By Ben Davies
Get the Most from Commuting
The world is becoming an eco-friendly place, and people are trying to either reduce the amount of time they spend commuting or find environmentally friendly ways to travel. This means the commute has become less of an issue for many. However, a lot of us still have to spend time travelling to and from work, as there is no other option. In fact, the average Briton spends 45 minutes every day commuting to and from work. So how can you use your time profitably? How can you reduce your carbon footprint? And how can you make the commute less time consuming? Here are our top ten tips.
If you travel by train or bus, you are in an ideal situation to utilise your travel time. Your attention is uninhibited, and you are free to use your hands and your mind. One way you can use your time profitably is to make business calls. How much of your day do you spend chasing people on the phone, or returning calls? The commute could be an ideal time to reach your contacts. If you have access to a laptop and a wi-fi connection, you could use the travel time to write up some work e-mails. Virgin Trains are equipped with laptop and mobile phone power points allowing you to stay in touch even when travelling.
An ideal time to prepare for business meetings is on the journey to work. You could use your commute time to read a hefty document before attending, or prepare facts and ideas for your presentation at a business meeting. Without the distractions from colleagues or other tasks to take care of, the journey to work could be the most effective time to prepare. And, much like the school kid finishing homework on the bus to school, the information will be fresh in your mind.
If you have access to the internet while travelling, use it to do some research for the coming day’s activities. You will, of course, need a laptop, or some other internet ready device to benefit from this. The internet is invaluable when it comes to getting new information. And if you begin the day with some web activity, it should free up the rest of the day for more important activities at work.
If you spend an hour a day travelling to and from work, you will have 5 hours a week at your disposal. You could use this time to achieve something for yourself. Many Open University courses only take about that amount of time to pursue. Or you could learn a new language using an audio course. There are lots of books and other resources on personal development and career guidance. Using your time in this way could bring about major advancements for you, and your career. A big advantage of audio courses is that you can listen to these resources while travelling in a car, on a bus, or train, or even while cycling.
The world of research and academe is constantly changing, and even the most well-informed individual would struggle to keep up to date with all of the happenings. This is true of most sectors. The commute is a great time to catch up on what’s happening in your sector. An up-to-date newsletter or magazine will tell you all of the major events, or if you have access to the internet you can peruse your favourite websites for the latest news – check the Career Development news site at www.jobs.ac.uk/careers/news for all of the latest events in research, funding, and academia.
Even the most driven person needs to rest. Remember, there is more to you than just your career. Relax. The journey to work can be used just to rest. The working day might be so busy that you don’t get chance to think about yourself, so use the commute to reflect on your situation. Or you can grab a cheeky snooze to catch up on lost sleep, providing you’re not in the driving seat, of course.
Some distracting entertainment might be the most refreshing way to start and end your working day. Digital entertainment is getting smaller and better, from iPods to the Nintendo DS Lite. It doesn’t all need to be about work. Have some fun! The more mentally inquisitive might like to try Nintendo’s Brain Train, a daily intellectual exercise that keeps you on your toes. Or try out the wealth of sudoku and card games available to download on your mobile.
There are ways to shorten the commute, and perhaps the most obvious is to avoid the madness that is the rush hour. An early start will help you avoid the traffic on the road, or the congestion on trains. Equally, a late (or, better yet, early) finish can make the journey home considerably quicker and more pleasant if you avoid the crowded roads of 5pm prime time traffic.
During the war, the American government famously produced a poster with the slogan, “When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler”. Such propaganda may not be valid today, but carpooling is still a good idea. If you want to be more environmentally friendly, but still have the convenience of personalised transport, you could consider carpooling. Getting a ride to work with a colleague can be both cost-effective and socially beneficial. Look out for schemes run by local councils and companies to bring carpoolers together. Many have found that using a web-based resource to arrange carpooling has been advantageous.
In China and India the humble bicycle is the most popular form of transport. And with good reason. Not only is it good for the environment, it’s good for your body. Unfortunately, in England (and the western world in general) we’re pretty slow to catch onto these things. However, as many commuters are learning, it is a great way to get to work. It’s not always possible to travel the entire distance by bicycle due to the long journeys some of us make, but you could try a mix of bicycle and public transport using a very convenient, lightweight folding bike. And let’s not forget our legs, of course. Simon, who works at a major UK university, was commuting to work by bus everyday, enduring heavy traffic, and often having to wait for the always unreliable buses to show up. But he soon realised he could do the same journey in the same amount of time if he walked to work! Not only does he feel healthier for doing it, but he’s getting fresh air, saving money and helping the environment.
The commute doesn’t have to be wasted time. Use it to your advantage, either in achieving something, doing something you enjoy, or by cutting down on environment damaging activities.