In the office

Whilst I was going through the data for last week’s post, I noticed that most of my journeys where travelling to or from work, particularly in 2020 when travelling for fun wasn’t allowed. It seems quite obvious that I’m now working from home more often. But in previous years I would have had more days out of the office: on training courses, on business trips, on leave (yes, I have taken some in 2020, but not as much as before). So just how many days do I normally spend in the office each year? To be clear, this is just talking about how many days I’ve been *in the office*, not how many days I’ve been *working*.

Some days it’s easy to tell when I went to the office, I made a morning peak journey in one direction, and an evening peak journey back in the other direction. Some days it’s more complicated as I come back a different route, or get off at a different station to walk a bit further, but it’s still generally obvious that I’ve been into the office. Other days it’s more complex as I’ve gone somewhere else after work, but I generally always head home afterwards. Although strangely I have travelled to work more times than I’ve come home, mainly as a result of occasionally running home instead. There’s also the possibility that I’ve travelled into the office and then gone elsewhere for the bulk of the day, and there’s a number of half days which I didn’t count specifically, but hopefully it should all balance out. Suffice it to say, these values are all very approximate.

I think there should be 222 possible days in the office per year (365 – 52 Saturdays – 52 Sundays – 8 bank holidays – 31 days leave). Yes, I’m ignoring leap years and that some years may have extra weekends or bank holidays. As I said this is approximate.

So, counting up all my journeys, here’s what I get:

YearDays in
% of working
days in office

And whilst 2020 is lower than 2019, it’s not dramatically lower. But is quite a bit lower when compared to the high of 2014. It’s hard to tell if this is a general downwards trend, or is just related to some jobs/time periods having more business travel. For 2021 I’m currently at about 61% in the office, but given that we’re only six weeks into the year this could obviously go up or down before the end of the year.

And coming back to my initial reason for looking into this, I spent approximately 25% less last year on travel around London than in 2019, but I was only in the office 14% less than than the previous year. I’m not sure what the point behind those calculations is – I’m sure I could draw something else out, but that seems like enough for now.

But with a dataset of all my journeys for the last seven years there must be more that I can discover. What else would be interesting to know? My longest journey? My day with the most journeys? How many stations I’ve been to? Let me know in the comments.


Annual Travelcard, or Pay As You Go…

Just over seven years ago, I moved to London. Before that I had always had houses and jobs that I could either walk or drive between. Now though, I had to get the train every day, and also to pay for it. I started off paying for each journey from my Oyster card top up balance, but in January 2014, I realised that I was topping up a lot and that it might make more sense to get an annual travelcard. The main advantage of a travelcard being that all journeys within the chosen zones would essentially be free, so the more journeys made, the better the saving.

So why is that relevant? Well, I’ve kept a record of every journey I’ve made, and every January I compare how much I would have spent on pay as you go versus how much I paid for the travelcard (plus the extra journeys outside my travelcard zones). Unfortunately I no longer have the exact statistics for the first few years, but in 2017 I saved £246.50 (and I think a few of the earlier years were even bigger savings).

2017 Travelcard2017 PAYG

Fast forward to 2018 and I moved house from zone 3 to zone 4. Now, not only was the travelcard cost more, but there were fewer transport options so I was less likely to use public transport. The calculations were more complex because I moved halfway through the year, but I think I ended up spending £96.40 extra by having a travelcard and not making the most of the journeys.

2018 Travelcard2018 PAYG

For 2019, I decided to renew my travelcard. Yes, I had lost some money the previous year, but it was complex with moving house, and maybe I would make more journeys this year. And so, in January 2020 I calculated how much I had spent the previous year, and unfortunately found that I overspent by £234 by having a travelcard.

