Driving Without Distraction

I am busy. Being an MBA student makes me extremely busy. I am always making to do lists in my head, making phone calls from the car, and checking my emails at red lights. My commute is often 45 minutes to an hour. If I don’t get work done in the car, I have trouble with my time management.

Yesterday, I crashed my car. No, I totaled my car.

On my way to school, I was in my head about a stressful conversation I had with my brother the night before, and I was strategizing the week ahead. I probably checked my phone 3-5 times looking at emails or adding something to my ongoing to do list. After getting off the highway, the radio stations disappear and I had to switch to a CD. Without some music, I find it difficult to unwind before school. My thoughts sometimes literally overwhelm me.

I can’t possibly be the only one.

A pick-up truck slammed on its brakes in front of me, and I slammed on mine. Thanks to the water and oil mix on the road from the morning’s rain, my car slid much further than expected and completely crumpled into back of the truck. My airbags went off and my face is definitely a bit burned and banged up. But I’m mostly okay. Thank god, I am mostly okay.

This was an eye-opening experience. One that I equate to the stress of being in school and all the potentially dangerous situations we get ourselves into.

We drive when we’re tired, having a phone conversation, checking emails, reading texts, jotting down notes, eating meals, doing our makeup, fixing our ties. Any slew of distractions can plague the busy MBA student. Hell, they can plague any busy person, especially businesspeople. This behavior is something we must stomp out NOW before we run the risk of future disaster.

When people asked me today if I’m okay, I say no. Because I’m not. But where I’m really not okay is psychologically. My face will heal no problem and my hand will stop being sore, but psychologically, I’m just as stressed as ever. As if I have time to go find a new car. However, this stress needs to be managed or the same thing, or worse, could happen again.

Some stress relieving advice:

  • Swim. When I was swimming the first month of school, I was much less stressed. I did my thinking time in the pool. It was awesome.
  • Play with a puppy. My dog is both an amazing hassle and an amazing distraction. If you don’t have a dog, borrow a friend’s. There is something truly lovely and relieving about puppy kisses.
  • Write to do lists before you leave the house. The extra few minutes will help to clear your mind in advance of the drive. Or, on the way home, make sure you write the list in advance.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. You can’t do everything. I recently had a conversation with a friend who has been overextended. The pressure of being at every meeting, every event, is exhausting.
  • To that end…get a good night’s sleep. You are less likely to hurt yourself in any number of ways (including getting good grades and keeping up your health) if you get a good night’s sleep.

These are just a few tips from someone who has not been sleeping well, been battling a head cold, not making enough to do lists, not exercising enough or eating well, and not been spending enough time with my puppy. And this person just totaled her car.

Hannah Plaxen, MBA Candidate '12
Hannah is a second-year student in the Full-time MBA Program at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management where she is concentrating in Leadership & Organizational Change and pursuing a certificate in Dispute Resolution. Hannah is involved as vice president of the Consulting Collective. She is also interning at Yahoo! on their Cultural Transformation Team. Her personal blog, Momentous MBA Moments, focuses on her "large scale observations of small scale moments."
Hannah Plaxen, MBA Candidate '12

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