A true minimalist guru would tell you to give up your car and walk — preferably barefoot — to only the places you really need to go. There’s no place in a minimalist life, it seems, for a car.
But I live 30 miles from the city that I call home (and at least 9 miles from anything resembling a town). There’s no light rail or bus route out here, and besides, I live in Texas. Public transportation is improving here, but there’s no plan for any of it to pass near my neck of the woods. Driving is inevitable — although I’m always looking for ways to reduce the amount of driving I do.
Driving alone can be a tedious process. It’s often useless time, but it doesn’t have to be. I’m convinced that when you eliminate distractions, you can reach a level of super-concentration — of heightened awareness — that lets you do something useful with your mind while also making you a better driving. Without distractions, one part of your brain is truly focused on the task of driving while your more creative side is free to float into fertile lands.
Whether you’re a writer with articles and posts that need planning, a businessperson with problems to be solved or someone with life issues that need attention, time spent driving can be useful. Alone time is valuable, so don’t waste it.
Here are a do-and-don’t guide to productive driving time:
Don’t use your GPS. If you have a pretty good idea where you’re going, don’t use your GPS voice guide. You don’t need the constant chatter. Or try my approach: Don’t get GPS. If I don’t know where I’m going, I print a map or write down directions from the last familiar intersection. It’s usually only the last few miles that’s unfamiliar anyway.
Don’t create your own chatter by using your cell phone. Time alone in a car is too valuable to waste on useless conversation with someone on the other end of cell phone connection. Besides, your chatter is robbing them of time they could be spending another way. (And using cell phones for talk or texting while driving is dangerous. Accidents costs money and lives — and dealing with them robs you of productive time, too.)
Don’t fill all your driving time with audio books. While talking books can be a great way to keep your mind stimulated during long sessions of non-stop driving, you’re exploring someone else’s thought processes, not your own. Try to fill your head with your own creativity. You’ll be surprised what you can do.
Don’t listen to music either. While I’m planning a post soon on live music as a form of meditation, listening to music can be a distraction in the car. If you’re singing along, you probably aren’t using the highest level of creativity your brain can offer.
Don’t listen to talk radio either. Talk radio is 100 percent clutter, even if the host is intelligent or funny. And if the stations in your area are like the ones here, the time spent on commercials equals the time for content. It’s the aural equivalent of junk food. I put it in the same category as television judge shows. Even higher-quality stations like National Public Radio focus your attention on what they want you to think about.
Do have a way to take notes. Whether it’s a pen and paper, a mini-recorder or a function of your cell phone, you’ll find business plans, writing ideas and solutions to household situations will float into your head. And you’ll need a way to (safely) capture them. You wouldn’t want something wonderful to float away.
Do stop often. If you’re on a long trip, stop to go to the bathroom even when you don’t have to. Make a note of anything you haven’t noted already, enjoy some coffee, tea or the (legally allowed) beverage of your choice, and walk around a moment. Productivity wains when fatigue sets in.
Do disregard this advice sometimes. I listen to a few minutes of news or talk radio for variety in my drives, and I have a few CDs of local bands that I enjoy. When your mind won’t focus, use these distractions to take you away for a few minutes. As soon as inspiration hits, tune out the distractions and get back to creating the next big thing.
This is an incomplete list, of course. It won’t be complete until you add a few points of your own, so please: Offer your comments.
Gip Plaster is a web content writer. Previously a journalist, online bookseller and even a corporate advertising guy, Gip now specialize in writing high-quality content for websites — his and other people’s. Visit Gip’s Front Yard (www.gipsfrontyard.com) too.