Recently I heard the phrase “elevate the everyday” for the first time. It was a phrase I hadn’t heard before but it very succinctly articulated that je ne sais quoi I try to achieve; making the everyday that little bit more special. And what better place to start than the Monday morning commute.
Ah, the tedium of the commute.
Necessary? Frequently. Dull and boring? Again, frequently.
Yours may be something like mine (hopefully it’s a tad shorter).
I walk a mile to the station, invariably mimic a sardine for at least twenty five minutes on a packed train and then jump on possibly the slowest tube line ever for five stops, a journey which can take as little as twenty minutes and as long as thirty seven days. Two and three quarter hours a day; half a day in total over a week. If we are talking in terms of waking hours that’s practically a whole day lost. One day every week. Best not to dwell on that.
A little while ago I started thinking about whether there is a more effective and constructive way to pass the time rather than randomly surfing the internet (step one was implemented on New Year’s Eve 2014/5 – I gave up reading the Daily Mail’s Side-bar of Shame and have since reclaimed vast sections of my life). I came up with the list below which I hope will introduce you to a few fresh ideas . However, before I do…
Half way through writing this post when I was thinking about how there is no good solution to the commuter/shoe conundrum I stumbled upon something. Something that made me laugh out loud. A full belly laugh. What was that? There’s nothing funny about irksome, dreary, necessitated commuting? You are, of course, right. Standing under someone’s stinky arm pit and simultaneously wondering how you never get the requisite number of layers quite right whilst make-up is sliding down you face is no laughing matter.
It was an article entitled “Commuter Shoes vs Office Shoes” by a department store large enough on reflection to know better. Hurrah! I thought intrigued as to what I should be wearing in particular to do the mile walk to the train station. I can hardly do it in the 3.5″ heels I wear in the office. Whatever it is, I’ll buy them. Trainers never look good with a dress or midi skirt on someone who is five foot three and ballet pumps, well, the number of pairs that I have lost to the bin due to rain… This was the recommendation:
Ha! Where to start? It’s been three days since I first saw the picture and I still just can’t fathom it. I can almost try to see where they are coming from. A block heel (but it’s in the 3″+ category!), looks like a platform front… No! That is a ridiculous shoe for commuting.
Seriously? It did make me smile though. Especially as they are now showing as sold out on said site.
They’re from Dune, by the way, if you like them.
Getting back to the point of this post, here are some ideas to mix up your commute. I hope you enjoy them and if you have any other suggestions, please do let me know.
WORK ON A PROJECT
One day do you imagine changing your career? Do you want to take up a new hobby? Do you have a New Year’s resolution you want to fulfil? Do you want to write a book? Plan a trip? Learn a language? Start a blog?
If your commute is twenty minutes a day then that’s over three hours a week that you could be putting in to making that change. Three hours. Changes don’t happen overnight and sadly opportunities also don’t fall out of the sky and into your lap. They usually occur as a result of changing a habit or starting a new one. That and hard work. Using the time you spend commuting is an easy way to start. Play a language course on your car stereo, use the notepad function on your phone to write, plan the changes that you can make to help transition you into a new role. For example, do you love food but work in finance? Look at courses to enrol in, read about others who have made that change, plan recipe ideas…
For a longer commute (30 minutes plus) I would recommend the Pomodoro Technique. It translates to the “Tomato Technique” as it is based on the kitchen timers that look like tomatoes. At its core is that multi-tasking is ineffective and counterproductive. Instead, you set a timer and focus on one task for 25 minutes solid and that task only. When the timer pings you stop. Don’t carry on. If you were doing it for longer you have a five minute break before you repeat the process. Whilst the timer is running you cannot be distracted by anything whether it is an email, social media, texting or another project. This allows you to use your time most effectively and get a better result. For public transport you might want to put your timer on vibrate. It works though.
TED Talks are billed as “talks to entertain your curiosity” and that they do.
TED stands for: Technology. Entertainment. Design. When I first heard of them I thought they would be all geared I.T and technology (which isn’t really my thing). But, no. The spectrum of topics is incredibly diverse. Here’s some illustrative examples:
How We’ll Fight The Next Deadly Virus, A Simple Way to Break A Bad Habit, How We’ll Find Life on Other Planets, Why Some of Us Don’t Have On True Calling, How I Swam The North Pole and The Fringe Benefits of Failing (J.K. Rowling).
There is something for everyone.
