From Idle To Ideal – How To Leverage Your Commutes For Success

Today I want to help you discover the great potential of your commutes! All those times you have to spend in public transport or your car, going from place A to place B. We’ll look at how these are the ideal times to improve your life and make progress with your goals. Chances are that commutes make up quite a big portion of your day and I’ll make a case that it is absolutely essential to use this time wisely as all of our time is truly limited and valuable.

Let’s talk about our day. We all have got 24 hours in a day. About 8 of these hours we spend sleeping. Another 8 hours, except on the weekend, we spend at work earning money (unless you are having your own business or really love the work you do, then it’s a little different). This leaves us with roughly 8 more hours. Of these 8 hours we can allot about 2 hours for shopping, preparing food, eating and other household chores. This leaves us with 6 hours that we can spend however we chose. Think about this for a moment.

Now a portion of this time will be spent cultivating our relationships with friends and family, entertainment (reading, watching movies, listening to music) and sports. In this time we also have to fit making progress with our goals, projects and develop our mindset and essential skills for improving the quality of our life and achieving worthwhile results. My conviction is that if we don’t upgrade our mindset constantly and choose our goals wisely then our life isn’t going to magically develop itself in the direction that we wish! If you’ve ever taken up a somewhat complex project (like learning a musical instrument, studying nutrition or marketing or writing and maintaining a blog) you know how much time and energy these things take!

6 hours isn’t much to fit in all of these things. But: Actually it’s even less. Let’s be honest and take a look at our phone usage and other forms of low-impact activities that lull us with instant gratification (Facebook, Computer Games). I don’t have to tell you how quickly time flies by when you’re surfing the web… This time we can’t recover. If you’re serious about improving the quality of your life I suggest being careful with “shallow entertainment”, more on this later. But there’s more. We lose about a third of our whole 6-hour block of time (some more, some less) commuting. This includes going to work, going to the supermarket. These are idle times where we are just going from A to B. If you think about 2 hours in comparison to 24 hours it doesn’t seem like that much – but as we’ve seen there are many things you have to do, if you like to or not. And from those 6 hours which you can spend as you wish, about a third is spent commuting! In general my strong suggestion is to really check if you are spending your time wisely and in your long-term interest overall and to get a grip on “entertainment” and “shallow relaxation” which makes you passive (like watching TV etc.).For the sake of this article let’s stick to commute times (about 2 hours!) as here we can easily see the impact of using this time more effectively.

I hope you agree that each hour you have available to you is valuable for making a positive impact in your life. Each minute is crucial. Now think about how most people spend their commutes (if you ever go on public transport and have the opportunity to observe others). My observations: Most people I see either listen to music, zone out and stare out of the window, play games on their phone (bejeweled or whatever is “in” at the moment). A lot of people also read the newspaper (that is stimulating “rags” for entertainment). It’s not often that I see somebody where it seems to me that they are using their commute in a “deliberate” way. What do you think is going to be the impact of random activities on your life? It’s like a scattered beam of sunlight – none. If you focus the energy through a magnifying glass on the other hand you can make a fire.

This idle time is the ideal time to do certain things:

1) Relax

If you are going by public transport (train, bus, subway) you can deliberately relax. You can close your eyes and do a progressive relaxation visualisation (What’s really simple is to imagine a warm fluid flowing from the top of your head, slowly spreading over your body and relaxing the corresponding parts of your body). You can also take a look at Progressive Muscle Relaxation (it can be done so it’s barely recognizable for others). Also you can do deep belly breathing (filling your belly from the bottom up, then up to the chest but without raising your shoulders). It is said that you only need about 6 deep breaths (full breath in as before and then breathing it out like you would blow through a straw, repeat for 6 times) to turn on your parasympathetic nervous system (this is rest&digest, the opposite of your fight&flight or stress-response). You can also experiment with different forms of “meditation” (guided or on your own) and recondition your mind to deal differently with stress. It’s always a good idea to relax. Let’s be real. Most people alive today are having too much stress in their life and in their body and mind. If you do this after work on your way home then you will be much fresher once you get home. Instead of feeling exhausted, wanting to zone out in front of the TV or computer you’ll be more motivated and energetic to actively engage with life! To make progress with things that actually matter and that are really meaningful to you. Goals or a vision that gives your life purpose.

