03 March 2008

Six tips for getting the most out of your commute

I was recently inspired by reading a post on the Danish blog of my good friend Christian Ørsted. He was interviewed on Danish television about how you can utilise the otherwise dead time of a commute and came up with five good tips for increasing your productivity – or just getting some mental space, which is just as necessary.

After having read his post and seen the video clip I decided I wanted to share these tips with a wider audience as I believe there is some real value to be found in these simple tips, but I’ve also added a sixth tip, which, I’m sure many of you will agree, is something that is also a very good use of your time and can free up your time in the office and when you’re with friends and family so you can focus on other things.

I’ll let Christian start you off in his own words:
“Those who look forward to their commute make a choice: A choice about utilising their commuting time in the best possible way. They wave goodbye to the autopilot and instead think about how they use the time – and the energy it gives them.”

The people who spend their commutes – and all of their other travelling time whether it’s to or from a meeting, on the way to the airport, sitting around waiting for you gate to open etc. – working consciously on any of the following things are in both Christian’s and my experiences both a lot less stressed and generally happier. This time allows them to get ahead and get a lot of things done and allowing them to achieve a better work/life balance. So without further ado here are Christian’s five tips on getting the most out of your commute coupled with my own tip:

6. Prioritise and plan
”Spend your time deciding what you want to do; what you need to achieve so you can focus on what’s important when you arrive rather than spend the time thinking about all of the other things you have to do.”

5. Inspiring miscellany
“Fill your bag with inspiring, interesting and modular miscellany which you can deal with while on your way. Instead of buying meaningless magazines you can bring along good newspaper clippings you otherwise wouldn’t have the time to read; read email newsletters that are deep and insightful. Miscellany you otherwise don’t have the time for, but which can fill your waiting and transport time. Remember that they are miscellany! Send a ”I love you” text message, but save the deep and meaningful telephone conversation until you get home or you’re somewhere quiet and undisturbed... Do something you can do 100% without interruptions.”

4. Development and learning
”Learn something new. Buy an iPod, subscribe to podcasts, download spoken word books. If you find yourself aboard a train then watch a movie, read a book or learn a language from CD. Do the things that you’ve always wanted to become better at and learn more about.”

3. Empty your head
“Do absolutely nothing! Learn to meditate (on the train or the plane). If travelling by car then find a scenic spot of natural beauty, get out and breathe deeply. Enjoy the view. Relax completely and embrace the calm…”

2. Recharge your batteries
“You don’t have to listen to the radio – unless it puts you in a good mood! The music we listen to in the mornings can influence our disposition for the rest of the day. Think about what you need to do in order to arrive with the best possible energy for what you are about to do. Switch off your mobile phone. Take a break, take a deep breath. Do the James Bond trick (hint: he doesn’t walk through a door while on his phone and thereafter launching into a tirade about how awful it has been to have been shot at all day. Instead he pulls himself together in order to ensure a good start to the conversation – something you can do as well, both when you greet your colleagues in the morning and when you arrive home to the people you love.”

And finally, my own little tip which follows on from the previously written post about setting time aside to answer emails:

1. Read and write emails*
If you’ve got a long commute – or even just 20 minutes where you can sit down in peace and quiet and read the emails that you’ve received; prioritise your responses; and fire off some emails of your own you will have saved a lot of time where you would otherwise be doing this at the office. I find this to be particularly useful when sitting around airports and the flight safe mode of the Blackberry just makes it a breeze to also get something out of the flight. It also saves you from having to try and open up your huge laptop with limited battery life and balance it on the coaster which they airlines call a tray.
* Don’t do this while driving! ;-)

But at the end of the day – and at the end of the post, Christian puts it eloquently when he says:
“Think about what you can do with all of your heart. What you’ve got time for. What gives you energy. And choose to do it brilliantly – in your time and without stress and rush. You’ll still only get there when you get there. The only question is how!”

If you want to read the full post in Danish and watch Christian's interview on Danish national television head on over to his blog.

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