Using the Travel Time to and From Work

“We must do all we can do without destroying our ability to keep doing it.”

On “The Research Whisperer” there was an interesting posting titled: Working on commute? by Tseen Khoo. The author talked about the expectation in academia to use all available (down)time to work, and how despite this expectation, this person switched from working during a 3 hour commute to “using” the time to relax, read fiction or tweet.

I agree. “Using” the time during a commute to work, e.g., review papers or write eMails, might not be the best idea. I think commute is one of the best times to get ideas, to listen to some music, let your mind roam free. And knowing full well that in academia, people are not bound by something as ordinary as “work time”, that it creeps into your private life. Even worse, by allowing it to creep into your private life, you not only damage your private life. You increase the limits for others what is expected of them to compete.

Personally, I don’t drive to work but walk to and from work (2×40 minutes each day). Beautiful time to listen to podcasts that interest me (private interests), write some tweets, etc. Interestingly, I think it works so well because I unfocus my eyes a little while walking (when not looking at my smartphone). Not strongly, but a little bit like looking at a Magic Eye picture. This way I still see where I am going, but otherwise I don’t make out details. It’s like headphones for the eyes, blotting out the surroundings and letting me concentrate.

Just noticed it recently when I thought about why I always “overlook” people I know. With rare exceptions, I do not deliberately avoid seeing or reacting to them. Then I noticed how my eyes unfocus — no idea when it started. Anyway, it’s practical to follow thoughts, but the downside is that it gives me either a scatterbrained or an extremely arrogant reputation. Sigh. Loving to think and having an interest in others isn’t easy — either way, some opportunities are lost.

But yup, I agree, the commute is useful to clear the mind, relax, and occasionally even to come up with new ideas.