RECLAIMING MY MORNING COMMUTE
When I began my first job, I dreaded the morning commute. As a grad student, I was used to creating my own schedule, to timing my drives to avoid honking horns and the notorious L.A. traffic. After I signed my work contract, I rented an apartment one mile from my office, so that I could keep my commute as minimal and unobtrusive as possible.
To my surprise, several months into the job, I found myself craving a commute, a “buffer” between my professional and personal lives. I wanted my weekends to feature different coffee shops, different restaurants, different street signs and buildings. In the morning, I wanted time specifically dedicated to warming my brain up, between the hustle of getting ready and the formal beginning of my work day. Similarly, at the end of the work day, I wanted time to let any challenges with work fade from memory so I could get the most from my personal time. And so, when my one-year lease was up, I moved fifteen minutes away. I soon found that the longer commute improved the quality of my work, as well as my mental health.
Now, well over a year into the pandemic, many have shifted to remote work, full- or part-time. The commute to the home office is measured in mere steps, rather than miles or minutes. Working from home has its advantages, of course, and I’m very grateful for the benefits. Recently, though, I realized that once again, I miss my morning commute. Talking to co-workers and other professionals, I am hardly the only one.
So, over the past few weeks, I have started to introduce some habits to my morning that recreate a commute. Every morning, I start my day with a walk, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. I listen to podcasts, usually related to finance, economics, or writing, or if I’m a little tired, to music. When I finish my walk, I grab a cup of coffee, and only then do I go to my “desk” and start my computer. Our office does “Special Brew Fridays,” and I even try to participate in that tradition from home!
I have found the re-establishment of a morning “commute” incredibly helpful, both personally and professionally. The daily podcast, in particular, offers a number of benefits. First, my job (investment strategist) involves quite a bit of writing, and I firmly believe the adage that “a good writer is a good reader.” As a form of oral reading, podcasts expose me to new information, new ideas, and new perspectives. In addition, podcasts recreate the casual conversation I typically have with my co-workers when I’m working in the office. Lastly, podcasts help me understand how professionals outside my physical and virtual walls are thinking about markets.
It has only been a few weeks, but so far, I am really enjoying my new/old routine. My personal and professional lives are far more compartmentalized, and I open my laptop each morning refreshed and ready to work. I am finding my thoughts more interesting and my writing more creative. My mental and physical health are benefiting from the morning walk itself, as well as the consistency of a daily walk.
I never imagined that I would one day feel nostalgia for something as seemingly mundane as a morning commute. As it turns out, markets are not the only thing hard to predict!
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