10 items you must have when working and commuting

Commuting and working

A century ago, most people worked at their home proximity, most of their day was centered on labor and less on traveling. Today, with the expanding globalization culture and the availability of fast transportation means, many people commute tens and even over hundred kilometers from their home to their place of work. However, fast as transportation is right now, between one to three hours can be wasted due to commuting. Assuming that the average person works ~9 hours a day, this means that at least 10% of our daily time is literally wasted.  In this post I will give tips and ideas how to efficiently use your commuting time to getting things done, whether these are related to the personal or professional aspects of your life.

My personal angle

Soon-to-be PhD holder, I am studying protein’s structures at the Zarivach laboratory. The lab is located at the southern city Beer-Sheba, which is ~106 km from my home (as Google Map navigates).  I have done this trip, 2 hours in each direction, throughout my 4-year PhD period and realized I have spent almost six months of accumulated time on the road. That’s a LOT of time! This time could have well been wasted if not for my ever burning passion for science and inner drive to work. I have made the best of the 2 hours ride such that I could do the following tasks:

  • Planned experiments and gone over protocols for the coming experiments that day.
  • Set goals, tasks and scheduled future experiments.
  • Prepared for my teaching sessions.
  • Analyzed crystallographic/NMR data.
  • Prepared texts and figures for articles.
  • Conducted urgent phone calls.
  • Researched and read articles.
  • Email correspondence.

 My “toolbox”

My gear

Over the past 4 years I have collected and developed a special “toolbox” that I carry with me when I am en route to the lab.  This is what I carry, though I remind you that you should take the minimum required to make the job done, since every ounce count when it is strapped to your back or hanging from your shoulder.

  1. The Bag – the variety of bags on market today is enormous and covers all types of styles, function and comfort. In my opinion the two most critical factors are comfort and function. If planning on buying a new bag, bring your stuff with you to the store, and see if (1) all things fit in and (2) that it is comfortable on your shoulders and back. Of course, some might prefer to put style above all criteria, and that’s fine, as long as you can haul the bag without suffering too much and put all the needed stuff within.  I am using the Timbuk2 H.A.L backpack, a durable and functional backpack that I have been extremely pleased with. I really like its (1) capacity (2) comfort and styling. It can contain quite a lot of stuff within and even when packed full to the top, it was the most comfortable backpack I have ever used (!) in this size range. Thanks to timbuk2, I most probably won’t need to buy any laptop backpack ever again…
  2. Keys, wallet and mobile – obviously, the most essentials for any commuter. Lab and home keys are hooked to calibers for quick access while wallet and mobile (not showing) are placed closer to the body for protection and quick access while the bag is back strapped.
  3. Laptop and charger – any long-distance commuter will tell ya that you should keep your laptop to the minimum weight possible. I, on the other hand, looked for a durable and strong laptop even if it will weigh more. My 4-year old 15” Dell still makes the job done (albeit a bit slower than sought for) and with the 9-cell battery I can work for 3-4 hours in a row, even with the original battery. Again, I am willing to haul more pounds and extend my working time and comfort. Some might opt for a tablet/iPad – I feel that if you want to do a REAL job, you will need a laptop.
  4.  Neoprene lapmat – I have found Neoprene to be an excellent lapmat for the laptop, one side sleek while the other is adherent and thus will keep your laptop at bay even when taking a bus ride.
  5. Hydration bottle – made of 66% water, we must keep ourselves hydrated.  A water bottle is a must and though you can use from 0.3L to even 2L bottle, I found the 0.8L capacity of the Klean Kanteen bottle to be ideal both in volume and durability. I have found the loop cap (not showing) more fitting for commuting since the sport cap’s nozzle is not seal-proof.
  6. Multitools – The Leatherman multi-tool is very handy for all kinds of situation (usually to open a snack or fix something at the lab). The tic-tacs will keep your mouth and feeling fresh even if you haven’t had your breakfast yet.
  7. Cables and remote – having several mobile devices (Bluetooth headset, iPhone, MP3 player etc) requires several adaptors and connectors. All of these can be connected to the USB hubs on the laptop and thus enable keeping the battery replenished on a long and busy day. Not showing is a 2-way socket splitter which I found very handy when commuting via a train and there are not enough electrical sockets available.
  8. Mouse and cellular internet adaptor – I am using a relatively small mouse which is suited for laptops (short cable) and is characterized by several sensitivities, which can be crucial when not much space is available for placing the mouse. With the cellular internet adaptor I can be connected to the internet throughout my commuting. Both android and iPhone users can use their mobile as an internet hub yet I found such streaming a bit slower than a direct connection.
  9. Notepad and pen – the foolproof tool of writing ideas or jotting numbers and texts, it takes small space and even less weight. Keep at least two pens if one of them is lost or malfunction.
  10. Head cover – under the Israeli sun you’d better be protected as much as possible with a wide brim hat. This is of course handy when you forgot your umbrella and a downpour catches you en route to the bus.

* Additional tip by Klara – using headphones! Here’s what she said: “My headphone belongs to my essentials, as all too often people discuss their entire lives over the phone in loud voices… Can’t work if I’m distracted by those conversations”. True enough, I forgot to add that one to the list simply becuase I was using them while taking the photo. ツ

This is my toolbox – what’s yours? Got any tips for commuting and working?

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2 comments on “10 items you must have when working and commuting

  1. Nice post, think I should get some neoprene lapmat too. Never heard of those, but sounds useful (my laptop simply keeps sliding off)! My headphone belongs to my essentials, as all too often people discuss their entire lives over the phone in loud voices… Can’t work if I’m distracted by those conversations.

  2. Hi Klara,
    First of all, thanks for the headphones tip – indeed, I have forgot that small but so important item! I have added it to the post.
    In regard to the Neoprene lapmat – I have found such one in a fishing/diving shop. Wet diving suits are custom prepared from Neoprene and they have leftovers that you can use. It didn’t cost me a dime!

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