2019 Travelcard2019 PAYG

In order to confirm my calculations (there’s daily and weekly PAYG capping I hadn’t taken into account), I decided to do a three month trial of using pay as you go (though obviously on contactless now, rather than having to top up an oyster card) until the end of April 2020. But then COVID and lockdowns came in, so my three month trial ended up becoming a one year trial. With an increased number of days working from home and less travel away from London, it should be clear that PAYG was going to win this year, but by how much? A couple of weeks ago I calculated my travel costs for 2020…

2020 Travelcard2020 PAYG

With a £732.50 saving, PAYG was a clear winner for 2020. I imagine it will still be the best option for the rest of this year until things get back to normal again. I’ll review this again next January, but at the moment, I can’t see a travelcard being a sensible option for me, at least until I can make a lot more journeys.

January Habits

January Habits: Journaling

It’s January, and whilst I don’t particularly do New Year’s Resolutions, I thought this month I would share some habits I’ve recently started and want to continue with.

I first came across bullet journaling in a BBC News article in August 2019 about someone who had used it to save enough money to buy a house. Essentially the premise of bullet journaling is making quick journal entries (aka “bullets”) for tasks/events/notes and managing these between a series of “collections” and logs. It sounds quite complex (and it is a bit), but supposedly once in the flow you can use it to organise everything (including finances, hence the house saving). You can read the full how it works here.

I liked the idea of this, so I started in September 2019 following the official bullet journal rules with a ‘future log’, a ‘monthly log’ and some collections. It all started off quite well, but I soon dropped the longer term elements and just did the ‘daily logs’.

My first ‘Monthly log’ and my ‘tracker’ which only got to day 4…
My daily log pages from September 2019, back when we could go places…

However, I missed out a lot of days and rather than being a forward planning tool, it ended up being a record of what I’d done (or what I could remember I’d done) and I gave up in February. Fast forward to August and I decided to try again. At first I just kept the daily log format similar to how I had been, but then in October last year after researching other people’s BuJo layouts online, I settled on a new weekly format. And with a couple of tweaks it’s what I’ve been using ever since.

This week’s log pages (at time of writing)

My new setup uses a double page for each week which I set up on the Sunday evening beforehand. It takes about 10-15 mins each week to draw the lines and do the initial filling in, but I’m actually quite enjoying doing it. I still use my phone calendar for longer term events, but being able to see one week ahead just seems to work for me. It’s also quite nice to spend five minutes at the end of each day to reflect on how that day was and what I’ve done (or not!). Although not wanting to when I’m tired and wanting to go to bed is probably one of the hardest things about this, although I am trying to do it everyday.

At the moment, most of the items are basic household tasks such as “buy bread/milk” (tomorrow’s only task!), but ticking off items is also quite cathartic and I often add mundane items just so I can mark them as done. Hopefully one day soon I’ll be able to go back to putting in exciting events that are happening and places I’m going to. I’ve also thought that I should use it to track emotions/mood, but that’s one I’ve still to work out. At least I can now tick off “write blog post” for this week.

So that’s it for January habits for 2021. Has anything interested you that you might want to try? Anything else I should be doing? Let me know in the comments. I’ll revisit these later in the year (probably July or December) to let you know if I’ve kept them up!

January Habits

January Habits: Cold showers

It’s January, and whilst I don’t particularly do New Year’s Resolutions, I thought this month I would share some habits I’ve recently started and want to continue with.

Until November I had only had a cold shower maybe two or three times: when I was 15 and staying in a 1960s scout hut, and a few years ago when my boiler stopped working. However, since November I have had a cold shower every day. But why?

I measured the water temperature at 10 degrees (Celcius), but I think it does fluctuate slightly

A few months before I came across a YouTuber saying that cold showers had changed their life. I did some more internet research and found loads more people saying how they had started having cold showers and it had improved their lives. According to people on the internet, it’s better for your skin/hair, helps weight loss, improves testosterone and loads of other stuff whereas some people just claim it’s all pseudoscience. I’m not sure if any of those are true, but they’re not the reason I’m doing this anyway.

I still secretly hope the water will be warm when I stick my toes in and I’m slightly disappointed when it isn’t. The first few seconds are horrible, but after that, and once the whole body is under the water, it feels absolutely fine. In fact, it feels better than just fine. Rather than just “having a shower” every day, I now feel like I’ve achieved something each day. And that small win first thing in the morning is definitely something that’s needed in these hard times…

January Habits

January Habits: Exercise

It’s January, and whilst I don’t particularly do New Year’s Resolutions, I thought this month I would share some habits I’ve recently started and want to continue with.

