Why I'm Looking Foward To My Next Long Drive

Posted: 24th January 2016

Most of my work takes me to places I can get to by train, which I like. I find it takes the effort away from travelling and I get an extra few hours to work. Apart from signalling/staffing/track problems I generally don’t need to worry about delays and traffic jams either. They are quite productive hours, because my mobile phone signal is usually so poor on trains that I don’t get interrupted much. Besides, I’ve also overheard far too many conversations from other travellers that were too loud, too long, too dull or just inappropriate, so I don’t like talking on trains either.

The formula is usually something like:

1. get coffee
2. get on train
3. open laptop
4. start working

Numbers 1 and 2 can sometimes be interchanged, but I prefer them this way round. Train coffee isn’t my favourite source of caffeine.

Many times I have promised myself that “on the next trip”, or even “on the way home” I will do something more relaxing, like watch a movie, or read a book. And I mean a book for entertainment or inspiration, a novel perhaps, rather than the textbook-type books I usually find myself in. Despite all my promises to myself I can’t remember the last time I had one of those more relaxing journeys.

A couple of days ago I had a work meeting in Newbridge, South Wales. It’s not a place I’d been to before and looking at the rail schedule it wasn’t going to be as straightforward a journey as I would have liked so I decided to take the car instead.

Driving requires attention, of course it does, but it doesn’t require every bit of your attention all of the time. In fact, if it was more demanding, the roads would be far more dangerous than they already are because driving isn’t meant to be something that requires superhuman ability or effort. The cognitive load that driving places on us varies throughout the journey. There are many moments that require total focus, such as busy roundabouts, manoeuvres, junctions and so on, but the majority of the kind of drive I was doing was spent just trundling along. It’s not ok to use your phone whilst driving, or work or read. So what else can you do to keep yourself amused when you have a 4-hour drive through the middle of Wales, aside from singing along to your favourite playlist?

Driving Through Wales

If you can break through the initial boredom barrier, what happens is the same thing you experience when you do something else repetitive and automatic… you manage to unlock the problem-solving, meandering, creative side of your mind. I might have thought that an 8-hour round trip was 8 hours I could have better spent doing something more productive. I was so wrong. Among my 8 hours on the road I had some great ideas, solved some problems that were causing me trouble and visualised a string of content for some upcoming keynotes. I’d forgotten how good time spent like that can be.

When was the last time you were able to properly tap into your creative mind?

I’m looking forward to my next road trip.


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