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Month: May 2016

The daily commute grind

Regaining Perspective on the Daily Commute

Two years ago, I looked out the fourth-floor window of my office building with a familiar feeling of despair. An ominous black cloud had just broken into a thunderstorm, and the rain pelted the windows so hard that I could scarcely see the parking lot below.

“Gonna be a long drive tonight,” my coworker said.

A feeling of resignation gripped the office as my colleagues and I got ready to leave the office. It was already 4:45 pm and gridlock was imminent. We filed out of the elevator on the ground floor and somberly uttered our parting mantra, “drive safe.”

As I sat idly on the highway staring out at the sea of brake lights ahead of me, I thought about a friend of mine who had just been complaining about their 30-minute drive to work each way. All I could think about was how lucky they were; I would kill to have a 30-minute commute!

A lot has changed in two years. Perspective is a funny thing, and in light of recent events, it seems wise that I should commute now down memory lane.

My time as a commuter has been a constant cycle of progress followed by ingratitude. When I first started out eight years ago, I took the bus to work. Actually, it was three buses and a 20-minute walk, which was three miles uphill, in two feet of snow in my bare feet.

Okay, that last part isn’t quite true. I was wearing heels.

On average, it took about 90 minutes or more each way. I’m sure that given the GTA’s less than stellar commuting standard, my journey was far from being the worst. However, those were definitely the dark ages of transit for me. It was a seemingly endless purgatory of cold bus shelters, cramped seats, and missed transfers.

After about six months of obsessively saving for my own car, the magical day finally arrived when I rolled into work driving my new, gumball-blue Toyota Yaris. My bus days were officially behind me, and I was ecstatic that I could now relax in my own car, blasting my own music, while shaving about half an hour off my transit time.

It was perhaps only two days later that I had resorted to cursing every car that cut me off, and every red light that prolonged my decidedly intolerable trip home. The next six years yielded many tales that included fender-benders, traversing through “snowmageddons”, and narrowly escaping the Toronto flood of 2013.

Near the end of 2014, I took a great new job that was much closer to where I lived. Just like that, my commute was less than ten minutes each way.

I went home for lunch almost every day. Naturally, I took to complaining about how many stop signs there were along the way.

Even so, I would sit on my couch at home during the lunch hour and think, “Now this is work-life balance!”

Unfortunately, in a recent stroke of destiny, this commuting bliss has been rendered temporary. As I write this, there is a sign on the front lawn that reads, “SOLD”. There’s a good chance that my family and I will be moving to the next town over. This could mean a commuting time of up to 30 minutes each way.

I’d been sulking about the prospect for weeks.

Then a couple days ago, I stumbled across one of my old blog posts about my 90-minute commute, and I remembered my own thoughts from two years ago that I’d feel lucky to only have a 30 drive.

So maybe work-life balance doesn’t simply mean having a 5-minute drive to work. Maybe part of it is having the right attitude about a drive that’s doable.

In eight years, I figure I’ve clocked around 4000 hours of commuting. That’s more than 160 days solid that I’ve spent sitting in a car shaking my fist out the window, zoning out to an album I’ve heard a hundred times, or clunking my head repeatedly against the steering wheel.

But that’s nothing when you consider that the average person spends 3 years of their life doing laundry, 4 years making business calls, and 7 years suffering from insomnia.

So I’ll keep it in perspective, and keep on rollin’ – whether it’s for 3 minutes or 30.

 

What’s your commute like? Comment below!

 

Photo Credit: Michael R Perry via Compfight cc

Make Monday Suck Less with Just 10% More Effort

One Monday morning not so long ago, I left for work in damp pants, in a car that was perilously low on gas, ten minutes after I was supposed to be already out the door. I gazed longingly at the Starbucks as I drove by, but the drive-thru line was so long that I knew I would have both run out of gas and been late for work had I got in line.

I arrived to work barely on time in my cold clammy pants and turned on my computer to find a slew of emails that I would have to face without the crutch of caffeine.

It really did set the tone for the day.

Perhaps you have had Mondays like mine. If so, know that with as little as 10% more organizational effort, you can make your Monday morning, and the afternoon that follows, a less wretched experience. Here are my best tips for making Monday suck less, and I’ve even broken it down by the exact percentage of extra effort required.

And yes, these are very scientific percentages brought to you by the school of Corrie’s Stories.

