Every time I get in the car, I follow the same routine. As soon as I have started the car I reach down and change the radio to the sports talk station. Then I tune into the station, tune out the rest of the world and drive to wherever I am going in sweet oblivion. I don´t think about anything else and I don´t look at anything but the road.
Yesterday, as I was getting ready to go out, I realized how stupid that is. Since I work at home I don´t drive that much, but I am still taking a couple of hours a week where I am alone and won´t be interrupted them and wasting them. I certainly could use the time more effectively than zoning out to the latest inane discussion of hockey (I live in Canada, so all they talk about eleven months of the year on the radio is hockey).
Inspired by my new insight, I tried something different for my drive. Instead of changing the radio station I turned it right off. Then, as I drove, I made a conscious effort to look around and see what there was to be seen. The road I took was the road I most often drive, but it was interesting to see what there was to see when I was actually looking. I noticed that construction had started again on a site that had been stalled for months. I saw that a favorite house had been put on the market and sold. I noticed three new businesses opening and two that had disappeared. I was shocked by the number of hybrids that were on the road.
It didn´t just stop there, either. Something I saw triggered a solution to a problem I had been wrestling with which had stood in the way of finishing a project for a client. And I got the idea for this column. All that and it was just a ten minute drive.
By turning off the radio and paying attention to my surroundings I saw things I wouldn´t normally notice and my mind was sent racing. I turned the down time that I would have wasted into a very productive time. I won´t do it every time, but I will certainly make a conscious effort once in a while to turn off the radio and tune in to the outside world. Give it a try.