Most of you know I took a new job in December. I was very excited to join Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc. as their first social media strategist. I was a little less excited that I would need to work on-site, in Madison. I live 74 miles away. My amazing job opportunity came with a round-trip commute in excess of two hours.
At first, I spent my drive time catching up with my family on the phone and listening to podcasts (I count This American Life, Social Media Marketing, Radiolab, Freakonomics, Marketplace, and Planet Money among my favorites). However, within a few weeks I found that I had more drive time than podcasts—a lot more time.
Towards the end of January, a conversation with one of my colleagues got me an introduction to a member of a carpool in my area. Just a few days later, I was invited to join. Now I only have to drive to work five days a month.
It took me a while to grasp what exactly this meant—I had gained an average of eight hours per week. Four days per week I have an hour in the morning, and again in the afternoon, to do whatever I want. I don’t have to focus on driving, so I can multi-task if necessary.
What’s taken up my time? First, brought a book that I had only been picking up during my free moments at work along for the ride—I finished Trust Agents about a week later. Next, I took my iPad with me and wrote this blog post. Writing it off-line gave me time to reread it, ask for feedback, and make edits before publishing it the next morning. This weekend I downloaded Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki and I listened to 45 minutes of it today. At that rate, I’ll finish the book in about a week and a half. During all of these activities, I’m able to focus exclusively on the task at hand (my carpool doesn’t talk much).
I’ve also become more connected. When I’m not focusing on something, I catch up on my Google Reader and check in with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I’ve found that I tend to engage with an entirely different crowd during the morning (7 a.m. – 8 a.m. CST) and evening (4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. CST) drives. I’ve been able to to have conversations with people I didn’t really notice in my feed before. I’m also able to read more content provided within links, and recommend it to others.
I’m just over two weeks into the carpool experience, and I’m already beginning to see my commute as a benefit of my new job. It’s my time to decompress, connect, or reflect. It’s made me a more intentional (and well-read) professional, and I’ve become a more active member of several online communities. A perceived drawback has become one of the benefits of my new position.
What opportunities do you have to “gain time” during the week? What drawback of your job, living situation, or other life responsibilities can you turn into a benefit? Please share in the comments.