Airplane time is wonderful. For my airplane time, I usually fly Southwest Airlines. Since I have status with them, I am usually one of the first to board. So typically, I get a great seat on the plane with a ton of legroom. I settle in, put on my headphones, and pull out a book.
I don’t listen to the flight attendants as we leave the gate, and once we start taxiing to the runway, my eyes normally get heavy. As we take off, I give in to the drowsiness and take an amazing nap that usually lasts about 30 to 45 minutes. Post nap I pull out my computer and dive into productivity. I get more done in those few hours on a plane than I do in any other period or place in my life.
And as we prepare to land, I put my computer away, pull out my notebook, and begin recording the resulting avalanche of ideas, writing down idea after idea for improving GAN, GSSN, my family, and my life in general.
During those few hours of my flights—I’m learning; I’m incredibly productive; I’m exercising creativity.
We all know that this beautiful airplane time I speak of hasn’t happened over the last 18 months. It’s become a fond, sunny memory of a rosy bygone era. With my feet earth-bound, I have missed my high-flying periods of intense learning, productivity, and creativity. This has definitely been one of the negative tradeoffs of this Pandemic.
Of course, I’ve loved all the extra time at home that has marked this season, but I have to acknowledge that this home-time has come at the “cost” of giving up the incredible airplane time.
They Have The Time
Before COVID, I typically spent around six hours a day in meetings, some days even more. “My job is to drive the company forward!” I told myself while explaining to myself that the best way to move the company forward is to meet with my team to ensure that things are advancing as they “should.”
But maybe that wasn’t the best talk track….
Peter Drucker has this great book called The Effective Executive. My favorite story from my favorite chapter in the book (chapter 2) is about Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt’s confidential adviser during World War II.
According to the book, as a “dying, indeed almost a dead man for whom every step was torment, he could only work a few hours every other day or so. This forced him to cut out everything but truly vital matters. He did not lose effectiveness thereby; on the contrary, he became, as Churchill called him once, ‘Lord Heart of the Matter’ and accomplished more than anyone else in wartime Washington.”
The chapter goes on to describe how the most successful executives spend their time.
Drucker’s findings point to one thing:
They have it. They have the time.
They spend hours and hours a day—getting stuff done.
They aren’t in back-to-back meetings every day all week.
They aren’t letting people bombard them in their offices.
Rather, they have—time.
According to Drucker, they have this time because—They are spending around four hours a day alone, or they have back-to-back meetings and then days without any meetings.
They consolidate their time. They spend their meeting hours and their non-meeting hours chunked. They don’t have 30-minute breaks here and 30-minute breaks there.
They consolidate these breaks into large blocks of time to facilitate getting stuff done.
The result of all of this?
The very thing I experience during airplane time.
Where our brains can reset, where our brains can slow down, and where our brains can be creative.
And in a pandemic world where we can’t travel so much, it seems all the more important to find ways to recreate these missing moments, bringing the airplane-effect back into our daily lives.