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A Day in the Air

"Traveling is not a reward for working; it's homework for living."

Anonymous

Traveling is somehow encoded in my genes. I never get tired of the view above the clouds and the anticipation of visiting different places. With my electronic devices in airplane mode, I am also free to consider ideas that are usually buried deep in a stack of mundane tasks. This time bubble can be so productive that it makes no sense to restrict it to days of physical air travel. Even if you hate the idea of standing barefoot in a security X-ray booth or sitting wedged in an airplane seat for hours, you can still enjoy the creative benefits of disconnecting without leaving the ground. Here are some thoughts on making the productivity of "time in the air" a regular part of your working week:

1. Put yourself on a flight

If we can switch off our WiFi connection during a flight, why not do so for some length of time during a normal work day? Concentrating on a single task and getting into a state of creative flow is much easier without a constant stream of audiovisual signals. If being completely disconnected makes you nervous, try setting your electronic devices to airplane mode for 20 or 30 minutes at a time - the equivalent of a very short commuter flight.

Does "working hard" necessarily mean "always available"?

2. Choose your priorities after landing

"...people today expect and want an instantaneous reply to any message. We often accommodate them because delay feels like a violation of modern-day social norms," Anthony K. Tjan has written.

How many of the messages you receive during the course of a regular workday are actually relevant enough to merit an immediate response, and how do you know the difference? Most people receive about 100 e-mails a day, and processing this volume now consumes a sizeable chunk of our work time. When your plane lands and you switch your 'portable devices' back to wireless reception, you probably scan your messages, and pick one or two that require an immediate response. It is interesting to note that we consider this prioritization acceptable in a travel setting, but not in everyday work situations. It sometimes seems that an immediate response generates further distractions in the form of more texts and emails, which in turn consume more processing time. If if you never left your office, responding to your messages as if your plane had just landed restores some control over your communication.

3. Is '24/7 availability' a goal to strive for?

Small business owners and solopreneurs frequently are convinced that "working hard" is the same thing as being "always available" and that their – usually vaguely defined – competition will take away hard-won accomplishments at a moment's notice. The relaxation of traveling is a reminder that "always on" is an exhausting concept and that the stress it causes can probably not be offset by material choices.

In the long run, business success depends to a significant extent on the ability to creatively adapt to new circumstances and to recognize new opportunities when they come along. See you at the airport.

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How do you protect your most productive time? Do you occasionally disconnect for creative/idea time?
Share your best advice here!

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