Commutes are frustrating because they make us feel like we don’t have any control. You’re either trapped on a bus or train, or trapped in a car crawling along the motorway. But if you focus on what you can control, your time heading to and from work can become the best, most enriching parts of your day.
Photo by perriscope.
To make the most of your commute, researchers at Harvard Business Review suggest you look at that travel time from a different perspective. It doesn’t have to be the waste you might see it as. You may be confined while you go from home to work and vice versa, but the time itself is still yours. Yours to read a book, or listen to a podcast, or better yet, treat it as PhD candidate Jon M. Jachimowicz’s great-aunt would call a “pocket of freedom”:
We borrowed the phrase “pocket of freedom” from Adela, the great-aunt of one of us (Jon), whose early adult years were spent in various Polish ghettos during the Nazi occupation. No matter how hungry, tired, or frightened she was, she devoted one hour each night to a creative activity with her niece — a practice that, she later noted, helped her persevere. Though the stakes in a commute to work are much less significant, you, too, can make the time more bearable by thinking of it as an opportunity to pursue your passions.
Adela’s coping strategy, while born from a far greater struggle than any commute, is still useful advice for the rest of us, and is supported by science. Research has suggested a correlation between higher levels of autonomy and greater well-being for years. Being able to choose how you use your time often leads to greater satisfaction, productivity and lower stress levels throughout the day. It’s not so much about what you do with these “pockets”, you see, it’s that you choose to take control and do something.
Every commute is an opportunity, so start looking at it as a blessing and not a curse. You’ve been given a small chunk of freedom to be creative, pursue a passion, learn a new skill, or listen to some soothing music so you can decompress before going home to a busy family. How will you use your “pockets of freedom?”