Leigh Dingwell is sales director for an international company. Responsible for a sales team of hundreds and triple-figure budget, she shares her experiences overcoming the loss of the daily commute, in the first of our ‘View From the Front’ series.
Gone is the commute to and from work.
Do I miss it? Not a lot.
Did I need it? Hell, yes.
Like many commuters, I’ve spent the past decade bemoaning the daily travel. Crowded carriages, delays, cancellations. Too hot, too cold. A regular dose of my face being rammed into someone’s unpleasant body odour.
But it was a period of time each day where I was alone. Alone with my thoughts. I chose to be ‘on’ or ‘off’. Each morning, the commute allowed me to prepare and prioritise my thoughts and plans for the work day ahead. In the evening, during my journey home, I’d steadily morph out of my driven, results-focused, hectic work mode and into the softer, laid back and ready-for-anything mum, wife and friend. All without any interruptions.
Now the commute is gone and so too is that glorious uninterrupted time. It has been replaced with the seconds it takes to open and close a room door.
The threshold is not wide enough to separate my life roles; instead, I have a complete blur of roles. A blur of my identity. Even my clothes are top half work, bottom half home. I find myself on team calls at 8am while the kids are buzzing around asking me for water bottles and in search of missing kit, and my focus is distracted. Which mode am I in? My kids know I’m there, so to them it’s obvious – “Ask Mum and she’ll sort it out”. The notion that I am working is not hitting their radar at all.
Come the evening, there is no space to decompress from the day. Instead, I go back through the door acutely aware that I’m still high on work adrenaline, head still buzzing with emails and conversations, and in a mode of ‘fix’, ‘do’, ‘sort’. The option to reach for the ‘on’ or ‘off’ switch to allow my mind the solace to get ready for the next role of the day is no longer available. I go from my desk to dinner, negotiating food prep and family demands along the way. The result is that my family look at me with blank faces – “Where’s Mum gone?” Instead, I’m joining them with a military approach to the evening chores, learning schedules and online clubs.
Lockdown has highlighted how much I compartmentalised the roles I play in a day. And how important a strategy this is for me. I needed that time directly before and after a day’s work. Time for me to readjust. Time for me to change my outlook, mindset and, most of all, my priorities. A bit like an actor changing their clothes between scenes to play a different character.
That commute feels like it is gone for the foreseeable future – so what’s the solution?
Well, I could build a home office in the garden and walk very, very slowly each day to and from my house, but I figured that was pretty futile, not to mention expensive.
Instead, I’ve looked at how I can effectively use that commute time, instead of it being absorbed (stolen) by either home or work.
Nowadays, I have reverted to setting my alarm to the pre-lockdown waking up time. My alarm still goes off first in the house, and I get up at the same time I did when I was travelling to work. Instead of getting on the train, I get my trainers on and go for a walk or jog for 30 minutes. Admittedly, I still get back home to a crazy hub of breakfast and school prep, but somehow I feel more equipped for the day ahead. And there is less of a feeling that time has been stolen from me. I’ve re-engaged with my old work wardrobe too. And, like the actor, I change into my work clothes. Once at my desk, I’m also protecting the first 30 minutes of my diary each day and won’t book meetings unless critical. This is the time I use to skim the industry news and updates and organise my day.
Come the evening, I’m using the same principle. I block the last 30 minutes of my diary off and use that time to close up my work day, winding down the day and my mind. I go into ‘off’ mode. No work email, no Zoom. The door is still closed, but I’m morphing back to being Mum in those 30 minutes. And then, when I open the door and join the family, I’m ready for the rest of my day as I hear the familiar, “Mum’s home!”
AskLeigh@lsos.co if you have a question about the world of sales you’d like her to address, and gain valuable insight into what makes you tick and how to enhance your ability with our quick Skills Scan.