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7 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Commute

7 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Commute

On average, we spend over a year of our lives getting to and from work. That’s over 13,000 hours that we will spend stuck on a crowded train, struggling to ignore people blasting their music and clenching our fists when the person sitting opposite us whips out a stinky tuna sandwich.

We spend a huge amount of time commuting, and it’s time to start making the most of it, but you don’t have to complete the world’s hardest crossword puzzle or slog through the entirety of War And Peace to accomplish something on your journey.

Here are 7 easy ways to make the most of your commute:

1. Meditate

Meditating is one of those things we know we should do but sometimes struggle with — a bit like drinking more water, eating more broccoli or spending less money on overpriced coffee. Luckily, your journey to work opens the doors to another journey towards a calm and focused mind. Just 10 minutes on your morning train can transform your mindset for the day, helping you to feel more focused, energized and ready to take on whatever the day throws at you.

I use the app ‘Calm’ to do my morning meditation, and it honestly does transform my day. The app contains an entire section on commuting, and the meditation times vary from 2 to 90 minutes, so there is something to suit even the shortest of journeys. Calm also includes meditations for anxiety, gratitude, and a deep sleep.

Meditation has a whole host of benefits, and your daily commute is the perfect opportunity to take 10 minutes for yourself, and see how it impacts the rest of your day.

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2. Start a gratitude journal

Writing down the things in your life to be thankful for (no matter how small!) can lower stress levels, increase empathy and improve sleep, among so many other benefits. A good place to start is to simply write down 3 good things about your day. It only takes 5 minutes, and it can help you feel so much more appreciative of what you have.

Gone are the days of getting frustrated because someone bought the wrong milk. When you welcome gratitude into your life, you will start to see the best in difficult situations, while also appreciating the good things in life – a good cup of tea or the sun on your face in the morning. Gratitude makes us happier, healthier and just a general dream to be around!

3. Learn a language

I’m sure many of us were forced to learn either French, German or Spanish at school and, if you’re like me, these lessons were the definition of hell. Hours slogging away at French grammar that will still be useless to me when I do finally visit France isn’t the most rewarding of tasks.

Now, thanks to podcasts, language apps and YouTube, there are so many ways to start learning a new language and your commute is the perfect time to get started. My favourite app is DuoLingo, and I also listen to the News In Slow Spanish podcast.

Let’s face it; the British don’t have a great track record when it comes to language learning, so let’s forget the ‘everyone else speaks English excuse’ and start practising. Not only is it extremely rewarding, but you might even be able to bargain and get better deals if you visit the countries whose language you can speak. Add in being able to chat to locals while challenging Britain’s reputation as terrible language learners and you’ve got yourself an invaluable skill.

4. Fall in love with reading

My mum has commuted 2 hours into London every day for the past 14 years. After falling asleep at 8:30 pm for the fourth night in a row, I asked her how she did it. She replied that she would never have been able to if it wasn’t for her love of reading.

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Reading is something so many people would love to do but claim they don’t have time for, so spend your commuting time getting stuck into a great book. It doesn’t have to be anything difficult; my favourite genres are psychological or murder mystery thrillers like Gone Girl (or anything by Gillian Flynn) and Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. They are so gripping you may find yourself looking forward to your train journey.

So switch off your phone and dive in.

Once you’re home, you are free to binge watch Game of Thrones to your heart’s content–you’ve earned it.

5. Set daily goals

It goes without saying that a train journey is a great time to get yourself organised. For this reason, I always keep a journal handy so I can jot down thoughts as they come into my head. I usually make a list of things I want to accomplish that day – including what I’ve already done just for that little ego boost (we’ve all done it).

I list my tasks into high priority: things that I will do as soon as I get to work, and low priority: things I do when I have time. As well as tasks, I also write down things I want to focus on that day. These usually involve staying present and mindful, alongside a rough plan of things to do when I get home from work – something that doesn’t involve watching TV while eating half a loaf of bread,

My journal is the one thing I couldn’t live without so try taking 10 minutes at the start of your day to write down all your plans and daily goals, then put it away and relax for the rest of the journey.

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6. Get inspired

Whether on the train, bus or tube there is always inspiration to be found. Instead of gazing mindlessly out of the window for the entire journey, try taking a few minutes to notice the people around you. Notice their clothes, the books they’re reading, the general vibe they give off. Perhaps you like their shoes, have never heard of the book they’re holding, or you’re wondering how they’ve managed to eat a BBQ chicken wrap so neatly.

There is always value to be found in simply noticing what is around you, so next time you feel your thoughts running away with you, try tuning into your senses to see if there’s anything that sparks your interest.

We zone out so often throughout the day and do the majority of our mundane tasks on autopilot (remember how you brushed your teeth this morning?). By simply taking the time to notice what’s going on around us, we can ensure that we don’t just let life pass by unnoticed.

7. Practise tolerance

People are annoying. We all know it. We can probably be annoying ourselves. But the simple fact of life is that we have to deal with people we don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with on a daily basis, and disputes are rarely solved by losing our tempers. When I first started commuting, I would raise my eyebrows if anyone so much as blew their nose in my vicinity, and God help anyone who put their bag down on the seat next to them.

It sometimes feels like there are more commuting faux-pas than there are commuters, so there are ample reasons to get frustrated on long journeys. Add to the mix a delayed train during a heatwave and you are looking at a seriously angry group of people.

But we all know getting angry is a waste of time and energy. Practising tolerance, or at least learning to recognize when you feel frustration rising, will help you in all areas of life.

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So, next time you are on the train, and someone takes their shoes off or scoffs down a bag of cheese and onion crisps, take a few moments to control your emotions before they begin to control you. When you feel angry emotions starting to take over, try not to react, just simply be aware of your anger. Notice the physical sensations that arise with it, whether you start to feel hot, out of breath or getting tight in the shoulders. Take a moment to notice where your anger is stored in your body and try to imagine yourself breathing into that specific area, and allow the tension to soften as you exhale.

This does not mean you are suppressing your anger. Instead, you are choosing not to react. You are simply observing what the emotion feels like and allowing it to pass. By practising this on the train or bus, you will be far better equipped to handle difficult people throughout the day.

For many of us, commuting is an unavoidable part of our working lives, but there is no reason for it to become something we dread. These little hacks will help you to make the most of your commute, and soon your journey may become a positive start (and end) to the working day.

Featured photo credit: Charles Forerunner via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on October 21, 2019

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

“While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

4. Good leaders are students.

In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

“As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

6. Good leaders understand themselves.

I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

Final Thoughts

Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

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Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
[2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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