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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.
How do you change something that you have become so accustom to dreading and turn it into a positive experience and force in your life? Many of you would look at this ad think that it isn’t possible. But, in a few simple steps there is a way to turn your commute into a healthy and fulfilling experience.
So you ask, “What will I do about it?” The answer is complicated by what is realistic to do and what you are willing to do. Let’s take distance. It’s not realistic to think of how to shorten the distance if you continue to work for the same company and you are not willing or can’t change companies. So, what to do? Actually, there are a number of things that can be done to make the travel more comfortable, less taxing and even beneficial! And this is true for anything that is making the commute difficult.
Attitude, or perception, is everything. Without a good attitude, everything is harder – paying the bills, cleaning the bathroom, even traveling to work. When we look for problems, we find them. I am suggesting that the first and primary change that will help bring a good commute is working on changing your attitude toward it. Remembering that you did choose to take this job that is X miles from home actually puts you back in control of the situation and takes you out of the victim role. If you’re like most of us, you will feel empowered by using your right to choose.
A change in attitude might have you view your commute as something that you chose to undertake in order to allow you a pleasant home environment while still making an acceptable or good salary and advancing your career. Just so we are clear, the bad attitude might go something like this, “I hate driving all this way to work. I wish I could retire. What’s the use of having a nice house when I don’t have any time to spend in it?” Can you feel your shoulder muscles tighten just reading this? Alternatively, a good attitude might say, “Because I live this distance from work, I can live in this community, in a beautiful house of my choosing.” Just watch those muscles relax.
About the Author:
Dr. Marie A. Mastria has created a five step program titled, FIVE STEPS TO A BETTER COMMUTE which is available free on the Commuter-Assist website (http://www.Commuter-Assist.com).
Dr. Marie A. Mastria is founder of Commuter-Assist, which publishes e-books, CDs and cassettes to help commuters get the most out of their commute and life in general. Dr. Mastria speaks, offers workshops, and consults to businesses. She also provides life, wellness, and business coaching to groups and individuals. To contact Dr. Mastria email info@Commuter-Assist.com or call 570-839-6394.
All content Copyright © 2006, Dr. Marie A. Mastria, CLC, PCC / Commuter-Assist.com. All rights reserved. You may copy or send it to family or friends who may benefit from it so long as the format and credits are intact. You have permission to publish this article electronically, free of charge, as long as the bylines are included and links are activated and maintained. A courtesy copy of your publication or link to website would be appreciated.