Commuting sucks. And now, it sucks even more: New research from the UK found 54% of train passengers use the increasingly available Wi-Fi on public transit to do additional work. Of 5,000 respondents, most said they use the time to “catch up” before and after their regular workday. The expectation of being available at all hours of the day leads to more stress—and lower engagement when an employee is actually at work, according to a study presented in August at the Academy of Management. The mere expectation that you’re available to work when you’re not there leads to strain and conflict in your home life.
Best to leave work at work, and home at home. But it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Luckily, if you do it right, your commute is the perfect time to transition from one to the other. Here’s what the experts say about doing your commute better.
Here’s a novel thought for those of us sleeping with our iPhones on our bedside tables: “Do not grab your phone the second you wake up,” says Helen Dyrkacz, a productivity expert from Winnipeg. You might think the early morning is the time to catch up, but the price of that instant update isn’t cheap. “You lose whatever was brewing in your head. It’s gone and you’re not getting it back.” Instead, head to the shower and let those ideas materialize.
Don’t just do something, sit there
Use the commute for a few minutes of meditation. It’s not the most automatic activity to associate with the often-stressful act, but the morning trip is an oddly a perfect time to incorporate a few minutes of mindfulness, which decreases stress, depression and anxiety. Do this: “Focus your awareness on your body,” says Geoff Soloway, co-founder of Mindwell-U. “If you’re sitting there on the train, notice the sensations of your weight on the seat or your hands holding the bar. Breath into your body and ground your feet onto the floor.”
Chat up your neighbour
Resist a superficial social media check and shoot for a real-life human interaction. “The number one thing you can do for yourself is connect with people,” says Jay Remer, an etiquette expert who commuted in and out of NYC for years. Rarely will you get to interact so freely with people of different professions and persuasions, so don’t miss the chance to broaden your mind and spark a conversation if you can. “Don’t just talk about yourself,” says Remer. “Find out more about them and ask them for their perspective.”
Catch Up on Daily Events
Okay, now you can turn on your phone—but do not fall down the aforementioned Twitter rabbit hole into the abyss. “You could waste all your time scrolling through your feeds and ultimately read nothing,” cautions Dyrkacz. Instead, choose three or five sites you trust and respect, follow hashtags for deeper dives on topical stories and avoid Facebook altogether—your least productive choice by far.
Brave (just a peek at) your inbox
Don’t start answering emails—you’re not at work, remember?—but do check your email to see what’s up. “Go through and flag which emails need the most attention,” says Clare Kumar, an organizer and productivity coach. Ask yourself these key questions: “Does this need a response? Should you add this to a to-do list? Can it go into your calendar right now?” Everything that can get deleted, should. Especially spam, newsletters you don’t read, sales on things you don’t need. “Ask yourself, does this serve my life? If not, delete.” The process of streamlining will help your brain prepare for the day.
Sneak in some exercise
Do your body (and brain) a favour by sneaking a fast walk into the morning routine. “That can be as easy as getting off one stop early or parking in the farthest corner of the lot,” says Dyrkacz. That 10-min powerwalk is the perfect time to ruminate the tasks to be done, above, and arrive at the office ready to take on the day.