I am writing this article at 30,000m above ground, trapped in a seat for hours on end, with no Internet, entertainment, phone network or ability to move much. Yet, I love it. I really cherish this block of uninterrupted time. It brings me back to basics.
Who would’ve thought that in the highly privileged times we live in, where we have constant access to information, communication and everything else that keeps us occupied, my mind just craves and values situations like this: up in the air, with only a book, pen and paper as means of entertainment and self-expression and a coffee for mental stimulus.
I loved listening to Erik Fisher in one of his productivity podcasts, touching upon this very idea of the plane as one of the most productive workspaces, by referencing a Silicon Valley employee who purposely schedules flight time during his work week in order to do deep work.
Out of a desire to make the most of my free time, I grabbed hold of my writing tools to write down an inspiring passage from the book I was reading on the plane. However, the thought of how precious my time on that plane was struck me and inspired me to identify the reasons below of why I love being on a plane.
1. Time of focus, time of deep work
I’ve read more pages of the book I took with me on holiday and wrote more words for my blog during the six hours I’ve been on the plane than during the entire six days of holiday. It’s amazing how resourceful the mind becomes, how capable to consume and produce content, once it gets isolated from all the external stimuli. Once free to roam, the mind unleashes its creative potential and capacity to absorb, distil and process content.
While I am on a plane, no mental act seems difficult enough to be postponed for later: I want to think and action there and then. Even the hardest blog article that I have at the back of my mind (which I think is so complex that would take me a while to gather all my thoughts and write it) seems like it’s just a matter of penning words onto paper.
I don’t even feel like I need access to tools that would empower my writing such as the Word tool, Thesaurus, which I use to polish my writing by replacing my simple words with more interesting synonyms. I don’t even need to benefit from the inspiring workplace effect, as I feel no need to be stimulated by my work aids, such as candles, reed diffusers, plants, aromatherapy, large windows, an ergonomic massage chair or a spacious desk. The reclining table attached to the seat in front of me is all I need to work productively. When on the plane, I just want to write, to bring to life the crudest ideas held at the back of my mind and pen them unpolished.
2. Lose the notion of time
I’ve talked in the Time Carousel article that I am always in a race against time. However, when I am on a plane, time somehow stands still, the hours on the clock become meaningless and insignificant. For me the “downtime” that most people experience while being trapped in a plane becomes the “uptime” – the time of utmost focus, creativity, mental acuity and potential. I don’t worry about how long I am spending reading a book instead of doing something else or how long it takes to write a blog post.
The time spent on a plane traveling across countries feels like transcendental time and my mind is put at ease by the feeling of having all the time in the world. What’s better is that it feels like time with no boundaries and therefore my free time feels even more free. It’s an amazing feeling that I don’t get to experience at any other time and in no other place.
3. Out of routine
Traveling across countries also takes me out of my daily routine that seems to settle in after several days spent in the same place, even whilst on holiday. However, because the time I spend on a plane is normally relatively short compared to the time I spend at the location I am travelling to, I feel there is no self-imposed schedule I need to follow - perfect opportunity to indulge in what I enjoy doing most.
4. Scarcity of possibilities
I am naturally inclined to do and accomplish multiple things at any one time, so I live in a perpetual state of conflict: I’m spending time doing this, when I could be doing do that. But when I am on a plane, the scarcity of possibilities takes this conflict away. There is only one or two things left to do: in my case, to read and to write.
5. No cravings
The sneaky thought of a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack tends to creep in often and disturb my work mode. But, when I am on a plane, my mind acknowledges that I am in a restricted space where everything around me is in limited supply and it therefore seems to censor the craving centre of my brain. In tandem with the scarcity of entertainment, opportunities and distractions, my mind curbs any appetite for mental disengagement. It takes control of my hunger pangs and cravings and it gives me the fuel to put words on paper, even if I don’t feel very inspired.
I hope this article has inspired you to make the most of the time you spend on planes with no inflight entertainment options. It’s almost paradoxical that your limited allocated space on a plane will offer you endless possibilities for absorbing content, for self-discovery and creation.