What catching the bus has taught me about time

My partner and I own two cars.

One of them is approaching the end of it’s useful life. It is much loved but the costs to repair and maintain it now massively outweigh it’s value.

At first I contemplated purchasing a replacement car. But when I did the maths, even a conservative second-hand car would have been a hit to the savings and an unwelcome ongoing cost.

Instead I have been trying to see if I can structure my days without the need for a second car. This has involved a few changes to my routine.

  • catching the bus to work most days
  • occasionally riding to work
  • booking teleconference calls instead of face-to-face meetings for projects that are offsite from my usual job
  • walking more for things that are local to me (groceries, doctor, bottle shop)
  • leaving greater time between appointments to cater for increased travel time

I’ve been trialing this for a couple of weeks now and I have a few observations.

I am more relaxed

I like long-distance driving, but I don’t like city driving. I am prone to road rage and questioning the intelligence of every other driver on the road.

On the bus and bike and when getting around by foot, I am considerably more relaxed. On the bus I read books. On the bike I try to enjoy the wind in my face. When I’m walking, I take more time to notice what is around me.

The improvements in my stress levels are marked. I feel a lot less tension in my shoulders and chest. I feel a lot less rushed. I feel more focused in each task as I am doing it.

Time moves slower

I expected the inconveniences of moving to bus/bike/walking to make me feel more time pressured. However the opposite is true.

The days are slowing down. Transitions between tasks are slower and more deliberate. I have more time to think and reflect. I put greater buffers between appointments.

I think also that I’m more mindful and present when walking, riding or on the bus. If I was in the car, I’d be lost in my rageful thoughts. Instead I am thinking about the book I am reading or noticing the people and places and objects in my environment as I walk or ride by.

There is a lesson in this for me

As I get older and the predicted amount of life ahead of me is less than the amount of life behind me, I feel a pressure to get more done, use my time more effectively.

However the lesson of the last couple of weeks is that it might not be about using time more efficiently, but using it more mindfully.

I tend to get pretty annoyed when I read articles suggesting we need to do everything more ‘mindfully’. Being mindful is so embedded in the modern culture that it shows up everywhere and has become cliched and trite. So I apologise if you read ‘mindful’ in my article and want to punch me in the face.

But I can’t deny that there may be some truth to it, or certainly some truth to the idea that packing stuff into life is not necessarily the solution to wanting one’s remaining time to be used better.

When I’m moving too quickly, life speeds up and I risk missing it.

When I’m moving slower, life slows down and I get a chance to witness it. And maybe it is the witnessing part of it that is more important to a sense of contentment.

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