The new Washington State Distracted Driving law went into effect last month, making it illegal for a driver to hold an electronic device while operating a vehicle, even when stopped at an intersection or in traffic. While other states have enacted Distracted Driving regulations, the Washington State law closes loopholes in other state laws. In addition to the primary offense of holding an electronic device, there are secondary fines for grooming, eating or smoking while operating a vehicle. If the driver is stopped for any other reason, they can be ticketed as an additional offense for performing any of these tasks. As a lifelong Washingtonian, I am proud that our state was the first to pass the texting law a decade ago, and is now leading the way again with this strengthened law, which statistics show will save lives.
With so much attention being given to the new Distracted Driving law, that Sunday our pastor touched on the fact that many of us are living “distracted lives.” This got me thinking about how easy it is to get distracted these days and how guilty I am of living a distracted life.
As a child, we obviously didn’t have computers and cell phones, and the electronics were inadequate by today’s standards. Most people had about 4 television stations and the programming seemed to be geared to when the networks thought the appropriate audience would be home. Hence, after school we could watch some cartoons or the Mickey Mouse Club for an hour or so, and then it went back to talk shows or the evening news. It was like the stations kmew that us kids shouldn’t sit there watching shows for hours on end.
Today, I don’t even know how many channels we have on our television sets, mainly because I watch only a select few and record most of my viewing on the DVR. Even my TV watching cannot be distracted by commercials! However, despite my efficient use of television watching, I still manage to cram in a few hours in each night. I mean how else could I keep up with Downton Abbey (oh how I miss the Crawley’s), the Barefoot Contessa, and the newest trends on HGTV?
Another distraction I am guilty of is busy-ness. I am much more productive when I make a to-do list. Sometimes I even make out my lists the night before, so I can get cracking on it first thing in the morning. When I have my list made, I run around the house at breakneck speed, accomplishing the day’s tasks and releasing all of the endorphins associated with crossing off the jobs. No item is too small to make it to the list….fertilize the plants, correspondence, call my mother, make appointments, dust, laundry, shopping, go to the cleaners, write a blog post. You get the picture. In between all of these to-do’s, I clear email and look at social media. I’m a busy little bee, but what seems to be missing is enough time reading, relaxing, and interacting with others. And while all of this running around the house does on occasion make me break a sweat, it could hardly be confused with real exercise.
My distracted living has taken over the front seat, and some of the most important things in life are sitting in the third row of my imaginary minivan.
So, how does one create a less distracted life? I am by no means an expert on daily organizational skills, but I think I had an epiphany sitting in church that day that my overly busy, distracted life could use a little tweaking. Here are some of the steps I have begun to implement:
- Schedule things missing from my daily routine into my to-do list. If it is on there, I will do it. Exercise, reading, and taking time for others are good places for me to start.
- Be kinder to myself by adding a little pampering. This can be literal pampering like a long soak in the tub, or figurative pampering like sitting on the patio reading, or just listening to the birds and soaking up God’s creation for a while.
- Create an atmosphere and lifestyle that isn’t so high maintenance. While a clean and uncluttered home environment is nice, some of the objects that require so much maintenance could be eliminated.
- Simplify mealtimes. We don’t need to eat gourmet meals each night. As much as I love to cook, sometimes it is much more freeing to have something simple like soup and a sandwich or a big salad.
- Cut back on social media and computer time. Social media can be a time guzzler. I love keeping up with family members, old classmates, and newfound friends in the blogging world, and admit to spending time on it each day. But is all of this really social? For me, the answer is sometimes yes, and sometimes no. I have started to restrict my time on social media and am using that time for writing, reading and interacting.
In starting this blog topic, I was worried that it might sound like I was suggesting that everyone is leading a distracted life and they need to fix it. Nothing could be further from the truth. To-do lists help keep us on track. Social media can be a positive outlet. Having a clean and organized house can be calming. I have eliminated distracted driving from my life. I no longer talk on my phone, text, or apply lipstick while driving. Now it’s timefor me to make a little shift away from ldistracted living.
It’s a lofty goal. Wish me luck.