As I mentioned last week, I was traveling this week for State of Search in Dallas (my Day 1 and Day 2 recaps can be found on Search Engine Journal), which lead to two heavenly (non-stop) flights that allowed me to get into that super-productive work zone that sometimes only airplane rides can provide (guess what I’m doing now? 🙂 ). You know the feeling: you are stuck at over 10,000 feet, sometimes with no internet access and no ability to empty a dishwasher, attend an inefficient meeting, or anything else that you could use a means of procrastination.
I’ve met so many colleagues that actually enjoy flying for this purpose (I usually count myself in this camp). They love the feeling of “I physically can’t do anything else for this 1+ hour block of time with 100+ strangers, I should get some work done.” Focused chunks of time during flights usually helps people get 2-3 times more work done than when they are in the office or working from home.
Apply Super Focus on The Ground
So the fact remains, how can you get this type of “airplane focus” when you aren’t actually traveling? While nothing can truly replicate the feeling of being literally above the earth with limited distractions, there are a few tactics that I’ve found that help:
Go to a Strange Place
Sometimes if I am extremely distracted, I go to the library or a coffee shop to work. This usually happens about six times per month, even more if I have a trip or a holiday coming up. The reason why working somewhere new helps you gain greater focus is because it replicates two features that come with flying: being surrounded by strangers and being “locked” in a place that offers limited distractions.
It’s also motivating being around other people that are usually working or having important meetings: it makes you feel like you should be doing the same.
Listen to Music or White Noise
As I mentioned in a recent Marketing Nerds podcast, I like listening to white noise occasionally to help increase my focus. I usually use Simply Noise and actually enjoy grey noise, which sounds like a softer version of the static a TV products when the cable is out. Much to my husband’s confusion when he hears it, white noise (like static or even repetitive sounds, like rain) really does help relax your brain to make you more focused.
Similarly, music has the same effect if you are working on something creative or high priority. It’s recommended to listen to non-lyric music when you are writing or reading text, but otherwise listening to music you enjoy can increase your productivity and focus. I enjoy Songza, Google Play, and Pandora for music. I also sent my giant CD collection to Murfie so it could be transferred to the cloud for streaming: it’s amazing.
Force Yourself to Make Priorities
One thing I enjoy about flights is that you are under a time crunch: you only have a limited amount of time (depending on how long your flight is) to get everything done that you need to. Combined with the fact of not knowing exactly when they will shut off the wifi or make you turn off your computer, you are forced to decide what needs to get done first.
This strategy of time crunch and priority making can greatly benefit you in your every day work flow. In additon to making a regular to-do list on ToDoist, I also put a sticky note next to my computer each day which tasks in ordere so I know what needs to get done first. My “Eat That Frog” mentality comes into play here as well– by getting most most pressing tasks (which are also my least enjoyable ones, since I’ve likely put it off) done during a specific time period, it puts me in a better minset to complete the rest of my tasks for the day.
In addition to setting priorities, be sure to also give yourself blocks of time to work. A study showed that people are most effective when they work for about 50-60 minutes at a time, followed by a 15-20 minute break. This forces you to be extremely productive during your work blocks, because of the time crunch and the fact that you know that a pure block of break time is coming soon. Make sure your break time is something completely different from working. Sometimes I will fold laundry, eat lunch, or even do a short yoga workout.
Likewise, when I’m not working on a plane, I revel in this in-air break time because I can’t do anything else, like run errands or take care of my dogs. I usually bring a book I’m in the middle of or even play solitaire or solve word searches on my phone.
While the zen of Airplane Focus can’t be exactly duplicated, music, breaks, and working in a different environment can definitely help you increase your focus on productivity.