I’m writing this while on the plane, on my way to Miami, where I’m working first then holidaying – lucky me. It’s unusual for my to do anything hugely constructive while travelling – I’m not the best traveller in the world, I can get motion sick on a rocking horse… As I love exploring and doing different things the adventure (work or pleasure) is always worth a few hours of yuckiness.
So I get on the plane for a nine hour flight, I have a few work jobs to do, things I’d not managed to get finished before I left. None of the were particularly exciting or interesting jobs – just some routine admin stuff, but necessary all the same. So I thought I’d get them out of the way then reward myself with a film, or a snooze.
As I got my laptop out I watched people settling into the flight, head phones on, behind their TV screens, or head in a book, a few chatting excitedly to friends, this is stage one of the journey – before the food is served, so stay awake, but chill coz there’s a long time to go.
As I’m looking around – which was definitely more interesting than the jobs at hand, I felt this kind of calm descend over me, I had another eight or so hours, eight hours with no interruptions – no one ringing, no email just me in my seat and with my laptop.
So in that moment something quite amazing happened, I got this swell of calm, and gratitude, eight whole hours all to myself – I can’t remember the last time that happened during waking hours. And that’s the real reason for writing this blog, how can we ever hope to perform at our best if we can’t give something our full attention for the time that we are doing it?
I’m about 6 hours into my flight now, well into stage two of the journey, looking around the cabin most people are snoozing; there really is a quiet stillness – like the world stopped for a few hours. For me real time to think, to write, to plan – to be really sure I know what I want to get out of my work over here, real time to be in the moment – to give my full attention to what I’m doing.
And just for the record, I’ve achieved a huge amount – a few blogs written, my next online course planned out, and a marketing outline framework for our annual conference next February and yes, I got the less exciting jobs done too.
Turns out that 6 hours is a really long time when you only do one thing at a time. I’ve never really bought into the whole multi-tasking concept, because when you look at what is happening in your brain, it is not processing multiple actions, it doesn’t pay attention to several things at the same time; it switches between seemingly concurrent activities. Each time it switches attention processing slows just a little while re focusing on where you were up to and what comes next. Not dissimilar to actually feels like when you get interrupted.
How many people do you know, and yes you might be looking very close to home, who thrive on ‘business’, are macho about how much they can do at any one time, and yet always seem to be running to catch up. We all have periods when we are genuinely busy with more to do than we have time for, but it shouldn’t be the default position.
If it is your default you might want to look at how effective you actually are, or what you might be hiding from in your frenzy to fill every moment. The vast majority of evidence from neuroscience and mindfulness is firmly in the ‘do one thing’ camp, and then do the next, then the next until all the things are done.
What is the one thing you need to be focussing on?
So am I tired after my rush of productivity? No quite the opposite actually, I’m fulfilled energetic and excited about arriving in Miami. Which is just as well really as I think we are entering stage 3 of our journey – the wake up. There’s just over an hour to go, people are beginning to stir, the tea trolley is coming around and there is an anticipation building as we are looking forward to starting holidays, visiting family, working in sunny places, or simply returning home.
In case you are wondering, yes this is a picture I took from my ‘office’ window for the week.