One of the hardest parts of being in self-isolation was not being able to go outside to exercise. I’ve occasionally gone for a run first thing, but along with waking up earlier, I wanted to make this into more of routine. I’ve noticed previously that days that have started with a run have generally felt much better. Even I’ve mentally forgotten by the time I’ve gotten into the office that I started the day with a run, the psychological benefits last throughout the whole day.

And so I decided that every day should start with a run. Nothing complicated, generally just a simple run around my block (which is just over 2km). You may recall that I ran 5km every day back in September, so I knew it wasn’t impossible. I wasn’t going to run on weekends as I like to do my longer runs then, but even after only a couple of weeks, it already feels very odd to have breakfast without having been for a run first.

There is however a big challenge. Now we’re back in lockdown, exercise outdoors is only allowed once per day. A 2km run first thing in the morning is fine if I’m heading into the office afterwards, but if I’m working from home and only allowed out once per day, do I really want it to just be for a 2km run around the block? And what about days when I want to do a longer run anyway?

And that’s partly why this new habit is “exercise” rather than “running”. Whilst a 2km run first thing is nice (mainly for the smugness of being up and about before everyone else is up), sometimes it’s not going to be the best option for that day. And so if that means my daily exercise is staying in with a Joe Wicks workout video, or meeting a friend for a long walk, that’s fine too. Just as long as I try to do something every day.

January Habits

January Habits: Waking up early

It’s January, and whilst I don’t particularly do New Year’s Resolutions, I thought this month I would share some habits I’ve recently started and want to continue with.

For a long time I’ve been thinking that I should wake up earlier as that’s what they say super-successful people do, you know “early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”. It’s not that I’m particularly lazy or sleep in late – I normally wake up between 6.30 and 7.15 and out of bed sometime between 6.45 and 7.30. But from that, it might be obvious that I’ve never had a particularly consistent routine.

The main drivers behind this have been having more time for exercise (more on this next week) and for reading the Bible/reflecting on it. I’ve previously been able to do one or the other occasionally, but it’s always felt rushed before I go to work and I really wanted to have more time to focus. Additionally, I’ve often felt like my evenings are unproductive with a lot of wasted time on Netflix/YouTube/general internet browsing. So hopefully this shift of time to the morning will reduce that.

I’ve always been a firm believer in getting a good 7.5-8 hours of sleep every night, so the hardest part with this new habit is actually going to bed earlier, not the waking up earlier. Related to this, I’ve also started charging my phone in the other room so this should give me more reason to not just lie in bed and browse the internet (either in the evening or in the morning). At some point I’ll need to become stricter and specify an actual time that I won’t use my phone before/after as it’s still a bit flexible at the moment.

I trialled this habit back in December with a 6.15am wake-up, but self-isolation and then Christmas disrupted that. I’m back on it again now, with a 6.05am wake-up, but I think I still need to move it forward a bit more. I’m just still trying to get used to idea of having to go to bed at 9.30pm…

Anyway, what do you think? Is deliberately waking up early something you’ve tried? Any suggestions for other habits I should try?

Annual Review

Annual Review 2020

In what will now become a blog tradition (assuming I’m still blogging this time next year), I’m going to share some of the places I’ve been this year in pictorial format…

A wet walk across Salisbury in January (also the last photo before my phone died).
In March, I finished walking the 150 mile (242km) London Loop. It’s not the most exciting part of London, but it’s another walk finished.
A May bank holiday weekend out in Sussex (when the weather was nice and the lockdown restrictions had lifted sufficiently).
In July I walked the 66 mile (107 km) Vanguard Way, meeting the coast at the Seven Sisters where the weather was perfect.
In August I walked the 109 mile (175 km) Cleveland Way with my brother.

Wordless Wednesday

Christmas is cancelled

So Christmas isn’t really happening this year*. I could post about how I shouldn’t really look forward to anything, but I already did that.

