Getting up in the morning isn't easy, but stepping outside your warm abode and into the world of work is even worse. Indeed, only minutes after being cosied up in bed you probably have to contend with ample elbows and clammy bodies slamming up against your sides as you get pushed into an overcrowded subway carriage. If that sounds familiar, then you may have also developed a routine over the years. In fact, you probably do one of five things.
1. Read a book
2. Read a newspaper
3. Listen to music
4. Fall asleep
5. Gradually lament your existence and pin all your hopes on winning the Powerball
With that said, these things aren't bad- far from it. They're ubiquitous to many commuters, but there are better ways to utilise your commute that wouldn't only lead to improved efficiency in the workplace but, also leave you feeling ten times better.
Here are 10 such ways you can make the most from your commute.
1. Aim to get in earlier, so your commute isn't packed with passengers
Busy commuting periods are referred to as rush hours for nothing, with most people turning to headless chickens (albeit ones with Starbucks coffee in their hands) to a job that starts at 9 AM. But the solution's simple. Get out of bed an hour earlier, and leave your house swiftly to miss the busiest morning slot.
If your office is a 24-hour one, then even better, you should be aiming to do this every day and if not, simply take yourself to a cafe near the workplace and unwind before you're ready to start. Not only are you rising earlier, but you're also making more out of your time and going to work in a fashion that isn't full of negative vibes from disgruntled and irate workers bumping into each other.
2. Come prepared by organising your tasks
No one wants to arrange next day's plans minutes after getting in from a busy day at the office, which is why it's better to feel refreshed and leave the planning for the morning commute.
Not only are you more alert, but you're also prepping for things that will occur in a matter of hours, allowing every task do be undertaken with the utmost attention due to it being fresh in mind. There are many great apps to help with your day's planning like Schedule Planner and Fantastical 2 but all that's really required is a notepad app on your smartphone.
3. Positive affirmations
“Morning is wonderful. Its only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day.” Those were the words of author Glen Cook, and it is a quote we can all relate to. But that doesn't mean we can't embrace mornings, and the commute to work is the perfect time to do that by simple yet firm affirmations of how fortunate we are. Admittedly, telling yourself how lucky you are when others are starving or that you're loved by your mother even though you can't get a partner for the life of you are things we don't like to embrace, but done well and with the right mindset, they can drastically change your day.
For instance, you could tell yourself that you're one of the lucky ones who enjoys what they do even though you're slightly annoyed that you're only paid Y when your friend Brena is on Z. Or that your dreams of being a famous Hollywood actor never materialised. But if you're healthy and earn a good wage, enjoy your work, and the people you work with are friendly, are unrealised dreams worth the pain? You can still try and achieve them, but as this video shows, having an abundance of success sometimes brings with it more baggage than its worth. So be grateful for what you have!
4. Observe your surroundings
There's something refreshing about being in charge of your eyes as opposed to letting a smartphone or a video game determine how we see things. It's so easy to get lost in our technological distractions or daydream into oblivion which is unfortunate becase if we tune our minds to a more life-affirming setting, we can see everything.
Look up, and you may even find people smiling or passionately talking. The different colours of clothing people wear might amaze you. The awe-inspiring shade of the morning sun could very well blow you away. Whatever it is, observe it, and take it in. These are simple things, but life-affirming in ways you wouldn't imagine, and by the time you arrive in your office, you'll reach a state of zen that will make the most stressful of tasks that bit more manageable.
While we have mentioned the importance of seeing everything around us, most struggle to and instead revert to their old ways or become cynical which is why the practice of meditation is essential in not only calming our brains but also making us more observant to the things that matter.
One easy task you can do, sitting up or down or even walking, is to cut everything off. The noise, the buildings, the cars. Then transform particular anxieties, you have about work as images, and imagine that you're looking at them through a window. Slowly, you should then aim to continue seeing them as images, but not think about them, and thus re-affirming that even the most worrisome of thoughts are little fictional images that can be overcome.
6. Learn a new language
Who doesn't want to learn a new language nowadays? The world is becoming increasingly globalised, with languages like Spanish and Chinese now rivalling English for being the world's business language. Best of all, all you need are a few tapes or an app on your phone and you're good to go.
If you're more of an old-fashioned learner, studying a foreign language's dictionary is also an excellent way to boost your foreign vernacular and impress your colleagues at work when liaising with client's abroad.
7. Relax your body
It sounds relatively straightforward and obvious, but in the rush of the morning, we can often forget the many simple breathing exericses and techniques that help relax our body, even when we are crammed into a bus or train carriage.
But all that's required is a loosening of the limbs, a few deep breaths, and an ability to close your eyes for longer than 10 seconds. Try it. It works sitting both up and down, and works a treat when you imagine you've been transported to a paradisiacal location.
8. Swap a book for an audio book
Morning commutes are a time when our eyes are only just about functioning so instead of forcing yourself to read a chapter of your latest hardback purchase why not revert to an audio copy of it instead?
Many celebrities and actors voice well-known works, making it all the more therapeutic than if you were to hazily stare at chunks of words on a piece of paper.
9. Reply to emails
Waking up in the morning knowing you've got a backlog of emails to reply to is enough to make you feel aggrieved and stressed but by getting them out of the way on your commute, you're clearing up your morning schedule and thus allowing it to be free from petty tasks that get in the way of the more pressing tasks at hand.
Even if you travel underground, make sure you save all the emails so you can send them once you have signal.
10. Work on a passion project
While most can count themselves fortunate to have a stable job, there is something fulfilling about working on a personal project that you know is of your own making. If it's a book you've been working on, why not write down a few ideas or even paragraphs in the notes section of your phone?
E.L. James, author of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, would even write most of the books on her Blackberry when she commuted to work!
But it could be any project, and while not all activities can be practised on a morning commute, many can. For example, you could research valuable information that might aid that exciting startup you recently invested in. A piece of music you've composed that you wish to listen to and take notes on. Whatever it is, use the mornings as a time to stay on top of them, that way, you'll always go to work knowing that your job doesn't define who you are.