Get Something Done on Friday Afternoon – 3% More Effort

We’ve all been there: You get back from lunch on Friday to hunker down for another four hours of work, but your brain has already checked out and gone home for a beer.

It can be tough to focus when you’re that close to the workweek’s finish line, especially if your Friday afternoons tend to be a bit slower at the office. But have some discipline and get at least one or two significant things done. I’m not talking about starting that giant project that got plopped on your desk at 3:45. I mean that easy, but mind-numbingly boring weekly report. It may not even take that long to do, but if that crappy report is still waiting for you on Monday morning, you’re going to be overly dramatic about it and spend at least twenty minutes just moaning about it. (And then you’re just making your colleagues’ Monday suck too!)

Get Your Act Together on Sunday – 4% More Effort

In my experience, Sunday night can lead to a bit of lethargy and denial that Monday is coming. That morning I left for work in damp pants was because I left my laundry until the last minute, and threw everything in the dryer right before I went to bed. Then I learned that Sunday night lethargy can affect even your appliances because the next morning my clothes weren’t all too dry.

The lesson being, you need to make a weekend chore schedule for yourself and stick to it. Sort your clothes, breakfast, lunch, and whatever else you need in advance to make the ride through Monday as smooth as possible. It’s really not that hard, it’s mostly just making a point of getting off the couch before 9pm on Sunday night to do it.

By the way, Getting your Sunday night act together also includes going to bed at a decent time instead of stubbornly binge-watching Netflix until 2am.

Get Out the Door Ten Minutes Earlier on Monday Morning – 2% More Effort

Get out the door even just ten minutes earlier and you will be rewarded with fewer gray hairs. How do you accomplish this? Get up earlier. (Because you went to bed at a decent time, remember?) Make doing your hair a timed event. You get three tries at that cute braid you saw on Pinterest before you need to abandon the idea and settle for a ponytail. Shave off additional time by making breakfast a labor free endeavor with something simple like fruit and yogurt. Any of these little adjustments that can get you out the door a little earlier will result in a less stressful commute.

If you get out on the road and traffic is flowing, then great! You can either get a head start on your emails or wait in the car outside your office and doodle around on your iPhone for ten minutes.

Or, if it’s like 90% of all Mondays, you’ll encounter some kind of traffic jam or delay on the road, but you won’t have to stress about getting to the office on time. Not to mention you’re keeping the roads safer by not driving like a James Bond stunt double reject.

Focus on Something You Can Look Forward To – 1% More Effort

This can be something really simple, like treating yourself to fancy coffee or making plans to get lunch with a friend. Make a conscious effort Sunday evening to think about what you have to look forward to the next day. It makes it that much easier to crawl your way out from the cocoon of your bed when the alarm goes off. I picked up this little exercise in mindfulness from yoga class, and although it sounds a bit basic, you’ll be surprised how much it helps!

Bonus Tip: Take Monday Off – 0% Effort

Obviously, we can’t do this one all that often, but I’m a firm believer that in conjunction with taking shorter vacations, at least a couple of those vacation days should be used to bypass Monday. A lot of people are in the habit of taking Fridays off, but if you think about it, Friday is the most decent workday there is. You should take a day off that’s crappier, like Monday. And look at that, Monday is attached to a weekend, just like Friday!

In Summary

Mondays will probably never be your favorite day of the week, but these little modifications can help take the edge off.  So even if you can’t take next Monday off, at the very least you can take comfort in the fact that you’ll arrive to work on time and in dry pants.

yoga; pyjamas

Why You Should Do Yoga in Your Pyjamas

When I first discovered yoga, I only practiced in a classroom environment where I had the guidance of my teacher. But with my work schedule, it was hard to make it to class more than once a week. In order to make more progress with my asanas, I began practicing on my own at home.

One evening after a long day at the office, I was too lazy to change into my lulus, but I wanted to work on my chaturangas. Thus, my pyjama practice was born. This turned out to be a valuable life-hack for me. If you like to practice yoga at home but haven’t tried it in your PJs, here’s a few reasons why you should:

It’s Comfortable

Yoga pants are my second-favorite article of clothing. They’re comfortable, they double as leggings, and they’re more or less acceptable to wear in public. But let’s face it, nothing’s quite as comfy as your jim-jams, especially those that are a looser cotton fabric with a bit of stretch.

