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Hate Your Commute To Work? It’s Probably Because You Have The Wrong Mindset

Hate Your Commute To Work? It’s Probably Because You Have The Wrong Mindset

A huge amount of us have some kind of commute to work each day. Whether it’s by car, train or bus, our commute can sometimes take a large chunk out of our day and studies are showing the greater distance there is between home and work, the more likely you are to feel isolation, have sleep difficulties, stress, emotional problems and general burnout. Whether we realise it or not, our well-being and happiness is taking a massive beating.

Researchers found that each minute spent on commuting is identified with a 0.0257-minute exercise time reduction, a 0.0387-minute food preparation time reduction, and a 0.2205-minute sleep time reduction. An example of what this equates to is someone who commutes for a total of 3 hours a day in their working week for a year, will miss out on half an hour of sleep each day.

How Can You Combat The Commuting Blues?

If you find long commutes don’t affect you that much, it could be because you have a certain trait in your personality that gives you a slightly different mindset: self-control.

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A survey of 225 London commuters found that dissatisfaction and unhappiness in their jobs was high in those who had longer commutes with the exception of those who had self-control as an integrated personality trait.

So what does someone with self-control do that others don’t? Well, they are more likely to spend their time forward planning during their commute. In other words, they ask themselves goal-oriented questions such as: What do I need to get done today? How is this related to the rest of my week? And is this all contributing towards my overall career goal?

The reason this particular mindset works is because, even just done for a few minutes, it allows us to transition much more easily, both psychologically and temporally, from our home life to our work life. By doing this people are less likely to experience stress and general lower well-being in their lives.

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The Biggest Commuting Mistake We Make

Some of us may use our commute to read a book, answer emails, take a nap or just generally space out. While some of what we do may feel like a productive use of our travel time, what we’re fundamentally doing is isolating ourselves from others.

As humans, we are extremely social and during our commute we are surrounded by a lot of people but actively choosing not to interact with them. We’re very used to doing this, especially on a packed train or bus but the solitary and unsociable way we behave is actually very detrimental to our overall well-being.

Have you ever wondered why people stand almost touching arm to arm on crowded transport but never even look each other in the eye? Under normal social circumstances being that close to another person means there’s a social connection but on a commute this is acceptable because we tend to look at people as ‘part of the furniture’ rather than as human beings – this allows us to mentally disengage ourselves from those around us.

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How Can We Help Ourselves To Have A Happier Commute?

Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioural science at the University of Chicago says we are using our commuting time all wrong and mistakenly seeking solitude on our way to and from work. What we really need to do is spark up conversations with those around us.

“People tend to think others just aren’t that social and that if you started a conversation it would be unpleasant, but that’s what commuters are getting wrong,” says Epley. “What we learned from our experiments is that the biggest cost to commuting – the unhappiness that shows up in almost every survey you find – can go away just by talking to a stranger.”

It seems starting simple conversations and interactions with your fellow commuters is enough to quell the negative influence that commuting has on our happiness and well-being.

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If you’re thinking that no one ever looks like they’ll welcome a conversation from a stranger, you are wrong. The study Epley and his colleagues conducted showed the average person believes only 40% of their fellow commuters would happily engage in a random conversation with a stranger but, in fact, this actually turned out to be 100%.

It doesn’t have to be an in-depth discussion either – just simply complimenting or making an observational remark could be enough to make a difference to both your journey and someone else’s. So if your commute is causing stress, anxiety, and lowering your mental and physical well-being, it’s either time to seriously re-think your reasons behind such a long commute or simply stop isolating yourself and say hello to the person sitting next to you.

More by this author

Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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