Design your Day... or at least your Commute


Recently, I have been reviewing my daily practices. Everything from when I check email, to the music I choose to listen to while programming. I've been trying to 'optimize' to a degree, to accommodate some changing priorities. I was looking at my day when I realized that I'd failed to scrutinize ~20% of my work days! Of my 16 waking hours, I hadn't planned ~3 hours of every work day. Since I've only 1 life, and I do not intent to waste any of it, I was admittedly shocked!

My current commute had hidden this time. I have about 1.5 hours each direction, depending on the day and the times I leave. So there is a lot of material to work with there. Thankfully, my existing practices had filled the time with some good activities. But to be honest, I was coasting.

As I reviewed my commute several things jumped out. First, I'm in a car, which limits what activities I could partake in. My existing practice had filled this time with a mix of podcasts and audiobooks. Some of the podcasts were good content, like 99% Invisible, or the sermons from Dr. Tony Evans. Others were the equivalent of audio-junkfood. As for audiobooks, the majority are for entertainment. Though a sizable portion of my collection was for professional development like the Design of Everyday Things or Dr. Goldratt's lectures on The Goal.

Since half my commute is heading to work, and the other half heading home, I realized that I had to compensate for my ... I guess I'll called it 'bio-rythm'. For the morning commute I am awake and raring to go. And in the afternoons, I am tired and trying to transition from work mode to home mode. Certain content is more appealing in the morning; which I have no energy for in the Afternoon.

Having contemplated all this, I decided to sit down and make a table. My commute is long, and the my podcasts have 30-45 minute episodes,so I gave each commute 2 columns. I labelled each group AM or PM. I've got 5 workdays, so Monday-Friday for rows. All that remained was to fill the blanks. Here's what I came up with:

My Table on a Sticky Note

Once I'd parred down the 'audio junkfood', 4 good podcasts remained. Now ,it is important for me to start my days off right. So I chose to put my sermons first. This way I am starting the commute and the work day focusing on what is right. This may not be for everybody. But for me, I found that listening to a sermon from a trusted pastor each day help me. The most direct correlation I have was my experience of peace or anxiety in the commute. When I started with the sermon, the traffic stressed me out less.

As for the 'Review' sections, I have a lot of 'favorite' episodes, which I find are useful to review. Every so often I pick up a new nugget that I can work with. So I incorporated both new episodes, and old favorites in my week. But in the same line, I realized that I had failed to incorporate another potent 'sound': Silence. In the past, when I consumed less audio, I would occasionally have a partly silent commute. And during those time, my mind would come up with the craziest ideas. Sometimes I'd solve a work problem, and others I'd get the start of a great blog post!

But as time went on, and I found my interesting audio morsels, I failed to defend the silence. I failed to plan it, and so it vanished, filled with any media to avoid the boredom. Since I am now designing my day, I want to allow for this audio white space. If nothing else, it will give my ears some rest.

As for my afternoons, I have decided to leave these for a good book. It might be professional development. Most likely it will be entertainment. But I felt that with the need to unwind in the afternoon, the continuity of a long book was more welcoming.

Oh! I nearly forgot, but I also codified a practice I'd had of calling my mother for a 30minute chat on the way home. Don't worry, I am always hands-free. But I found these conversations made my mother happy. And I was able to keep tabs on how my father and brothers are doing. Sadly, the last few weeks made these conversations more difficult to have. Various activities keep interfering with the time.

So I am choosing to defend this time now, much like I did for silence. I value my family, and so I will put my principles into action, and set aside time each week to connect. (And for anyone wondering, my wife always has 15-30 minutes whenever she calls me when she gets out of work. I just can't plan that as well. But an audiobook is easily interrupted :) )

I admit it. I don't know what started this reflective streak. But I am glad it happened. I feel like my commute is less of a waste now, even though it isn't any shorter. I have set aside time for things that are important to me. And I have even applied some of the lessons I've been learning from EntreLeadership. Namely, preserving the audio white space. I hope this examination and explanation of my new and improved commute gives you some ideas worth trying. Whatever you choose to do:

Carpe Diem!