: An Upgraded Commute
Posted by: Lauren Basil
I've always enjoyed driving. Getting into my car and being able to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted was a luxury I hadn't realized. That luxury was a far off memory when I turned in the convenience of driving for the overcrowded, always delayed New York subway system. Lucky me. I would shove my way towards the front of the crowd each morning in hopes of getting onto the first train to arrive, but rarely did that happen. After weaseling my way onto the train, I would stand there surrounded by hot, sweaty bodies and I would stare at my phone in hopes of avoiding any human interaction. I would even preload Snapchat stories or my Instagram feed knowing I would lose service and have no other option but to take my eyes off of the screen. Nothing about my commute added value to my life.
I realized my commute to and from work was going to be 400 minutes a week I would never get back. It was time wasted. I needed to take a different approach. Instead of allowing myself to mindlessly stroll through my Instagram feed, I had to figure out what I could to add value to my life or my career.
I was on a mission to find a few different approaches on how I could spend my time. Was it something that would prepare me better for my work day? Was it something to help my personal life and put my mind at ease? Or was is just simply reading the news? Honestly I didn't know. It might just depend on what mood I'm in.
I started off by considering work related things I could do or read to fill the time. I figured this was a win win for me. I would be occupied during the ride and it would benefit my career in one way or another. I found an app called Any.do that served as a task manager. The quick and dirty: I was able to keep track of my to-do list, prioritize tasks, schedule a time for each task and set long term goals and milestones relative to each task. This was something I previously would do every morning as soon as I sat down at my desk. Adding it to my morning commute cut that time out of my work day and got my brain moving before I walked into the office. Not only did I enjoy the fact that it cut an aspect out of my work-day, it also made me feel more prepared walking into the office. Of course, somedays I may not have been able to plan my whole day out while on the train, but most days I could and it made me more aware of what was critical that day.
Sure, somedays I didn't want to think about work at all before I got to the office. When I was feeling this way I would use an app called Headspace that allowed me to meditate anytime, anyplace, anywhere (even offline). The idea of meditating was completely foreign to me. I had never done it, felt the need to do it, or thought about doing it. It was a game changer, but it wasn't easy. It took practice to ignore the distractions of people talking, children crying and the constant voice saying "stand clear of the closing doors.
If I got the option to sit, I would take it (unless someone else was in need, of course) because this was the easiest way for me to meditate and drown out all other distractions. If not, I would try and go towards the back or the front of the car to avoid people going in and out of the doors at each stop. I would have to carefully plan how long my meditation would be based on when I was able to start it. This was important. If I was completely zoned in and the meditation took too long, that meant I was probably going to miss my stop. All in all, by doing this I got a moment of peace during a very hectic time. It allowed me to clear my head and refocus for the day ahead.
Mediation isn't for everyone. Some days it was not for me and these were the days that I turned to reading while on the train. During work I would come across articles that really peaked my interest, but most of the time I was in the middle of something else and didn't have the time to read it right then and there. It was inconvenient to copy and paste the link to the article and then email it to myself to I could then read it later on the train.
An app called Pocket came to my rescue. I downloaded it to my phone and computer immediately. When I was on my computer, it allowed me to simply click a button on my browser and save whatever article I was looking at to the app on my phone. I could do the same thing on my phone and then later access the article later on my computer. The best part about this app, it accounted for people not having service while on the subway. Every article is saved locally on the app so there is no need for service when wanting to go back and read. Sometimes I used this as entertainment reading and sometimes I used this to learn more about what was going on in my industry and what I could be doing better.
I found every method added value in a different way. I no longer felt as if I was wasting time, and hiding from any human interaction. I am not set in a routine of having to fill out my to do-list on Mondays or meditate on Thursdays, I figure out what I am in the mood for and what is the best use of my time that day. I never thought that apps on my phone would turn the worst 80 minutes a day into an extremely useful time for me to accomplish something. Even though we often hear that we should turn off our screens and be in the present, being present in the subway just leads to unhappiness, irritation, and sometimes seeing things we wish we could unsee. Figure out how you can best use your time commuting and I would bet money that "there's an app for that."