Zen and the Art of Commuting


Commuting is the bane of many people’s working lives. Some of us will spend hours a week commuting – sometimes the equivalent of a whole extra working day. Many studies have found that our journeys to and from work can contribute to anxiety and depression as well as costing us thousands on average by the end of our lifetimes. Fortunately, there are ways to make commuting less mentally tiring and less expensive and turn it into something positive.

Do you need to commute?

One way to make your commute less of a chore could be to simply cut it out altogether. Many jobs nowadays require only a phone and a computer, making working from home entirely possible. Work files can shared and accessed from any location using cloud technology. Meanwhile, if you need to regularly talk to people in the office quickly but don’t want to rack up a heavy phone bill, you can use free video-chat software such as Skype. You can even sit in on meetings in the office through video chat software.

Another option could be to shorten your commute by moving closer. Living costs in a city can be much higher, but by slashing train fairs or petrol costs you may be able to make up costs in some instances. Some realtors will offer accommodation such as corporate housing, which can be rented on a short or long term basis. Opting for a short term lease might allow you to get a taster of city life before making the full move.

Some commuters have even found it cheaper and more efficient to stay in a nearby hotel during weekdays. Some hotels will offer business rates making it far more affordable than catching a train or driving long distance every day. This lifestyle of living out a hotel on weekdays isn’t for everyone and requires few home ties.  

Lowering costs of your commute

There are many ways to cut costs of commuting. For short commutes, taking up cycling as opposed to driving could save fuel costs, whilst also keeping you healthier. Your biggest expense will be buying the bike – repairs and maintenance are likely to cost very little with some cycle-friendly cities offering free bike maintenance stops.

For longer car journeys to work, car sharing could be an option if somebody you work with lives nearby. A lot of us also don’t drive particularly economically on our way to work, especially if we’re running late. Taking an effort to drive in a less start-stop motion, braking earlier and turning ignition off during traffic jams could all use up less fuel and have you spending less money.

For those traveling via train, there are also many ways to lower costs. Season tickets or annual tickets are worth taking advantage of and cut huge costs off your train fare. Of course it’s worth adding up whether this discount is worth it – if you think you may work from home certain days a week, a five-day-a-week train travel plan might lead to a loss.

Another place where most of us can save money on our commute is on food and drink. Grabbing a daily snack at the petrol station or buying a daily cup of coffee at the train station can all add up in the long run. Similarly, if you’re getting breakfast on route you could be spending more money, especially if it’s from a train station or petrol station where prices are often higher. Start eating breakfast in the mornings at home and bring snacks bought on your weekly shop at the supermarket. As for coffee, you could brew your own and bring it in a flask as many commuters do.

Making your commute more productive

Part of what makes commuting so draining is the time lost traveling to and from work that we often feel could be put to better use. By making this time more productive, it can become less of a chore and something to appreciate.

One way is to spend your commute getting more fit. If you currently travel a short distance to work by car, taking up cycling or walking instead might allow you to incorporate exercise time into your commute and skip the gym. This is a little harder to incorporate into long distance journeys although you may be able to get more physical benefit by standing up rather than sitting down on the train.

You can also use the commute to get extra work done in some cases. This applies mainly to traveling by train – whilst you can call people whilst driving, it may be a little too distracting. Most trains have wi-fi and are great opportunities to get a head-start for the day by organizing calls or answering inboxes of emails along with other morning admin tasks that can chew into the day.

Alternatively, you may simply want to use your commute to de-stress. The rush to work and hustle and bustle of other commuters can cause many of us to start the day with raised blood pressure and cortisol flowing through our bodies, which can make us on edge and effect our work efficiency for the day. Talking the time to calm down before reaching work can help you get off to a more happy start and allow you to work with a clearer head, resulting in better decision making and greater concentration. Consider downloading a meditation app or audiobook to listen to as you commute. Some people may simply find that listening to music they love, playing a game or watching a film get them into a more happy state. Not all of these are suitable for driving, but they are all suitable for a train ride.

Some people may even find joy simply by organizing other aspects of their life during their commute such as ordering groceries online or making weekend. Variety can also help to make your commutes less of a boring routine, so differ your morning activities from time to time so that you’re not always doing the same thing.


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