Productivity hack: Stop running for the bus!

By April 27, 2017process

Years ago I would take the 8:14am bus to work. There was an 8:26am bus that followed and would also get me to work on time, but my aim was to be on the earlier one. I wanted to be that productive person at work early, ready to go before start time.

By 8:10am I would be rushing to get out my apartment door and over the street to the bus stop. If I was still home by 8:11am I knew I wouldn’t make the earlier bus. Wallet, phone, headphones, gym gear, water bottle, keys… KEYS? Where are my keys? Scrambling to grab everything I’d run out, headphones flying, shoes untied, as the bus rolled down the street.

Some mornings I made it, other mornings I would be on the 8:26am, with a bitter taste of failure in my mouth. If I made the earlier 8:14am bus I would usually be boarding with a glint of sweat on my brow from the last-minute dash. To make matters worse the 8:26am took at least 10 minutes more to get me to work. I hated that 8:26am bus.

The reality

Turns out I was rarely that person imagined when I got to work. While I wouldn’t be late, I would be rushing to get there a few minutes before the start time of 9am, get prepared and start work. Every morning I would play the same game: myself against the bus.

I would arrive at work without enough buffer time to get settled and organized. I would feel guilt for not being early, and often stayed later as a result. I would finish work later, get to the gym later, get home later, start to unwind later – and end up falling asleep later. I also later would realize in my rushed state, I had forgotten gym socks (or another piece of clothing, equipment, lunch or something else). The morning after I would experience an uncomfortable awakening, longing to stay in bed from going to bed later… and the cycle continued.

On the occasion I made the 8:14am bus without breaking a sweat, I would take a seat on the bus, peacefully listen to music and read Twitter. I never realised how much I enjoyed those moments. I felt that I had won that day – but the bus battle continued the next morning my alarm went off.

I had to get real with myself, while I might have still arrived earlier than most of my colleagues – I didn’t feel prepared, organised or refreshed at the star of the day. I was frazzled, stressed, or cursing that bus driver who was two minutes early. Ok, maybe that wasn’t always the pattern – but it was a regular feeling.

One day on the way to work as I hurried to make it across the cross walk while the red light flashed angrily at me, I had a simple thought: why am I doing this? Why am I running for the bus?

I was sick of arriving just moments before starting time, sick of being rushed, sick of staying late and feeling guilty. I could feel the stress and guilt as a weight on my energy and productivity levels throughout the day, and I didn’t want that anymore.

So I changed it…

It might not have happened right away, and it might not have been every day (there were definitely some slip ups), but I stopped rushing for the bus. The charade I played with myself wasn’t productive, so I ended it.

I set into motion ways to change my routine. I had to arrive 15–30 minutes early for work each day. If I was only 10 minutes early, the next morning I would set my alarm 5 minutes earlier, to make sure the pattern didn’t repeat (it usually resulted in me being 25-35 minutes early the next day, but that is not the point). I didn’t rush.

The result

I began to love my morning routine, getting set up and prepared for success throughout the day. I arrived at work with time to fill my water bottle, say brief good mornings to the other early team members, and be sitting at my desk ready to be productive at 9am (if not a smudge before).

It was an amazing feeling. I realised I never wanted to go back to running for the bus. I didn’t feel any guilt in leaving work on time, or even early when needed.

I also stopped being concerned when I was legitimately late. I knew my colleagues would know that it was a rare occurrence – so on those mornings I missed that 8:15 bus (or even the 8:26 bus for some reason), I wasn’t concerned and I didn’t rush. It wasn’t worth the toll on the rest of my day.

In no time, catching the 8:14am bus was easy, too easy. So easy that I never missed it. I enjoyed the rush, good feelings and productivity I received from it. When my alarm went off, I didn’t dread it. I didn’t dread starting my day, and the battle that it started out with.

Stop running for the bus!

Not running for the bus didn’t change my life – but acknowledging this harmful cycle did. I apply the same principles to all areas of my life. I’m looking for other ways to stop running for the bus in my work, and life! (also I take the train now).

Cheesy phrase alert: Stop running for the bus and make the bus run for you!

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