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Are you getting enough airplane time?

There are few things more valuable to a small business owner or entrepreneur than “airplane time”. In Montana, you can also call it “windshield time”, but I’ll explain that in a minute.

“Airplane time” is time that you have to yourself with no substantial external stimulus such as emails arriving, faxes coming in, phones ringing, people walking into your office, and so on.

Just like time on an airplane.

Even though you have thousands of people milling around in an airport, or a few hundred on a plane, you can block them all out almost as if they don’t exist. Yeah, even that poor mom and her earache-laden kid in 14B who is howling his lungs out.

That airport/airplane kind of focus is sometimes hard to come by when you own and run a business, but you simply must find it, or create it.

Think back: What circumstances were you last involved in when you had an hour or two to just… think, without any interruptions.

Putting your phone on vibrate doesn’t count.

A few years ago when I was incredibly busy and pulled in even more directions than I am now, I noticed that my best thinking happened on airplanes. I’d get off a 3 or 4 hour plane trip with a yellow pad full of notes, itching to implement changes or create this new service or product.

And it scared me.

Why? Because I knew that my business was doomed if I didn’t take steps to create more focused creative time rather than depending on the airlines to provide it. I was only flying about 6-8 times a year and that was simply not enough focused creative time.

For a while, airplane time remained my best thought time even after 9/11. Despite the way that air travel has been dehumanized and turned into a B-movie bus trip, I still find that my time in the air is extraordinarily productive. It’s the sterile, no wifi, no phone, OK-to-zone and ignore-your-neighbor environment.

In 2007 and early 2008, I found myself driving to Billings once a month for some coaching meetings. That 7-8 hours of driving each day of those trips gave me almost 2 solid days of serious thinking time each month.

Part of that comes from not having decent (or any) cell service along much of the drive. While at times that could drive you crazy, it was great for insulating you so you could get creative.

Outside of the tourist season (June/July/August), you can drive that 14-16 hours and stay focused as the only interruptions are dodging deer on the road and the occasional blizzard (which numbs the external stimuli even more). Not to say that no one is on the road, but things are sedate enough that you can really focus on creative thought – and still stay on the road.

These days, I find other ways to insulate myself and get that thinking time in. Once you get used to having it, losing it scares the pants off of you.

How are you getting this time nowadays? Or are you?

If you aren’t, figure out a way to get it. If you don’t get the big chunks of time, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that you aren’t getting smaller bits of thinking time either. Trouble is waiting for you if you aren’t.

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