From 2007-2010 I worked at an agency located 40 miles from my house. Most of this distance was comprised of congested highway, perpetually under construction. Up to 3.5 hours of my day was spent in a car. And, roughly half of that time, my young daughter rode along with me. It affected my work, my attitude, my ability to be a good husband and father, the entire family’s diet and probably anything else you can think of.
It started out very do-able, but over time, it was awful. I woke up dreading the trip. I started thinking of ways to slip out early at the end of the day to try and miss rush hour. It got so bad that I swore off highway travel for months and only traversed back roads—which was less stressful but took much longer. It finally became too much to handle and was one of the main reasons I left that position.
Because of that experience, I turned completely sour on commuting. I worked remotely for a period after that until starting Plain, which set up shop a whopping 1.2 miles from my house. From 2011 until a about week ago, I had no commute at all. At times I would be in front of my machine within 5 minutes of waking up—a complete 180° change from the grueling expedition I once made daily.
I gained some extra time and eliminated a big stressor by ditching the commute but I lost something important in the process—alone time. I no longer had a period to reflect on the prior day and prepare for the next. I replaced driving time with more work. I spent more time producing and less time considering. I didn’t fully realize what this meant until I began a new commute this week. I now know that I need some time alone in the morning to allow my brain to truly “wake up.” I need some brief clips of down time to let my mind digest what I’m working on, consider different points of view and take stock of progress.
Admittedly, I’m frustrated that it took me so long to come to this realization. I could have easily fabricated a routine that would accomplish something similar (Ben Franklin’s perhaps?). But, I am pleased to be back on the road again and jamming out, alone for 25 minutes each morning and afternoon. It already has my gears turning a little more smoothly and I think will prove to have a significant effect on my work and life.