[tweetmeme source=”travisthetrout” only_single=false]
During what I call the rush hour crunch – when travelling by train you are subjected to an hour (in my case) of cramped conditions. There a varying degree of crunch ranging from the “busy, but I still find a seat…just about” if you are an early bird to “peas in a pod” if you end up travelling mid rush hour (for me this is the half 5 train).
People do very little with their time and simply listen to their ipods, talk loudly and rudely on their phone (“Hi, Just letting you know I’m on the train”) or on the rare occasion reading books. Whether we are trying to be green (or just can’t afford the parking in the city centre) the train is a good method of transport, anytime outside of rush hour, and the journey can be quite productive, but how can we extend this productivity into the rush hour?
Given that time is precious for law students, here is a list of suggestions based on what I do:
1. Getting to the station: for me this is usually a brisk walk, sometimes jog, if I’m close to getting an earlier, less crowded train. Nice spot of exercise for those days you can’t fit in a session to the gym. (less great on rainy days but hopefully we’ll have less of those as summer approaches).
2. Listen to Podcasts: I normally combine this with getting to the station, and waiting on the platform (as well as catching my breath of course). Podcasts, which I would like to hope everyone uses these days are great for catching up on news updates, topics of interest, learning a new language, learning your “nugget” for the day, or simply injecting a bit of humour into the day.
3. On the train studying: I always think that the train is a great place to study (given that I don’t get motion sickness on the train unlike a car). Nevertheless a file, manual, statute book, notepaper, pens, and highlighters do not fit comfortably on an overcrowded train. The obvious solution is use a laptop; many people do given its slim-line nature. But given I don’t use it during my day, and my bag is never enough as it is, bringing my laptop along for the ride is not usually an option. My solution, is a simple study book.
The Study Book
Internet: this is similar to the points of interest in the mind dump, only more general. Everyone gets flashes of inspiration, anytime, anywhere – usually when you haven’t got a computer handy. I note anything in this section (not necessarily work related), such as things I want to google/wiki; an email I want to send; a blog entry; cases and points of interest mentioned in class; research; and social networking issues. anything really – simply because, by the time I get home, all will be forgotten.
This is a small a5 notebook (can go smaller if you wish) – usually best to have one with identifiable sections, whether it is different coloured edged pages or subject notebooks then you can assign a section to different things. Please note this is in addition to my moleskine diary (see 4. below). I’ve split up the study book into 4 sections: To-dos, Mind dump/reviews, tasks, and internet.
To dos: These are specifically work to-dos, and will also contain a print list, as I don’t have a printer at home and we frequently have to print out things before and after a class.
MindDump/Review: Usually when I am heading home I have just finished a class. I find this a perfect time to do some notes. I basically will write a summary of what was covered in the class, what I specifically remember (usually these are the key points), any points of interest mentioned in class and draw up some diagrams about what I’ve learnt – this may be how this topic fits in with others or a flow chart showing the structure of a particular claim (i.e. what needs to be proved first?). As I am a visual learner I find it beneficial to learn like this, I can then fill out the notes later if I need to double check anything and add it to my file.
Tasks: This is usually for the morning journey. Generally when I am studying, if I find a task that I know I can do on the train / would be easy on the train – I set it aside to do on the train later and carrying on with the other stuff. Then later when I am on the train I do this task, it may not involve an entry in the notebook (e.g. when reading a lease), but the tasks section is there for the things I need to note when doing the task. The great thing about this is, I have something I can do on a train, and I free up time to do other things during my study time.
4. The daily-life catch up: Studying issues aside the train is always the perfect time to catch up on some tweaking of the diary (what I am doing and when), my general to-dos such as what to cook for dinner, grocery shopping list etc. Also get to do some vigorous ticking of what I’ve done during the day, as I’m usually productive this gives me a great sense of satisfaction.
Given the absence of a phone during the day I also listen to my messages and catch up on texts, phone calls I leave for the 10 minute walk from the station to my house.
5. If you are prone to snacking on the train, make sure you are armed with some snacks, cereal bar normally does it for me. Be healthy and get one of your five-a-day. It beats spending time waiting in the queue for some over priced chocolate bar, simply because everyone around you is snacking and it makes you feel hungry too.
6. Boredom and still got free time? make conversation. I love having a good old fashioned chat on the train, you can meet many interesting people (as well as strange people with obsessions with boats). Obviously be safe and don’t give your address etc, but a nice relaxing chit chat about the weather might be just what you need after a stressful day, and who knows you might learn something new. Also if you regularly travel on the same train, other people will to, its nice just to be able to give a friendly nod to someone else at a later date.
By doing these few simple things I’ve ended up having a more productive train journey, they can be done whether you find a seat, are sitting in the corridor or standing.