Long-Haul Flights & Flow

Long-haul flights are the pits. If the lack of leg room doesn’t kill you, the monotony will. But I found a way to exploit the time and disembark with a spring in your step. It turns out, 30,000 feet is conducive to getting in “The Zone.”

118024748_4a17a0d234_zThe Zone is not an easy destination. Whining kids, ringing phones, the lure of the internet, mounting emails and housework–the boss’s demands. All the pressures of the daily grind conspire against The Zone. Distractions kill any chance of getting there.

The Zone requires two things: space to focus and time. So forget the airline’s entertainment offerings of movies and the silly games on the seat-back screen. They don’t work. Time drags when you’re trying to fill it with mindless entertainment.

One hour into my thirteen-hour flight from Australia to LAX, I stumbled into the zone. Who knew it was located thirty-thousand feet above sea level? Without life’s mundane distractions, and, in particular, without the internet, I achieved  Csíkszentmihályi’s  state of flow, and it was bliss. Bliss on a long-haul flight–seems like pie in the sky (sorry for the pun), but it is possible.

Aside from a couple breaks for meals, leg stretches, and water bottle refills, I focused on my writing. I clocked in over ten highly productive hours on my WIP, finishing an outline and a synopsis. Now I can get stuck into my draft.

Time Flies on a Plane…

Normally, I stumble off the plane and lug my bedraggled self through the terminal, bleary-eyed and muddle-headed. The horizontal urge is so strong that I have to will myself not to curl up on the luggage conveyor belt.

The crazy thing is, this time I can’t remember the flight! I was so absorbed in the creative process that time flew (sorry for this pun, too). I bounced into LAX buzzing with energy and feeling elated about my progress. Flow, it turns out, induces a pleasant neurochemical cocktail of norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, anandamide, and serotonin. All of these things enhance creativity and some boost your mood.

Now that’s what I call a good take-away from a long-haul flight! It’s too early to say for sure, but even the jet lag seems less severe. I am actually looking forward to the longer return flight because I’ll have an extra hour of writing time.

Keys to Flowing when You’re Flying

  1. Sit in the aisle seat. Your row-mates’ trips to the loo will remind you to take a break and move around, something that’s especially important on a flight where there’s an elevated risk of DVT. If you’re tucked up against the window with no one to make you move, you could get lost in the flow and cause a clotting risk.
  2. Use a laptop. I’ve taken an iPad before, but the native keypad slows me down too much. A Bluetooth keypad is out due to the flight mode requirement. Handwriting is good, except that you’ll have to use the overhead light, which might bug the others around you. I am convinced the laptop made all the difference this time.
  3. Prepare! See this as a time to create, not to research. Anticipate the info you will need and pre-load it on your computer before take-off since you won’t have internet access.
  4. Refill your water bottle on trips to the loo. Staying hydrated on a long-haul flight is super important. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure we’re sharper when we’re topped up with fluids.
  5. Have a specific, achievable goal. Focus comes more easily when we know what we want to achieve.

Creative Commons Image Credit: Michael J. Slezak (JW)

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