Instead, here’s some photos from past Christmases. (Turns out I actually don’t take many photos at Christmas – although there are a couple more here.)

Christmas tree – December 1994 (Also the first photo I took on my new Christmas present camera)

*I’m trying to think of it as delayed, rather than cancelled – I’m sure there’ll be something in post-vaccine 2021. And I’m also talking about the family get-together part of Christmas, rather than the religious part which is still very much happening.

Life event

Self-isolation, epilogue

Last week I described how I was forced into self-isolation. Today I look back at the experience…

And really there’s actually not much to talk about. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, but I’m aware that I only had to do it for 8 and a bit days.

I did have a mild cough for a few days, but I got tested and that came back negative, so I definitely didn’t have COVID last Monday at 1pm. It’s possible I developed it at another point in the week but remained symptomless, or I just never caught anything in the first place. Either way, there was no reason to extend my self-isolation beyond the initial period.

If I had known it was coming I’d have stocked up on food beforehand, but I did already have enough for a few days. I did get some food (and a couple of other things) delivered during the week, so that all worked out for me not to have to leave my house.

And I’m probably introverted enough that I didn’t mind not seeing any real people for 9 days, although I did have various (work and personal) phone calls/text chats/video chats throughout the time so I wasn’t completely disconnected.

And I was planning to work from home all last week anyway, so it was actually quite fortuitous. If it had been this week, it would have been much more awkward to work from home. So that worked out.

The only thing I did miss was being able to go outside to exercise. I normally go running every couple of days, and this along with my walk to work normally brings me up to the target 10,000 steps. However, being stuck at home my step count rarely got above 500 (if I even bothered to wear my watch). And having not done any exercise, I found my body wasn’t tired at bedtime so it was harder to sleep (much to my brain’s annoyance).

But that was my only real issue with having to self-isolate. But I do hope that I don’t need to do it again.

Life event


I was travelling home from work last Thursday evening, when a notification from the NHS COVID-19 app alert popped up on my phone:

Self-isolate for 9 days
The app has detected that you have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus. Please stay at home and self-isolate to keep yourself and others safe.

According to the information, I had come into contact with someone who had coronavirus last Saturday (i.e. five days earlier) and now had to self-isolate for the next nine days. The app registers contact at either less than 2 metres distance for at least 15 minutes, or less than 1 metre distance for at least 1 minute. So it should be easy to work out?

Last Saturday, I was in the office (and was the only person there) so I definitely didn’t pick up anything there. It could have been in the pizza place that evening (but I was the only customer and wasn’t there for long). So it was most likely on my way into or back from the office.

The journey into the office on Saturday wasn’t very exciting, and it could have easily been then as my train journey is over the 15 minute criterion. The train wasn’t particularly busy, but I could have been sat within 2 metres of someone.

The way back home was more exciting (although of course that doesn’t make it more likely) as I had to go via London Bridge. I had timed it badly for the train from Charing Cross station, so decided to walk over to Waterloo East and catch the next train from there.

View from the Golden Jubilee Bridge on a cold foggy Saturday evening

That was possibly a mistake because the South Bank was crowded as it seemed to be the only central London location that was serving food or drink. There were hundreds of people stood around and definitely not social distancing. But I was just walking through, so even though I may have had to come fairly close to some people, it would have been for way less than the requisite 1 minute period.

Having also timed it really badly for Waterloo East station, I then decided I may as well just walk to London Bridge. I took the back streets for this which were much quieter. I would have easily been social distancing for this walk, so it’s unlikely I would have triggered the app in this part of the journey either.

The Shard on a cold foggy Saturday evening

I then had to wait around on the platform for about 5 minutes before the train. This would have met the 1 minute time period, but I was social distancing so that wouldn’t have been it. But then I was on the train for longer than 15 minutes. It wasn’t particularly busy, and I don’t think I was sat less than 2 metres from anyone. So I don’t think that was it either, but again, it could have been.

So I’m not sure at what point I broke the 1 metre 1 minute/2 metres 15 minute rule. But maybe at some point that day I did. At least the app thinks so anyway. Only another three days to go now anyway…