THE BLOG

A Mindful Commute

02/10/2014 15:30 BST | Updated 02/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Things to do on a commute from Essex into London: sleep, read, listen to music, catch up on missed TV, play Candy Crush, hastily apply make up. Aside from the last activity which is usually a result of a defective alarm clock or boisterous children causing delays, it is all too tempting to just...unwind, before the day even starts. Because it's boring. Travelling is boring. It's repetitive, it's incredibly tiring and it feels like 'dead' time.

But it doesn't have to be. Is there something you feel passionate about...a hobby you could develop and work on during your commute? Obviously it's tempting to allow that train journey to be useless day in, day out...dead time that doesn't result in anything productive. But it could just as easily be the most productive part of your day. The perfect space to harness your imagination...to nurture that idea you've had nagging away at you for some time. Next time you get on your train or bus, put Candy Crush down and think about something incredible you want to do. Write that novel. Develop that business idea. Change career.

I used to read all the time on my commute...it took my mind to a different place, distracted me from the tedium of a view I had seen hundreds of times before and eventually, it transformed my life. In a manner of speaking.

There came a point during my commute to my banking job when reading a novel starting to send my mind into overdrive, as I thought about alternative ways to tell the story. Which led to me jotting these ideas down during subsequent journeys ...which eventually resulted in me starting to write my own novel. On my commute into London. I suddenly realised that the forty five minute time slot each morning and evening (even with a mad dash between the overland train and the DLR as I was working in Canary Wharf at that point), was the perfect space for me to practise my craft and indulge myself in a hobby that was fast becoming a passion. The dead time had transformed itself into my favourite part of the day; I looked forward to the chance to allow my mind to focus on something creative and productive.

Trains are busy places, full of people chattering into their phones and talking to one another (and there is always, without fail, someone with crappy earphones whose taste in music is utterly deplorable sitting nearby)...BUT. If you can focus enough on something - preferably something you love - it's possible to drown other people out, to completely lose yourself in a project you feel passionate about. This is what I did every day for months. I sketched out a storyline for a novel, developed a plot, made character notes and eventually, I started actually writing something. I wrote free hand rather than on a lap top in those days but I enjoyed filling up pages with notes and prose and thinking about something other than the stresses of my job. This became especially important to me on my journey home.

For quite a while, this was just a hobby, albeit one I felt very enthusiastic about. It was only when the chapters I started to write on my commute stayed with me at work and seeped into my mind during meetings that I began to think of a different career path - one as a writer. Eventually, I left my job and changed careers...I wrote four successful novels under my own name and HarperCollins have recently published one called Pieces of You under the pseudonym Ella Harper.

You could make something like this happen. You have two time slots every day you can use to turn a dream into reality. This time next year, you could be a millionaire. Or at very least, you might have done something new and exciting with your life. All because of your commute...