Why a longer commute makes me 4X happier

I’m writing this on a Friday evening while travellingĀ on the Triangle Transit 405 busĀ from Durham to Chapel Hill.

What started a few weeks back as a one-day experiment has turned into an psychic journey that’s been full of pleasant surprises.

A photo posted by henry copeland (@wonderfill) on

Now I’m taking the bus to and from work almost every day. Though the bus commute takes ~52 minutes door-to-door, the journey feels both shorter and far more productive than my customary 30-minute car commute. Here’s a quick rundown of what I’m gaining…

  1. More work. My original hypothesis was that, thanks to in-bus wifi, I’d get some extra work done during the commute. That’s proven to be true.
  2. Less lollygagging. Our office meetings often don’t start until 10 or 10.30am, so some mornings I’ve ended up puttering around at home until I finally rush to jump in the car 31 minutes before my first scheduled meeting. With the bus, I’ve got two deadlines — I’m either going to be on the 8.14am bus or the 8.44am bus. Suddenly, my whole morning is a lot more focused and structured.
  3. Setting my sights. Walking to the bus gives me a nice six minutes to reflect on the challenges ahead and do some prioritizing.
  4. Jam session. Once on the bus, I know I’ve got 44 minutes to get one or two key tasks done. Or I can spend the trip reading a book. Or dig through old to-do lists. I think of the 44-minute window as a double Pomodoro, one of the most productive stretches of my day.
  5. Humanity. It’s fun and strangely anti-distracting to look up occasionally and see other people jump on and off the bus.
  6. Peace of mind. When driving, I spend some of my time wondering whether the driver beside or behind me, who 50% of the time is intently texting, is gonna ram me.
  7. Smooth. When there’s a traffic jam and I’m on the bus, I sometimes actually happy — more time to finish a blog post!
  8. Reset. Once the bus reaches Durham, the short walk to the office gives me another spell to reset and refocus on the challenges ahead.
  9. At the end of the day, steps 2-7 repeat.

I need thank my buddy and transit guru John Rees, for giving me the nudge to try the bus.

Ahh, no kidding, my bus is pulling into Chapel Hill, starting to climb Franklin Street. NO WAY this post would have been finished if I’d tried to write it while sitting in the office. Chalk up another win for the bus.

(With luck I’ll Instagram the bus and drop that in here while I’m having beers with Mr. Rees at Steel String, which is just 45 seconds from my evening bus stop.)