“Please place your seat back and tray table in their full upright and locked position and check to ensure your seat belt is securely fastened.”
Now, get to work!
Have you ever noticed you get more work done while flying? You’re not the only one. What if we could understand the reasons why we are so productive in the air and replicate those techniques at work? The good news is that Jon Acuff has shown us how to do that.
In his new book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, Acuff tells us that, if we want to get things done, we need to learn when we are most productive and replicate these results at work. As it turns out, most people are exceptionally industrious at 35,000 feet and the reasons are simple.
You can only bring a limited amount of work. You are physically constrained on a plane. You have a limited workspace, so you typically focus on completing one task like finishing a presentation, writing a report, or analyzing an income statement. You actually do deep work while flying because you are focused and not distracted. This can be replicated at your job by taking a limited amount of work to a quiet place and focus on completing just that task.
White noise helps you focus. The constant drone of the jet engines actually helps contribute towards deep work. We are naturally wired to be easily distracted and the workplace is one of the worst places for interruptions. White noise in the background is filtered out by the brain and forgotten, like how you quickly forget an air conditioner is running until someone mentions it. This noise masks out other sounds which would otherwise distract you. This can be replicated at work by purchasing a white noise machine like the Big Red Rooster Sound Machine.
Limited Internet connectivity keeps you from unnecessary distractions. On a plane, there is little to no internet to distract you. This means, no text messages, no e-mails, and no urges to check social media status. This allows you to completely focus on the task at hand. At work, this can be replicated by scheduling time where you focus and completely turn off your Wi-Fi and phone. Others have experimented with the Pomodoro Technique which requires intense focus, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. You can use a Miracle Cube Timer to time your focus sessions.
Deadlines push us to get things done quickly. When traveling, there are well-defined deadlines for boarding, turning off cell phones, taking out and putting away laptops, etc. These force us to work quickly to beat the deadline. This is a reflection of Parkinson’s law, where work expands or contracts to fill the time available. This is why, if you wait until the last minute to do something, it only takes a minute to get it done. This can be replicated at work by creating and enforcing strict personal deadlines for tasks or activities.
Nobody knows you. Except for the occasional chatty seat-mate, people leave you alone when you travel because they don’t know you. Anonymity allows you to work without friends and colleagues interrupting you. To do this at work, try working from coffee shops, libraries, or co-working spaces where no one knows you. This will help you get away from colleagues who unwittingly cut into your deep work. The new surroundings will also provide additional inspiration.
If you want to be more productive, there’s no need to book a flight. Simply take the productivity lessons from flying and apply them to your work life. Learn to limit your work, surround yourself with white noise, turn off the Wi-Fi, set deadlines, and change your surroundings. These simple changes to your work life will help you focus, do deep work, and get things done.