When Does the Work Day Begin?

Peak hour pedestrians in Brisbane Queensland Australia

We recently relocated to another suburb of Sydney – one which is farther away from the CBD (where I work) than our previous home was. My commute used to involve only an 11min train ride, which never afforded much of an opportunity to read. Not only am I a slow reader (so I might get through merely five pages in that time) but 11 minutes is also too short of a time to “lose oneself” in what you’re reading.

My new commute involves no fewer than 31 minutes on the train, and typically a 5-10 minute wait at the station (I almost never waited longer than 2-3 minutes at our old station, owing to more frequent services). Suddenly, my commute is more than three times as long and reading is fully back on the menu.

Most of the time, I’m reading non-fiction, as this is easier to dip in and out of should my commute prove distracting (or should my cognitive energy be in short supply). Such reading forms a not-insignificant portion of my work as an academic and so, in a rather real sense, my work day starts even as my commute does. Normally I would be disturbed if ‘work’ was creeping into the few moments of solitude I enjoy in a day, but reading has always been one aspect of my job that never feels like ‘work’.

Today I found myself pondering this point even as I was undertaking my commute to work: has my work day actually begun, or is this reading serving as a ‘soft open’ to my working day? Put another way: does the hour I spend commuting to and from work count as an hour of doing the job I’m ostensibly commuting to?

Ultimately, I’m not terribly concerned with the answer, so long as I’m enjoying what I’m reading even as it helps me move my work forward. I might as well have my cake and eat it, too.




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