Learn how to drive

We call it the “LA cell phone conversation”:

“Hi, how are you?”,
“Good, how are you stupid idiot, watch where you’re going!
“Sorry, some idiot just cut me off”

Maybe I’m just noticing it more, but it seems the amount of bad driving going on out there is really increasing these days. Most of getting your pilot’s license is learning the procedures that have been developed over the years to keep planes coordinated and flying safely. Since I’ve gotten my pilot’s license, I’ve gained more respect for the procedures used in driving, and I’ve also noticed how frequently they are broken. At the same time I’ve noticed how many accidents could have been avoided if people were following the simple rules they teach in every driving school.

Here are five points people seem to have forgotten that can easily save your life:

  • Yellow means stop.
    Stop lights used to be just red and green. The problem was, people would panic and slam on the brakes when the light suddenly turned red. So they added yellow. Yellow means “stop if you can without slamming on your brakes” (so the guy behind you doesn’t hit you). It doesn’t mean “go very fast to see if you can make it”. I know a few intersections where this rule alone would have prevented a lot of accidents.
  • Going slow on the freeway is bad.
    Those long on ramps and off ramps were developed so that you’d have time to accelerate and decelerate. Entering the freeway at 45 MPH is very dangerous. I’ve personally seen accidents caused by it. The primary cause of speed-related accidents on the freeway is the difference in speed between two cars.

    • When you’re getting on the freeway, accelerate so that you’re at 65 MPH (or whatever the freeway traffic is doing if there’s traffic) by the time you enter the freeway.
    • When you’re getting off the freeway keep freeway speed until you enter the exit ramp, then decelerate.
  • Don’t enter an intersection unless you can get out the other side.
    Not only is this common sense to prevent gridlock; it’s the law.
  • Perform a self-check before you drive.
    A car is a big object, and we take for granted our ability to control it. Pilots use a self-checklist “IMSAFE”, which stands for “Illness, Medical, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, and Emotion”. If you’re too sick, have a medical condition, are stressed out, have been drinking, are tired, or are emotional, don’t drive. Recover, then drive. Driving schools of course teach similar ideas, but I find the IMSAFE checklist helps drive it home in a practical way.
  • Know how to control your car.
    Can you automatically recover from a skid? Do you know what to do if you hydroplane? What if a tire blows, can you correct for it? Many drivers can’t. If you haven’t been taught to drive at a proper driving school, you owe it to yourself, your passengers, and the others on the road to just go. It’ll be fun, and you’ll feel more confident in bad weather or in the event something unexpected happens.

These points are basic and a part of standard driving training and traffic law; yet I see them broken every time I drive. I bet you do too.

Fact is, many of those “idiots on the road” are either us or someone we know. If passing this on saves just one life, it’ll be worth it, so pass it on.

How to get things done

If you’re like me, your “to-do” list is more like your “to-don’t” list. There are certain things I just hate doing, like paying bills, sorting snail-mail (ever wish there were spam filters and mail rules for snail mail?), and doing certain little random tasks (like getting the debris from the remodel two years ago out of my garage).

On “accounting day” (when I paid bills, etc), I would be in a reeeeally bad mood, to the point that I had to learn to not answer the phone or I’d be mean to the caller, no matter how close a friend. I realized something had to change.

So, I implemented a new system: I figured that I could handle 15 minutes of bill paying a day. I was right. It’s amazing what you can do in 15 minutes a day. I just stack the incoming mail on my desk and have a special email folder for incoming bills (“your online statement is ready”, etc). I wrote up 2 lists that are taped to the wall in front of my desk: One shows the “process flow” (order in which I do things), the next shows a list of bills, how they come in (mail versus email), and what needs to be done with each (needs to be paid online, send an online payment through my bank, auto-paid, etc). (I printed the lists not because I like paper, but because it makes getting into and out of the 15 minutes very easy – nothing to find or open, just sit and start).

Process flow looks like this:

  1. Paper Inbox (stack on desk)
  2. Incoming Bills email box
  3. Download Bank Statement into Quicken
  4. etc…

So, at the start of my day I just sit down, note the starting time, and start with the first thing on the top of the stack. When 15 minutes is up, I stop and get to more important things. (Maybe you want to pick a time after work instead :).

The system’s worked so well that I added a second 15-minute chunk to my day (mine goes right after the “accounting” chunk): The to-do list. This is very different from the to-don’t list. Items on this list get “processed” in order during that 15-minute chunk of time. I’ve made a covenant with myself: During that 15 minutes, I’m in what I call “execution mode” (’cause I’m a nerd) – I do not think about the list, I just start at item#1 and start processing. Doesn’t matter if that processing is just taking inventory of the crap in the garage – it’s the first step in the task, and after 15 minutes I stop. Next day if the task is still there, I continue it. Of course the other side of this self-covenant is that I carefully think about what goes on the To-Do list. It’s actually a separate list in my calendar named “To-Do”. There are other “to-do” lists on my calendar too – things that are good ideas, might be good to do, etc go there. But when something gets to the To-Do list, it’s special. It will get done. And it does!