My favourite talk, given by Sir Ken Robinson, is also the most popular TED talks of all time. It is entitled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” Mark Ronson’s TED Talk, How Sampling Transformed Music, is pretty cool too. In terms of the TED Radio Hour, I’d recommend Identities, Growing Up, Unstoppable Learning, 7 Deadly Sins and Simply Happy. There are so many to choose one. Pick one that catches your eye.
For me, they are both educational and inspirational, opening me up to new ideas and ways of thinking. You can watch them on-line or, alternatively, you can download the podcast the TED Radio Hour which combines excerpts from four TED Talks under a common theme. I do the latter as I like the mix and then you can always listen to the TED Talk you like the most later in full. You can also pick up ideas from their Instagram feed, TED Talks.
DESERT ISLAND DISCS
Not only reserved for, ahem, persons of a certain age, Desert Island Discs is a revelation.
Each episode, at about 35 minutes, delves into the mind and life of a particular person through their choice of seven records, one book and one luxury. The premise being that they are a castaway on a desert island and only these things have been saved from the waves. There are over 1500(!) episodes to listen to dating back to 1942 – surely sufficient for a lifetime’s worth of commuting (I would hope)!
Let me start off (probably controversially) by saying I don’t really listen to it for the music. Am I interested in the castaway’s choices? Yes. They are often illuminating. Do I want to listen to the full rendition of Chips With Everything (Alexandra Schulman, Editor of Vogue, June 2013)? No, thank you (although I really enjoyed the interview). Mark Gatiss also chose a rather questionable Su Pollard number. He made up for it with The Smiths. Well, partly. The beauty of the podcast is that for licensing reasons you can only hear a snippet of the song. If you like it, get it on Spotify and if you don’t thankfully it probably won’t last for more than 15 seconds.
That said, the interviews are wonderful. The insight that it gives you into a person’s world whether that world is business, sport, music, comedy, politics, nature, exploration…
My favourites are Rene Redzepi (Head Chef of Noma often voted the world’s number one restaurant), Chris Packham (Naturalist) (possibly the most interesting I have listened to – his passion for wildlife is compellingly intense) and Mark Gatiss. The latter is an actor and most notably known as the writer of Sherlock and the picker of Su Pollard. FYI – she has not been picked by anyone else in the show’s history. Let’s compare this, say to Louis Armstrong, whose tally knocks on about one hundred. Go figure. For completeness, the tally for Chips With Everything is also one.
Other corkers (episodes rather than questionable song choices) come courtesy of Commander Chris Hadfield, Kenneth Williams, Rankin, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nicola Benedetti, George Clooney, John Peel, Keith Richards, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Sir David Attenborough and Tim Minchin.
If I can stress one thing only:
IT DOES NOT MATTER IF YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD OF A PARTICULAR PERSON. LISTEN TO IT.
Some of them are the best. Take, for instance, Professor Sue Black a professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology. Have you heard of her? All credit to you if you have. She is really quite soemthing. She is an anatomist and identifier of bones and has travelled all over the word to do so. It really is phenomenally interesting to see her into her world.
I bet you easily find at least ten straight off you will want to listen to.
LISTOGRAPHY – YOUR LIFE IN LISTS
I stumbled across Listography in the wonderful Hatchard’s bookshop in St Pancras station. If you love a list (I love a list) then this a book/journal for you: Travel, Parenthood, My Future, Music, Food, Film, Literature….pick whichever one mistakes your fancy.
I picked up Travel Listography. In it you can document where you’ve been in list form: which beaches, museums, countries, man-made and natural wonders you have been to and those you hope to go to and explore. More generally, it is a way to document memories and plan new ones. The books are not only gorgeously illustrated but can really focus your mind in terms of what you really like and what you’d actually want to do more of, for example, the jobs you may like to have one day, superpowers you wish you had, favourite things about your family and what your perfect day would be like. Also, given its list format, it does not require a lot of writing
There are also versions for children too. Hopefully they won’t have to commute but rather it is one for after school or the weekend.
- Fancy yourself as a spy? See if you can solve these puzzles set by GCHQ
- If you like logic, learn to how do a cryptic crossword
- Make exercise part of your commute – can you run part of it or cycle? Five words. Two birds with one stone.
- Read The Week and a make sure you are keeping up-to-date with what’s going on in the world. Inform your opinion.
Keep an eye out soon for A Short Guide to Berlin and a review of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying