I am very grateful that I don’t usually need to commute anywhere. Commuting is generally the low emotional point of people’s days, and tends to be a profound waste of time. I’ve especially been thinking about this point as I’m trying to write a few articles on how people use their mornings. One of the worst aspects of a morning commute is that it gobbles up a big chunk of time that could be used to tackle personal priorities or major focused work projects before the person runs out of steam.
That said, this week I did a little bit of travel that involved driving during rush hour, late trains, sitting in train stations, eating at grab and go restaurants during peak times. In other words, things I tend to avoid because they waste so many minutes (and hours). But since I don’t do such things every day, it was kind of fun to observe the world, think things through without my computer open, and observe random human foibles. (Thought: if 90% of the people on the Schuykill Expressway at 8:30AM are there every morning, you’d think they’d know what lane they’re supposed to be in before it actually exits… right?) I would look at the clock and realize how much time had passed, even though I hadn’t done anything. Running around makes you feel like you are doing something. We always face the temptation to be like hamsters on our wheels.
Anyway, if I had to go through the grind every day it would be depressing. But taken in small doses, it (including the chance to read, guilt free, on the train!) gave me plenty of ideas to write about. A change of pace and scenery is good. Even if it’s not immediately productive. Sometimes it’s good to waste a little bit of time.
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3 thoughts on “A Little Bit of Wasted Time”
Wow, do I ever agree! When I had a 30-minute commute, I was already worn out from the interstate madness by the time I got to work. Not working from home can put you in a predicament: wasting a lot of time in rush hour vs. paying more for housing closer to the city. I think this is particularly hard on employees who have kids and feel like they have no choice but to commute from the suburbs. Perhaps if they had that extra hour and were self-employed, they could make as much money…of course, this would depend on what they did.
I’d say I’d switch to self-employed, except I did that already. For me, it meant I spent too much time on activities that weren’t my strength, like marketing and record keeping, and not enough on my core skills. Not only that, but I didn’t have enough human interaction for my taste. In the end, my freelance time served to launch a new career in an office working for someone else, and I’m generally happier with the tradeoff. It helps that I can work from home about one day a week, avoiding my hour long commute by car.
@Joanna: I’ve heard from many people that working from home 2x per week is close to idea — you’re in the office often enough for a social ecology, but don’t have to commute every *&(* day, which drives (ha!) people insane. When I no longer have little kids I might look into a shared office space for a few days. As for not focusing on core competencies, it can go either way. It is hard to find a job description someone else has designed that fits your strengths to a T. But yes, freelancing involves book keeping and marketing that can be no fun. Those can be good tasks to outsource if you can figure out a good way to do it.