Last week’s trip to Seattle and Portland was the most enjoyable time I’ve ever spent driving in two unfamiliar cities. Nevermind the list of crazy place names: Tukwila, Puyallup, Newaukum, Tigard, Tualatin to name just a few. I was at peace. I had achieved mind like water.
Apparently I use a lot more brainpower than I ever realized by trying to reconcile a mental picture of the highway map with the geography that I see as I drive. Keeping all those Tukwila’s and Tualatin’s straight, along with North, South, East and West is a real pain in the brain.
The Garmin nüvi GPS that I picked up on Amazon – at a heck of a good price by the way, keeps all that information straight and feeds to the driver on a need-to-know basis. One of the most useful features is the little arrow in the upper left corner showing the direction of the upcoming turn, along with a mileage countdown ticker. This way I could plan ahead which lane to be in.
Driving with a GPS isn’t entirely new to me. I’ve got a Garmin StreetPilot on my motorcycle. But this is the first time I fully appreciated how much freedom and peace of mind a person gets by not trying to mentally juggle an agenda.
Keeping need-to-know information outside of your brain is called metamemory. It’s what productivity experts like Mark Forster and David Allen specialize in. The idea is that everything you need to think about goes into a trusted system and the system feeds you the information exactly when you need it.
A GPS, with an up-to-date city map, is a trusted system and on this trip it worked great. It makes me wonder how much brain-strain a person could eliminate in a familiar setting. Programming shopping stops into your GPS might just give you peace of mind doing the weekend errands.