Managing Commutes and Work Travel
I'm lucky to do work that can be done remotely. With that said, there is absolutely no replacement for face-to-face interactions. Although I've had periods within my career where I worked remotely more than 50% of the time, I actually appreciate being in the office, especially as a working mother. Frankly, when I'm working at home, I find it challenging to ignore daily household tasks. In addition, there is something about the ritual of getting ready to go to the office that helps to put me into a focused and productive mindset. With all of this said, I'm not going to defend a long commute. They are bad for your health, finances and relationships - period.
I've commuted approximately forty-three miles twice per day since 2003 (when not working remotely.) Since I live in Michigan, weather can often increase my regular two hour commute per day to more like four hours. My longest commutes have been up to six hours per day, or the amount of time you would need to move from Metro-Detroit to somewhere warmer, like Kentucky. I average approximately seven hundred hours of driving in relation to employment each year. I used to brag about being a really good commuter (i.e. it didn't really bother me that much) until I had children. It became challenging to spend the time commuting without feeling that I was "stealing it" from my family. This motivated us to move in the middle of the pandemic! Ironically, I expect to stay on as a fully virtual employee for the indefinite future, so my commute is now the length of a staircase. Go figure! Still...
Here are the ways I've found to turn work-related travel from something onerous to something enjoyable, peaceful and even productive.
I choose to embrace my commute time as my valuable personal time, to ponder, daydream, envision and inspire myself. I have patience with myself and other travelers and forgive them for any errors that they may make, understanding that all of us are in transition between our many roles, duties and obligations. I approach my commute as time for self-care, and fill my space with music, podcasts, books, meditations, visualizations and affirmations that fuel my spirit. I am grateful for this time of transition between the activities to which I devote my energy. I express gratitude for the fact that I have safe forms of transportation available to me; and recall with love those people in the world who lack the means to reach the things and people that they need. I use my commute as an opportunity to refine my sense of patience and consideration; and take chances to offer kindness to my other travelers, whether my “letting someone in” or not rushing through a light or keeping a safe distance from the cars ahead of me.
How to have a better commute
Clean and Organize Your Vehicle
Once I became aware of how much time I truly spent in the car, I took a much more active role in making it a nice place to spend time. I purchased seat organizers, and try to keep a little trash bin to capture errant bottles or wrappers. I also like to keep a few healthy snacks in the car at all times, like a bag of trail mix or high quality protein bars. For the winter, I keep a cozy blanket in the car as well (something that isn't just for coziness, but also for safety.) Now that I shuttle my little man around, I also keep a box of "Car Toys" next to his car seat. Adding a nice, non-toxic scented air freshener can also help to create a more pleasant atmosphere.
Keep A Token Of Peace and Protection Nearby
I always keep a small pewter guardian angel (a gift from my Mom) in my car. Any "lucky charm" will work though, like a piece of rose quartz or coin. The important thing is to have a visual cue in your car to remind you to stay calm and not get too fired up if (when) another driver does something irresponsible or careless.
Avoid Eating Meals In Your Vehicle
Aside from a latte in the cupholder or small snack, I try to avoid eating in the car. It's almost inevitable that meals in the car result in crumbs, stains or even just strong, lingering smells. We rarely have the chance to air our vehicles out or clean them thoroughly, so this one tip goes a long way toward keeping the vehicle as a pleasant and clean environment. Plus, I once had to have my car professionally cleaned after unsuccessfully navigating Thai food en route.
Buy Weathermat Protection
This is not the cheapest tip, but it's a truly useful one. Knowing that you can hose off the residue of your last winter commute or hiking trip actually gives a nice peace of mind. Plus, if you have children in your car, these offer priceless protection against spilled milk or "squeezies."
Avoid Aggressive Music
I happily attended concerts for pretty hard core bands, but that music has no place in my car. Loud, aggressive music tends to inspire me to drive in the same way. I'm not saying that your commute has to turn you into a Jazz fan or worse - your car into an elevator - but consider whether you could arrive at your destination in a better state of mind if you listened to an inspiring podcast or relaxing music.
I often act our entire scenarios in the car, and then commit them to paper or attempt to realize them in real life. There is no better place in the world to practice how you would ask for that raise, better discipline your children, have that difficult chat with your partner, assert yourself in a different career, or win over that amazing client. Vehicles are one of the last vestiges of true privacy in the world. In addition, we all spend most of our time actively "taking in" information, through our laptops, phones, computers, and interactions. Vehicles allow us to be truly passive and process that information free from common distractions.
Fight The Urge For Distraction
It's unrealistic to think that people will avoid playing music, maps/navigation aids or videos on their phones during a long commute, but it's best to avoid anything that requires active participation. There is a big difference between playing a Spotify playlist and texting or playing games. It's alright to be bored or listless during a long drive. There can actually be a lot of value derived from paying attention to where your mind travels when you in that kind of state.
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I've included stories, anecdotes and useful tips I've gained over my career as an Entrepreneur, Board Member, Executive and Senior Counsel. I hope you can find ways to navigate to your own dreams by learning from my experience! Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or want to share your own stories. Stay inspired!