Why am I speaking up against relaxing with your phone, computer or TV? It’s because when we engage in these activities we zone out in shallow relaxation (unless we fall asleep watching TV ;). Our mind and body can’t really relax. We are being bombarded with, often unrelevant, information while being in this in-between trance-state. It is pleasant in the short run but delivers no long-term benefits, quite the contrary. It’s not work but it’s not rest either. In addition, as you well know, we can get sucked into a myriad of different things when connected to the internet. For these reasons I suggest relaxing deliberately and intelligently. Our body and mind craves proper rest and relaxation. Zoning out isn’t effective and it won’t energize and refresh you like deep breathing, meditation, or doing some progressive muscle relaxation can. You can try these things and enjoy the amazing benefits on a regular basis. The results of improved well-being, deep relaxation, contentment and increased productivity as well as creativity will speak for themselves! If you still feel very tired once you’re getting home then you can do a  “power nap” for 15-30 minutes. I don’t suggest sleeping longer than 30 minutes as you’ll enter a deeper phase of sleep and might have trouble getting up. Also if you enjoy relaxing with music that’s fine, yet in my opinion deliberately relaxing offers additional benefits. If you want to keep the music going then you might enjoy listening to a guided meditation with background music as an alternative.

2) Learn

Going on the subway is a great time to read or listen to an audiobook. In the beginning it might take some effort to change your habits and actually do something instead of zoning out. Remember your goals and vision for your life and reflect on the many ways learning something new will improve your life. Also initially it might be challenging to concentrate with distractions being present. If so you can use earplugs or listen to brainwave entrainment or subtle music to help you concentrate while reading. Alternatively you can listen to an audiobook. You can even do this while walking, riding your bike or driving your car! Audiobooks are amazing. Anthony Robbins for example tells a story of how he used to always listen to audiobooks back when he was working as a janitor. This is a great example of intelligently leveraging time and resources! Now when I look at how many people’s lives he has positively impacted I can’t help but be inspired to do likewise. You might think that it’s just your commute time and no big deal if you’re zoning out. But if you really want to take your life to the next level and transcend your current circumstances using your time wisely is crucial – just like Anthony Robbins did. If you spend 2 hours each day listening to audiobooks. My last audiobook I listened to was about 6 1/2 hours long. The length of course varies and longer books might have up to 12 hours of playtime. This means you can easily listen to one book a week (even if you commute less than 2 hours)! Or you can listen to them multiple times to really take in the information. That means you can potentially take in four books a month! Of course it’s also about retaining the information and actually applying it – but say that four books a month just from using your commute time effectively isn’t an amazing prospect. Just imagine what you could learn. A lot of people don’t even read four books in a whole year.

3) Journal

Writing down your goals and clarifying your vision or reflecting on certain things in your life can have a much greater impact than you think. It’s extremely effective because you can get your thoughts out on paper and this allows you to relate to them in a whole new way. Things are more “tangible” once you put it out there. You can take a different vantage point or brainstorm on possible solutions to a problem you might be facing. You can also write affirmations or goal statements if you like.

Okay now that you’re hopefully convinced of the amazing potential of your commute times. How do you actually change your habits and turn your idle times into ideal times?

a) A goal. You need a goal that actually motivates you. Changing your habits takes effort. It’s easier to zone out and be on the phone like everyone else. It’s easier to keep doing what you have always been doing. But remember – you’ll also keep getting what you have always been getting. Why do you want to leverage your commute times? What worthy, big, meaningful goals fill you with inspiration and make you feel determined to take concrete action towards their fulfilment? How do you think leveraging your commutes can help you with that?

b) Experiment. Try it out. See what suits you and what you like most. Discard what doesn’t suit you. Find what’s most effective in your life. Allow yourself to “make mistakes”. Allow yourself to enjoy it! Have fun. Fall off and get back on! Most of all remember why you’re doing this and you’ll be successful in changing your habits.

c) Enjoy. As you settle in you will begin enjoying this new way you’re spending your commutes. You’ll feel purposeful, inspired and more centered in your life. You’ll feel proud of yourself – first because you were able to actually make a change where so many people struggle and second because now you are really making the most of your time.

You can listen to a whole book in a week, get really clear on your goals or completely change your state of mind from being very stressed to moving into relaxation and arriving at home after work and feeling refreshed and ready to work on your projects and do something meaningful – or to meet your friends without having to rely on coffee. The message is clear: You’re serious about achieving your goals and doing what’s good for your long-term benefit. 

Use your time wisely because it is limited. We all have got the same amount of hours in a day and how we use it completely matters. 

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