Written by: Marie A. Mastria, PhD
Time passes whether you do something with it or not, so why not make the most of it? You have to travel to work, but what goes on during that travel time is up to you. What you do with that “in between” time can be beneficial or detrimental to the rest of your day. David Clements (Future Cities Project, 2004) wondered that “commuting is ‘the life sentence,'” much akin to a jail sentence. How could we have gotten to that state, and what can we do about it? Well, we could relax, read, listen to books on tape or music, get caught up on work, start the “great American novel.” It really is up to you.
In a survey conducted by Diane Strahan of CareerBuilder, she found that thirty-six per cent of over 2,000 respondents surveyed said they would be willing to take a ten per cent or larger pay cut if they could have a shorter commute. “Workers and employers need to give more thought to their daily commute strategies and the impact commuting stress may have on their lives,” she said.
Acknowledge commute time as time for yourself. Making this adjustment in thinking has helped many commuters begin to take the stress out of the commute. Although this may sound “jargon-y,” it has been shown to lessen the stress of the commute.
How would you describe that commute time? Do you fret over it, wishing it would go away? Well, it won’t, at least not in the immediate future. So reinterpret it. Instead of thinking about the hateful commute, you might describe it as the time I have to myself to meditate, plan the day, or develop my schedule. Making only this adjustment in thinking has been a help to commuters no matter what form of transportation they use.
The Federal Highway Agency has reported that commuting time is increasing and commuters are traveling greater distances, and the trend is for both to increase. With this happening, strategies that make for a better commute become very necessary.
We all recognize that an important aspect to a balanced life is socialization, yet as our responsibilities grow and time diminishes, many of us find that our social life also diminishes. Socialization is a good way to stay healthy and connected but, as our social lives lessen, we become more prone to illness and poor health. But commuters can do something about it. Some people have become so close in their bus commutes to and from work that they celebrate important events together, like birthdays and promotions. They design on-bus book clubs. They plan to meet over the weekends. They meet and marry. There are so many ways the long commute can be used to meet our needs. If you take public transit, commuter friends offer a pleasant way to pass the time and provide good networking resources when you are looking for a new job or a good dentist.
The time spent commuting to and from work can be approached as time wasted or as an opportunity to get things done. Make a plan to use your time so it will benefit your home life and your professional life and you will have found more time in the day.