You Practice More

I can be pretty lazy, and sometimes all it takes to discourage me from doing yoga is the effort it takes to change into my workout clothes. If you’re like me, fewer wardrobe changes equal a greater chance of a yoga session occurring. If It’s in the evening, you’re just going to change into your pajamas anyway, so why not take a vinyasa or two? Just keep the yoga session shorter and less vigorous so you don’t go to bed sweaty.

When you wake up in the morning, you’re already in your “yoga clothes”, so there’s no excuse not to hit the mat for some spirited sun salutations!

You Sleep Better

Practicing relaxation poses right before bedtime can promote a more restful sleep. Yes, bed yoga is a thing! Focus on easy stretching, and postures that use gravity to help you relax. My favorites are reclined cobbler pose and Shavasana. The latter is optimal for transitioning to sleep, as it helps you mindfully release thoughts from the day that might keep you awake.

 In Summary

As you can see, doing yoga in your pyjamas has many benefits. And really, how many other exercises do you ever get to do in your pyjamas? Swimming? No. Running? Not recommended. I rest my case!

Just save it for your home practice— Your yoga classmates probably don’t need you showing up to the studio in your Superman onesie.

 

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Survival Guide to Friday Night at the Grocery Store

It’s 5pm on Friday. You should be filled with joy as this ephemeral time of week heralds happy hour and the start of 48 hours off of work. Instead, a feeling of dread comes over you because you absolutely must stop off for groceries on the way home. And for some reason, Friday night at the grocery store is always a nightmare.

You tried to avoid it, but despite last weekend’s expertly planned shopping list, you’ve run out of a few key staples during the week. You can’t wait until Saturday morning, because the things you’ve run out of include toothpaste, toilet paper, and wine, and going through the night without even one of those things is just uncivilized.

You have no choice but to swap your sanity for sundries. It’s going to suck. But I’m here to help you get through this. Follow these guidelines to make this wretched errand as brief as possible:

Park at the Back

Drive straight to the back of the lot, do not waste time looking for a spot close to the doors. It may seem like a bummer having to walk the extra few yards to get inside, but by the time you wade through the sea of pedestrians with shopping carts and finish waiting for that car to finally back out of their primo parking spot, you could have already been checking out with the goods. Bonus points if you can sneak into the parking lot through a side street and avoid the fiasco at the front all together.

Downsize Your Shopping Receptacle

The point is to grab only the necessities and get out until you can return at a slower time of day, armed with a well-organized shopping list. If you can’t manage to carry everything in your arms, grab a basket. But do not grab a cart, no matter how great the deal is on that jumbo pack of paper towels. The cart is certain doom. You’ll be making your way down the aisle and encounter that shopper who’s carefully scrutinizing the jam selection while their cart is parked diagonally across your path to freedom. You’ll try to go back the way you came but at that exact moment, a grocery clerk will show up with a pallet of cereal boxes and block your way. Suddenly, you’re barricaded in the breakfast isle. The only way out is to squeeze yourself around the obstacle, but not without abandoning your cart. Either that or you’ll have to wait for the jam guy to move along, but we both know you’re too impatient for that.

Avoid the Deli Counter

This is definitely one of the bigger time-sucks at the grocery store. I broke my high score in Agario once while waiting for my turn to get serviced at the deli counter. Listen, I understand that you like a little black forest ham with your Saturday morning Eggs, but take a pass. Chances are there’s at least four people ahead of you, and all of them want half a pound of everything, freshly sliced. There might not even be any ham left by the time they get to you, so just save yourself the disappointment and skip it.

Don’t Forget the Toothpaste

You were on your way to the checkout, weren’t you? The toothpaste is the whole reason you’re here in the first place! Go back and get it.

Beware the Price Matchers

I will preface this by saying I truly admire people who take the time to price match. You can save a lot of money, and it’s a super smart thing to do. But it seems to take forever, and I’m more impatient than I am smart. I’d rather pay an extra 30 cents for my bag of apples if it means shaving 10 seconds off my time at the checkout. If you’re like me, then check to make sure the person ahead of you isn’t wielding any flyers before getting in the checkout line.

And lastly, the most important step of all:

At the Wine Shop Past the Checkout, Buy Two Bottles Instead of One

You’ve earned it! TGIF!

 

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