Get to work better? Can commuting be a performance improvement focus?
With recent figures out showing that commuting times are still on the increase is it time to review the way commuting is considered as part of the working day?
There are obviously wider issues about commuting times and congestion levels that relate to implications for our planet and some of the choices we might need to make to reverse the impact that increasing travel times and volume are having. While efforts are in place to make these changes, it’s worth considering ways in which we can look to make the most of the commute, rather than just get better at enduring it.
In highly competitive environments, preparation and recovery time are a critical consideration of the overall performance recipe. Just as athletes are forensic about the warm-ups, warm-downs and habits that support consistent, high level performance, the ‘business athlete’ might be able to benefit with a similar outlook.
So, if we start applying the business athlete mindset to the commute, it’s clear that the commute is an opportunity for ‘competitive advantage’ to be a focus. How effectively does your commute get you ‘ahead of the game’ for the performances ahead of you and how might you fine tune the commute to maximise its positive impact for you?
- Physically warming up (no, not burpees in first class, although…) – with congestion being the main cause for increasing commute time, do you have the opportunity to get your body more active by adding in some walking or cycling to your journey? Increased activity has all sorts or positive psychological benefits, so the chance to walk the last mile or cycle part of your route, might give your mind-body connection a really help kick-start, and you might actually get to work quicker!
- Mentally warming up – athletes spend a lot of time mentally rehearsing so they’re fully tuned in and fully confident in with what they’re about to do. A commute is an ideal time to get the headphones on and visualise some of the events of the day that are coming up, so you’re fully focused on HOW you want to perform when you get into those situations for real. This kind of preparation does wonders for reducing stress that results from feeling out of control and being repeatedly reactive throughout the day.
- Creating clarity – many people already use the commute to clear down emails so they get to the office focused on person to person interaction. As well as this mind-cleansing activity, it’s much more usual to see people meditating on their commute and using some of the time to do some self-care as you ready yourself to move into the work environment. The proliferation of meditation apps helps enormously with this.
Some mindful use of the commute can help you really benefit from the sense that you’ve created control and you’re ready to keep that feeling of control going when you get into the office. And, if the train is delayed, it’s important to know this is likely to happen and have your ‘delayed commute game-plan’ ready to switch to so the extended travel period doesn’t undermine the good work you’d normally do!
Obviously, there’s the return journey too. With this leg, the business athlete mindset switches to ‘warm-down’ choices, which look like:
- Reflecting and learning – taking the time to ask the only review question you really need; “how well did I do what I said I was going to do, today?” Taking the time to close the loop on events and review how successful you were and what else you still want to do, gives you a regular habit that will keep confidence levels in good shape.
- Switching off with confidence – using the return journey to establish the things you want to focus on the next day, and when that’s done, being able to switch focus onto home-life and focusing on being in the most helpful frame of mind when you get home. The discipline of switching off from work is made so much easier when you’ve created the next morning’s focus in advance.
- Again, the chance to clear the mind and do some ‘active recovery’ is worth considering on this leg too. Whether that’s meditation to quieten the mind or the chance to walk and breathe a little slower than during the day, it’s always a choice that is worth making to relieve any pressure build up at the end of the day.
All of this is common sense stuff and not really new. However, common sense things with an uncommon commitment is what really helps us find out the value of our choices. Whilst we wait for the working revolution that allows many more of us to work from home, these simple business athlete ideas might just help you control the commute so that it feels less and less like it’s controlling you.
Dr. Chris Shambrook
Chris has been a Director of PlanetK2 Performance Coaching since September 2003, while also having an embedded role as performance psychologist to GB Rowing since 1997, achieving great success across five Olympic Games.
Chris is reknowned for his practical approach and for developing winning thinking, transforming human performance to ensure business goals are delivered. Chris specialises in leadership development, culture change, coaching and career counselling.