Do Introverts Need The Daily Commute?

do introverts need the daily commute
This guest post is by Andy Mort of Sheep Dressed Like Wolves
I ‘met’ Andy on Twitter, and I really enjoy reading his blog, so I was very pleased when he agreed to write a guest post for The Quiet Entrepreneur. I had always tried to avoid commuting very far as an employee – so working from home is like heaven. However, I find Andy’s take on this very interesting, from an introvert perspective.
~ Julia Barnickle

Over the past few months I’ve been working from home. I am a freelancer, and currently doing a design and film project for a big client. As a highly sensitive introvert this is absolutely perfect for me.

However, since doing so I’ve noticed that working from home can be dangerous for me; it has changed the relationship I have with my home office space. And what’s more the convenience of working where I live began to alter my creative process and the time and space I was providing myself to think and build on ideas.

A few people I spoke to said that working from home is difficult because of the distractions around you. To be honest I don’t really have a problem with productivity. Most days I am more than able to get the work done.

The problem I started to encounter however was almost the opposite; I find it easy to switch on, but like many introverts, extremely hard to switch off again. The dangers of self-inflicted burn out are always very real because I get obsessive and so immersed in my work that I can go for days without thinking about much other than the problem I’m trying to solve or the idea I’m attempting to realise.

When I work from home it takes three seconds to ‘get to work’. Those three seconds are not enough time or space to shift head space and escape the thought patterns of work. So I take them into the evening and the weekend and fail to remove myself from the stuff I need to leave ‘at the office’. This is a problem for anyone in creative work whether they work from home or not but it is exacerbated when you don’t have a commute.

The Commute is More Than a Physical Journey

There is something very powerful about journey. Physically moving your body encourages your mind to parallel the shift mentally as well. We are always leaving somewhere and arriving elsewhere. We are on our way from one place to another place. But when that is only happening in the mind we are attempting to fight our own biological impulses and psychological disposition.

The brain needs sleep as time to process, sort, and systemise all the sensory and informational input from the previous day. It requires plenty of downtime. And I believe that if we are to be truly present, effective, and better at creating margin between work and play then the downtime that we get during a mindful physical journey between the head spaces is vital.

Walking to Work

As I started to feel this negative shift in my ability to concentrate and be present I decided to begin ‘walking to work’. Yes walk to work, even though I work at home.

Basically I get a lift with my wife, about a mile and a half across town to her office. Then when we arrive I get out the car and walk straight home again. It seems like a colossal waste of time but it’s revolutionised my relationship with my work space (physical and mental).

I listen to ambient music or podcasts, concentrate on deeply breathing the fresh air, and I think about what I will be doing in the day ahead. I try to meditate on the idea introduced by Dr. Viktor Frankl when he asked his patients, ‘if you could live today over again what would you do differently?’ before the day had happened. I love this practice. It’s a brilliant way of considering how the day could potentially get wasted and pledging not to let that happen.

This half an hour of journeying has changed my productivity, my efficiency, and the clarity/focus that I can apply to my day ahead. It’s not always an easy discipline to maintain, especially when it’s raining. And on the days when it feels like I have more to do than I have time to do it in, the seemingly pointless journey doesn’t feel sensible, productive, or appealing. In truth however, those are the days it becomes even more important as it provides me a fresh sense of perspective and focus.

And Again at the End of the Day

It is the same at the end of the day. Taking the time to ‘journey home’ is an important thing. Sometimes I only manage a quick five minute walk around the block. But that’s enough to shift focus away from work; reflecting on the successes of the day, and becoming present, mindful and deliberate with whatever is planned for the evening.

I have no perfect formula because I’m sure this kind of journey process is different for everyone. But I can encourage you from my own experience. If you do work from home, remember the intrinsic and not so directly obvious benefits of travel. If you don’t work from home and travel, do you do so in a way that provides space for your mind to prepare and reflect on the day ahead, or are you in a rush, on a packed train, getting angry in traffic jams etc? A stressful commute is not so good.

Over to You

What can you do to give you mind downtime and opportunity to travel between the various worlds you inhabit? (work, home, family, volunteer roles, friends, etc) Can you build space into the way you move between these different aspects of your life?


