We’ve (almost) left the pandemic lockdown behind, and it is time … to get back to work!
I wrote in another post about my commuting experience. I used to spend up to 3 hours per day to get to work and back. So, one hour and a half per ride.
My challenges were:
- not to get bored and waste my time
- not to miss my stop
- recover a bit after work and regain a friendly face, before meeting my family at home
My favorites for commuting are:
- short readings
- good headphones
- a commuter bike!
- very predictable, but having all three is the best!
On the way to work
I stay in the middle of the crowd that is very tense in waiting for the approaching train. It is still moving, but the whole mass tries to hunt the doors. Then we board, I get no place to sit, people need to walk past me in the narrow passage between the seats, pushing me all the time.
No wonder, I did not try to read any classic literature. I had a magazine that I chose of one simple principle: it had short articles and many pictures. But it still had some substantial content. It was about climbing and was printed monthly. It took me exactly 30 days to finish one issue.
I used the time before getting to work. My head was still fresh, and my eyes relaxed after a moderately good sleep. I was able to consume new information. After work I did not want to.
Another reason I took that magazine with me was that it was well foldable. I did not have a lot of space in my bag.
Later I decided to stop reading about doing sport, but to do more sport actually. So, I took another foldable thing with me — a commuter bike — and rode 6 km from the station I got off the train to my work.
I believe that the most effective way to use your commuter time is to move. Before having that small bike, I often walked to the main train station instead of using public transport. It added another hour to my ride, but I came home with a free mind and pleasantly tired.
On the way home
Still, I had to wait for my train and then to wait for my station.
My job consisted of sitting in front of the screen and reading a lot. I used to surf through somewhat 100 websites per day. Writing made another big part of my time in the office.
So, my eyes were so …. [looking for some polite wording] … strained that I was not able to read and even less to scroll on any mobile device. This was a time for some audio input.
It sounds easy, but it is not. I used to turn on a music streaming app and then I got lost. I always feel through the music. It must be appealing. I cannot just open some tunes that an algorithm selected for me. I had to work on my music library. But the result was worth it.
I invested my time in testing a few music apps and searching for the good music. Eventually, I ended up filling my digital library with the albums I‘d bought years ago in the CD format. Never touch a running system.
I was subscribed to a couple of podcasts, but they tended to run out of good ideas. Another problem is that most podcasts, I was somehow interested in, were incredibly long, longer than one hour. After more than 8 hours of concentration I did not want to keep my attention on the top of its capacity another 60 minutes.
So, I gave up subscribing to any long podcasts. 20 minutes is my maximum. And yes, it is possible to fit a good story into this period of time!
I invested in good, noise-reducing headphones. Unfortunately, they tend to kill a good sound. But they also saved me a couple of too private conversations I had otherwise overheard in a train.
Location of your apartment
Unfortunately, the location of our apartment was quite inconvenient for permanent commuting. I wish I could have thought it more carefully.
After all, I was happy to move closer to my work or to any working opportunities. Commuting cost me a lot of time that I could have spent with my family.
For instance, a colleague of mine, whom I often met in the same morning train, used to leave another 20 minutes farther than I. Surprisingly, she told me that she needs less time than I did! When I looked for a new flat after signing my working contract, I did not know that the following thing can be relevant.
It is better to live in a more distant town, but in an apartment very close to a train station. Nothing ever cost me more time, then riding a city bus through a rush hour. Avoiding any buses or trams that drive through the streets flooded with cars can save an enormous amount of time. Avoiding too many changes on your way to work is worth solid consideration too.
It is better to live near an express train station on the one end of your daily journey, and work near an express train station on the other. I changed my job and had to use a “normal” slow train. It took me more time, it was always full and noisy. It had strange, inhuman seats.
If you have to commute, each minute becomes precious. To prolong my sleep a bit, I eventually decided against having my breakfast at home. It was also ineffective, since I had no hunger so early, and then I would always need a snack in the office, unable to wait till the lunch time.
I started to have breakfast in a small, not so famous café near the train station in the main city. This one-hour delay helped my hunger to develop, and I was rewarded with a nice freshly brewed cup of coffee.
I knew people that ate their breakfast at work, but it felt strange for me, to sit at the office table and do as if it were a lunch table, though. One company I happened to work in had team breakfasts that were an even better alternative to an early meal.
Spending more than eight hours a day sitting in the office chairs was frustrating enough. But then waiting for the train and, again, staying in a static position for another hour could not do any good to my mood.
As a (former) data scientist, I was always obsessed with optimizing things. So, I’d decided to optimize my commuter experience!
I first tried different routes, but the public transport is unreliable in general. All I could do, is to reduce the number of changes, and the time I had to spend waiting and sitting.
How? With my old passion — a bike!
I’d bought a small, 22 inches foldable bike. I was allowed to take it to the train as a luggage. I took off the train and enjoyed the morning sun and the fresh air, and a lot of nice views on my way to office.
And after the work I was driving like crazy to shake the day off my shoulders. It did not help me to arrive at home faster. But I was enjoying my free time during commuting!
Consider other working modes
I believe that commuting is an option if you really need a job you do. Or there are some particular circumstances. But generally I am no way a fan of commuting. I have a lot of good memories about riding my bike through the green parks and empty streets, but that I would have been able to do even without commuting.
I also have to think back on all those days the trains would not arrive and depart on time, and I was starving another hour or grabbed me something unhealthy at a train station. Or my bus played on my nerves, loosing costly minutes in the traffic jam, and I was too close to missing my train and coming late to work.
The only thing I truly loved about commuting was that it allowed me to have my home outside of an overcrowded city. My weekends belonged to me, and I was in nature in a 5 minutes walk.
Still, if you have a chance to replace commuting with remote work, I would fully recommend it.