The Commute Is Back! Let’s Use It Efficiently

With the arrival of September, and many of us gearing up to get back into the swing of things post-holiday breaks, we are hit with shorter evenings and darker mornings. Safe to say we never really shake that “back to school” feeling.

Yet as we progress through the year towards the golden quarter, targets still need to be met, workloads are increased, and productivity has never been more desired. So, how can you ensure your time is used as efficiently as possible to help set you up for a productive day? Enter the commute.

We spoke to four leaders in adland about how they utilise their commutes, both to and from work, to gear them up for the day ahead.

Jamie Ray, co-founder at Buttermilk.

My best ideas come on my morning commute when I’m on the train and my brain feels at its freshest. Though I would love to say they are written down in neat orderly piles that are beautifully colour-coded, the reality is my notes section on my phone is my greatest friend. I am constantly brain-dumping thoughts there on my way to work – sometimes it is just random words or sentences. They might not seem coherent and not all ideas are usable – but some of them are. Many of my best brainwaves have originated out of the jumble of words in my notes section!

A normal working day moves in so many different directions, so the journey home is about disconnecting. Often I will plan a workout immediately after work as I find moving my body in the evenings helps the quality of my sleep. It also helps to physically divert my mind away from work.

Dan Clays, CEO, OMG UK

My journey to the office relies on 30 minutes on the joyful Northern line most days, but that definitely isn’t dead time – I just adapt my journey to make sure I get a seat to work.  So, I’ll travel before the rush, put on the privacy filter and crack through emails (the first of which is always our Media Intelligence team’s ‘Five things to start your day’ email, which gives me a quick, pithy update on all the key headlines – a massive time saver).  Alternatively, I’ll work from home for an hour and then go in and do the same.  I just avoid having to stand!

At the end of the day, the return journey sometimes doubles-up as exercise time by running home. It only takes 15 minutes longer (if I’m putting the effort in), and often I’ll have processed the day and be in a better mindset to tackle the kids’ bedtime routine!

Vicky Bullen, CEO at Coley Porter Bell.

My morning commute begins with a short drive to the local town, with the company of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. After a brief walk to the station, I get on the train to London and like to have a routine of personal, and then professional tasks.

I’ll check WhatsApp and organise my personal life – I find that my commute is the perfect time to do this as there aren’t any distractions. I’ll then do Wordle and Waffle to get the grey cells moving. After browsing Instagram to keep up on my personal passions – gardens, yoga, walking and art – I’ll go into work mode, check emails, update my to-do list, check the diary, and get my brain into gear so I’m ready for the day.

The last part of my journey is my favourite – a glorious short walk along the Southbank where I think about how lucky I am to work in such a beautiful location.

On the way home I look through the day’s emails to make sure I have actioned everything I should have, I check out the BBC website to catch up on news, and sometimes I’ll do a crossword to help me unwind after a busy day.

Richard Exon, Founder at Joint

At Joint we have an ongoing Ways of Working experiment and the current pattern is our best effort yet.  Everybody works remotely on Monday and every other Friday.

So, on at least three days a week I’m on the tube for just over an hour, with a walk either end.

I’ve tried every variation of music and podcast listening, email checking, note taking, audio books and newspaper reading.

I’ve found that what works best for me on the train is music for the ears and email or news for the eyes.

I just can’t concentrate on podcasts or radio news. So, audio has become the backing track to what I’m reading to bring me up to speed.

The music seems to help me concentrate and this combination makes my commute some of the most productive time of my day.

Most importantly though, even a brief walk and a blast of the Victoria line gets me out of my bubble.

Even when I’m reading, I’m also people watching, noticing which brands are advertising, experiencing the world as it is beyond my spare bedroom and video calls.

And when I arrive at Joint, I get to work with my brilliant, energising and inspiring colleagues and clients.