About the author

Andy Mort - Sheep Dressed Like WolvesAndy Mort is a UK based musician and writer. He is the founder of www.SheepDressedLikeWolves.com, a Blog and Podcast aimed at encouraging HSPs and introverts to embrace their creativity and push against the expectations of an often overwhelming world. He has been described as having a “daring and innovative approach to creating and releasing modern music, which has proved him and his alter-ego Atlum Schema to be a bright beacon in the depths of British music today.” Download his free eBook “The Gentle Rebel

Follow Andy on Facebook | Twitter | Google+

8 comments… add one
  • I’ve recently transitioned from an outside office space to having my office back in my home, and I’ve definitely struggled with “leaving” the office! As you said, my introvert mind just loves to work away at projects – which can be a problem when I’m supposed to be paying attention to my husband and son!

    One thing that’s made a huge difference is treating my office room as a completely separate space; when I’m working, I shut the door and pretend the rest of the house is far far away. And when I’m done working, I turn everything off, shut the door, and treat the office as closed.

    Another major change I made was to set regular “work hours” for myself. Before I would just leave the door open, and I could be working on and off at all hours of the day, every day of the week. I’m not much for schedules, so I resisted this for the longest time… but now, I have to admit, I’m a much better mom and wife when I have a schedule. Which really makes me a better business woman as well, since I don’t have to feel guilty when I’m working – knowing that when I’m NOT working, I’ll actually be mentally present with my family 😉
    Heidi recently posted..Don’t let the donkey winMy Profile

  • I love the fact that I’m not alone in this. There is clearly something very important about ‘transferring’ at the end of the day from work to home. It can be a lot easier to get TO work compared with the process of getting AWAY from it, I love Kathryn’s idea of almost symbolically turning off the light and shutting the door. There’s a lot to be said for going through the ritual of shutting things down. I’ll have to find a way of implementing this as I work from my kitchen! 🙂

    And I really like Dan’s notion of physical space and time begetting mental space, which in turn leads to more effective, creative, and productive work time. Our minds need cycles of freedom and restriction.

    Thanks so much for all your comments. Added loads of fuel to my thinking on this!
    Andy recently posted..#071: 5 Things That Help Me Juggle My Hats as an Art(re)Preneur [Podcast]My Profile

    • It’s been interesting reading about the rituals that people have put in place, to close their day. That’s something I’m aware I’m not doing – I used to have the short commute from the office as a signal that work had come to an end, but now that I work for myself, I sometimes do bits and pieces in the evening rather than watching TV. It seems to work OK, though, because I’m such a goldfish that it only takes me around 5 seconds to totally forget about work! 😉

  • When I first went freelance I really struggled with switching off and now I try and go for a walk at the end of each working day as a kind of ‘transfer’ from work to down-time. Also not long ago I moved into a flat where I have a separate office space from my living room. It’s made a massive difference – just the process of turning off the lights and closing the door at the end of the day helps massively. Thanks for a great post Andy! 🙂
    Kathryn Hall recently posted..How to claim a boost of energyMy Profile

  • I’m totally with you on this: staring out of the window on the bus watching people go about their lives is my favorite way of letting my mind spin through ideas before I need to focus or produce anything.
    You implied it in your description but the separation from intense working and open relaxed thinking is really important to my creativity as I often find I can’t find conceptual perspective unless I physically have perspective of an open space!

  • The point about the ‘commute’ is a great one. For many years I commuted between 30 and 50 miles each way to work. Whilst I hated the commute in terms of time it took up and the stress of the traffic it did mean by the time I got home work was physically and mentally miles away. Now I work from home. Until a few weeks ago going out to pick my daughter up from school around 4:30 signalled the end of the day but my other half recently asked to switch (I take her and he would pick her up). I soon found this didn’t suit me for exactly the reason you point out. I struggled for a few weeks but now I’ve switched my workout routine. I used to do that first thing. Now I do it before they come home. A burst of physical energy and a shower literally washes away the work day.

  • This is something I’ve been thinking about recently Andy. I have young children and most days I walk them to school, the walk back being my ‘commute’ as I work from home like you. And I pick them up in the afternoon. The problem I have is that I can’t get out for a walk at the end of the day until my hubby gets home around 7pm, which in the winter is not very appealing. But maybe I should try doing it anyway!
    Ginny Carter recently posted..How to use Linkedin’s relationship feature to make smart use of your connectionsMy Profile

  • Thank you Andy – you’ve raised a really important point here. On occasions, I like to take my laptop and go for a walk by the river, with the intention of spending a couple of hours writing in a cafe, overlooking the water. In the past, I’ve been quite resistant to this because it seemed like a “waste of time” – but I’ve realised that 1) it’s good exercise 2) it gives me an opportunity to take in deep breaths of fresh air 3) it’s a time when I can let my mind relax, and reflect, and 4) I’m far more productive in the couple of hours at the cafe than if I had stayed at home!

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge