It’s been 15 years since I wrote and published Unleashing the Road Warrior and it’s interesting both how much has changed and how little has changed.
I was planning on writing a book about traffic congestion on our roads and practical things we can do to work smarter and avoid the stress and costs of sitting in traffic. I wanted to explore ways that we can both live in the city without being ground to a halt by growing demand on the roads and ever increasing commute times.
When I started to think about it, that was pretty much what I was trying to do with that book, which I wrote in concert with training courses I was running through the Auckland Chamber of Commerce when I owned the Smartphone and PDA Academy. Unfortunately things haven’t changed much and most people are still not working smarter.
We hear all about autonomous cars, Artificial Intelligence and computers taking our jobs, but not only are we working longer hours at our jobs, but many of us spend additional hours stuck in traffic getting to and from them.
There have been experiments in wielding big sticks like congestion tolls, but they wouldn’t be necessary if companies and their staff were smarter about how they do business. I see them as a last resort with the risk of increasing the cost of living as people pay the tolls and continue to endure the traffic.
Earlier this week before I succumbed to a serious case of man-flu, I had the privilege of hosting 35 school children all aged around 9 who had presented great ideas to Auckland Transport about what the future could look like and they were really bright kids. I asked them what traffic was and they told me it was about trading goods and services and that it was when a number of vehicles wanted to be on the same road at the same time. They reminded me of myself at that age.
Part of the motivation for my first book was that I was promised as a child of around that age that computers would mean that human beings would be freed up for the higher things on Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’. Our problem would be what to do with all that leisure time. Since I started work I think I have averaged at least 50 hours a week throughout my career. I think I still have the document somewhere. It was called ‘A Blueprint for the Future’ or something like that.
As the headline says, this is item 6 on the Life List I decided to commit to of 150 things to do in the next 10 years, encouraged by being told by my oncologist who said I am now in remission from Prostate Cancer.
Humans are so intelligent that you’d think we were smart enough to know that the change has to come from people being smarter with their use of technology and time.
I remember sitting in a plane from London to LAX around 1990 reading New Scientist magazine which had a case study about building motorways in the UK which said that as soon as they built a new one and opened it, it was full. So what do they do? Build more. What happens? They fill up.
Do we have to put up with traffic congestion and join the great cities of the world by increasing the cost of living, buying ever more cars and wasting emotional and physical energy and personal time sitting in motorway parking lots?
I don’t think so. I think there is a lot we can do. I think today we have the technology more than ever to work smarter. I’m not saying its an easy fix, but I’m saying we can have our cake and eat it too.
Many of the things I wrote about in that first book still apply, back then I needed to run training courses to teach people how to do email and manage their time, focus and remote working. I still have letters of thanks from people who attended my training courses and the book was even used in American universities business studies.
Today we have much more user friendly technology, but many of us are too busy being busy to stop and do something about it. But at what cost? Hopefully my next book will help more people and businesses to increase work life balance and if over time reduce congestion in urban areas. It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense.
So how about it? Would you like to achieve greater results in less time and have more time to spend with your family or doing things that you have a passion for?