I’ve been blogging since late 2015, and during that time, I’ve seen growing dissatisfaction amongst readers about their lives. In this age of self-awareness, we’re realising there’s more to life than doing things we don’t enjoy just to pay the bills and accumulate stuff.
During the second year of my first blog, Midlife Tribe, I also felt a growing unease about my ability to offer practical answers to living a good life. I shared my own struggles and the practices I’d adopted to navigate my way through, but most of them centered on mindset. All good and well, of course – how we think is certainly critical to happiness and contentment.
But after a while, I had to concede that few things mattered more, or offered a better foundation for living a good life than working on your terms. After all, we spend about a third of our lives doing it. The fact that I was able to control where, when and how I worked was the single biggest contributor to my recovery, my sanity and ultimately, my happiness.
And so in July 2018, I launched Office Anywhere to focus more on the growing transition to this way of living – to working and living on your terms. Since a big part of my reinvention was this capacity to work from anywhere, I decided Office Anywhere was the perfect name for it.
Last week, I picked up on a news snippet about the annual HILDA survey. HILDA stands for Housing, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia, and since 2001, it’s tracked the lives of 17,000 Australians, including household and family relationships, income and employment, and health and education.
What piqued my interest was the blowout in commute times and the impact it’s having on people’s lives. “Lengthy commutes have repeatedly been shown to be associated with reduced worker wellbeing and negative family outcomes,” it said. “Mean weekly commuting times have increased considerably: in 2002, workers averaged 3.7 hours per week travelling to and from work, but by 2017 this number had risen to 4.5 hours, an increase of approximately 23%. The median [daily] commuting time has increased from 30 minutes in 2002 to 48 minutes in 2017, a 60% increase.”
Nearly half those surveyed now spend between five and eight hours a week commuting. If you add the time to get ready each morning, plus transit between train stations or carparks and the office, it’s not hard to lose a whole working day each week just getting to and from work.
So, coming back the mood of my readers, some of the things they’ve told me are:
- “I want to start a business on the side, but my job takes up all of my time, and I’m exhausted at the end of each day. I need the weekends just to recover.”
- “My kids are growing up glued to their screens because I’m hardly around, and when I am, I’m too tired to do things with them. I feel like I’m failing as a parent.”
- “Corporate life – commuting, going to meetings, rushing to get ready each day – saps all of my creative energy.”
- “I waste hours and hours commuting. It’s getting worse, too. Rushing to work each day stresses me out.”
- “I’d love to take up a hobby, but I never seem to have the time or energy.”
- “I want to be measured on my work, not how early I show up or stay back at the office.”
- “I’m never relaxed at home because my job constantly occupies my thoughts. Juggling my personal and family needs with my work is becoming impossible.”
- “My relationship with my partner isn’t like it used to be because we hardly see each other anymore. When we do, we’re not our best selves.”
- “I see my colleagues more than my family. I’m married to my job. I have no quality of life anymore.”
Now, there are usually two ways most of us tackle these kinds of issues:
- We tinker around the edges.
- We throw the baby out with the bath water.
Option one might mean working a bit on weekends or when the kids go to bed; or asking for flexible work hours (starting earlier or later); or maybe even dabbling in a side hustle before quitting three months later.
Option two goes something like this: ditch the career, move to the countryside and live on home-grown vegetables. Or pool our savings, re-mortgage the house and open a cafe.
The first approach is too little, and the second is too risky – especially if you have a family to support.
Here’s how I view my readers’ insights. If your work is pulling you away from the things you value most (e.g. family, freedom, passions, peace of mind, health, etc.); or if your work doesn’t align with who you want to be, then you’re squandering the limited time you have.
The prime culprit here – and the one that’s easiest to change – is where you work. It’s the time, energy and expense you waste each week commuting. Change that, and everything else changes.
Elliminating the commute is the single biggest thing you can do to improve your life for two important reasons:
- It buys back precious time – and doing that affects dozens of areas in your life.
- It restores your creative, intellectual and physical energy.
So, time and energy – two of the most valuable and limited resources you have.
And the flow-on effects are life-changing; positively impacting your finances, your relationships, your emotional health and your sense of optimism about the future and how you can direct it. It’s that significant – quit commuting, and you can chase your dreams.
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