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7 Ways to Make Commuting Suck Less

7 Ways to Make Commuting Suck Less

Commutting

    Commuting between work and home can be a frustrating and inefficient experience. But it does not have to be. There are many productive (and safe!) ways to make the most of your time while you’re behind the wheel. For example:

    Learn a new language

    Burn some CDs with language lessons (you can easily find them on the Internet, even for free!) and listen to them again and again. Repeat the phrases out loud. Burn some more when you feel the level has become too easy for you. You will be amazed at how quick you progress in a week of commuting.

    After doing this for several months, I filled out an online Italian language test and found out I already had an intermediary level… Without taking any formal lessons!

    Listen to podcasts

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    Subscribe to podcasts dealing with the subjects that interest you and listen while driving. This is a surefire way to always be up to date. Another hint: If you podcasts are spoken in the language you are trying to learn, you will advance much faster!

    “Read” books

    Reading while driving is surely lethal. But try audio books. If the book is interesting, chances are you won’t be bothered by traffic jams, you will even beg for some!

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    One example: I never could finish reading Don Quixote. Its old-fashioned Spanish made me fell asleep after a couple of pages. I felt so guilty. After all, that is THE book every Spanish speaker should have read! Then I tried the audio book. Not only was it easy to follow, it was even compelling! I listened to it during a round trip between Brussels and Paris I did one summer. The blue sky and the wheat fields made me feel it was ME who was riding thru La Mancha!

    “Take” courses

    Going to Harvard or Stanford may be expensive, but listening to their professors lecture while you drive is…free! Nowadays, most universities offer a number of free courses, from sciences to liberal arts. I have particularly appreciated a course about European history I downloaded from the Stanford website. And another funny coincidence: I was driving by Waterloo when the teacher spoke about Napoleon’s defeat!

    Listen to news

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    This is an obvious one, but worth mentioning. If you listen to the news 10 minutes a day while driving, you won’t need to browse the news websites while at home or work.

    Listen to music

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    This is another obvious one. But I include it after I heard –  in an Italian podcast, of course – about a study conducted by researchers from the University of Florence that found that listening to classical and other soft music for 30 minutes a day during one month can significantly reduce mild high blood pressure. Very convenient for those suffering from work or traffic-jam-related stress!

    Be Zen

    Ok. You are too upset/tired/worried to listen to anything. Then just be Zen. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do the lotus position or close your eyes. That is not very wise on a highway. Just breathe in and out slowly. Don’t think about anything, just see around you. Feel the vibration of your car. Forget yesterday and tomorrow. Just live in the moment, even if the moment isn’t very exciting.

    I commute by car, but all these suggestions can be practiced on the train or on the metro. If someone else is controlling the driving, you can use your iPod, your laptop, or your tablet PC so you can add a visual component to any of the ideas above.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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