We begin today with a fun fact: when you drive, the thing you should do is drive. Not text, not read emails, not read Atlas Shrugged, not brush your teeth while doing your makeup. Crazy, right? Yet, somehow, I’ve seen all these things being done while the driver hurtles at unnatural speeds toward large objects both moving and inanimate.
There’s a balance to be struck somewhere between single-tasking on the road, and ultimate productivity. The balance, I think, is technology. There are a bunch of applications and services out there that will let you get done the things you need to get done, all while keeping your eyes and (most of) your focus on the road.
I’ve found a lot of these out of necessity – my lady is hundreds of miles away, and that means a lot of driving back and forth. Instead of spending the entire time singing 90’s boy band songs, I had to find ways to actually make that time useful and productive – because, well, *NSYNC didn’t make enough records to keep me going for six hours each way. Here are a few of the things that have worked for me:
Take Voice Notes
I use Evernote religiously for taking notes (and much more)– anything that comes into my head, goes into Evernote. Unfortunately, when I’m on the road that would mean a lot of tapping into my phone. Fortunately, there’s Dial2Do. After taking a few minutes to set up Dial2Do, I can dial a number and dictate notes; notes get automatically transcribed, and sent directly into my Evernote account.
Dial2Do works with a lot more than just Evernote, too – you can use your voice to add things to your calendar, add tasks to your list, tweet, send emails, hear the news read to you, and much more. It’s a fantastic service, and has undoubtedly saved me from more than one unfortunate eyes-off-the-road incident.
Finding things to fill the time with is tough – again, *NSYNC broke up much too early. After six listens to “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” I’m increasingly turning to two things – podcasts and audiobooks.
I’ve written about podcasts before, and even shared a few of my favorites, but in a nutshell podcasts are on-demand radio shows that you can put on your iPod or stream to your phone. They’re almost always free, and come on basically every conceivable subject. It’s a great way to catch up on news, learn some new things, or just listen to funny people talk about sports.
Audiobooks have been around for a while, but are now cheaper, more plentiful and more convenient than every before. I’m a long-standing Audible member, and listening to any of their 75,000+ books is a great way to kill a few hours. Listening to non-fiction even feels like work, so…win-win.
The biggest temptation when I’m driving is when I hear the ding that means I’ve got a new email, text message or reply on Twitter. I hear the ding on my Blackberry, see the blinking red light, and then fight the urge to look at it while praying for a red light so I can see what’s being sent to me.
The best solution to that? Probably to not care quite so much. Short of that obviously impossible task, there’s Text’nDrive. It works on Blackberrys and iPhones, with Android support coming soon, and it reads your incoming emails aloud to you (and your text messages, but only if you’re using a Blackberry) – no back-and-forthing between your phone and the road required. Once you’ve heard your email, you can reply to it by speaking. It’s a great service, and has worked well for me, but do beware: transcription hilarity may ensue.
Get an Assistant
The most legitimate reason, in my book, to use your phone is if you need to get something quickly – maybe you need directions, or flowers because you’re late, or to find a gas station or restaurant nearby. Necessary as that might be, though, it’s not any less dangerous to be staring at your phone.
Siri isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s a million times better than hunting around yourself. Basically, Siri acts as your automatic and virtual assistant. Launch the app, say “where is the nearest Chili’s?” – Siri goes out and finds it. Responses come back as text, so you’ll still be forced to look at your phone, but Siri does the heavy lifting so you can just drive. Plus, she’s way faster at finding gas stations, hotels, movie times and anything else than you are while you’re driving.
Siri is, sadly, iPhone-only for right now. If you’re not an iOwner, give Google’s mobile offerings a shot – they’ve got a lot of the same voice-activated searching, and do a similarly great job of finding exactly what you’re looking for quickly.
Truth be told, the best thing to do on this list is none of them – you should just drive. But that’s both impractical and obvious. If you’re driving and need to get some things done, or just want to live-tweet your journey, these are simple options that are hopefully a little easier and a little safer for everyone.
How do you get things done while you drive?