I’m considering starting a new business venture. It’s called “Long Flight” and it’s based on my experiences writing on airplanes.
I’ve hit a point in my career where I organize my schedule to maximize the number of long flights I get to take. Sometimes this means accepting an invitation I might have otherwise ducked – i.e., coming to Australia for only five days on the ground, as I just did. Other times, it means scheduling flights that look insane on paper – Boston to Hong Kong the long way around, via Amsterdam – so I can get more writing time in. (Did that late last year, and finished my favorite chapter of this book in the process.)
Obviously, scheduling a long flight as a form of writing retreat is stupid in all sorts of ways. Unless someone else is paying you to travel, it’s crazy expensive. And even if someone’s paying you to fly to Adelaide for a few days, it’s got massive environmental impacts. So I’m thinking about a business that lets you stay on the ground, but rent a writing space that mimics the key features of a long plane flight.
No connectivity – I’ve been productive on long flights where I’ve had internet access, but it’s a very different form of productivity. Craig Newmark and I were invited to the same conference in South Korea some years back and sat side by side for 15 hours, answering email on the way from NYC to Seoul. I reached inbox zero, but I didn’t write anything I was proud of, as I kept getting distracted by incoming mail. And that was before Twitter.
“Long Flight” facilities will be located inside Faraday cages. Once you enter the facility, your phone will be cut off from GSM and CDMA networks, and Wifi won’t work. You’ll be encouraged to download and cache anything you’ll need to read ahead of time.
Fixed duration – I work well in libraries, but I tend to leave them after I’ve accomplished the main task I’d had on my to do list. One of the reason long flights are so productive is that you’re committed to staying in a space well beyond the time you need to accomplish a task. For me, that means I get a blogpost or chapter written, but I also catch up on papers I’ve needed to read.
“Long Flight” facilities will be bookable for durations of 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14 hours. We’ll refer to the duration by the names of cities – book an 8 hour session at our Boston facility and we’ll reference your stint as an “Istanbul”. You’ll be free to walk around the facility, pass other people’s compartments, access the rest rooms and snack counter, but your access key won’t let you leave the building until your session is up. (You’ll sign a waiver that prevents us from being charged with holding you against your will. And we’ll have an emergency protocol, so you can press a button and call emergency services. But if you abuse it to end your session early, we’ll ban you from the facility.)
Each pod will feature a screen that shows the progress of your flight to your “destination”. Since you’ll be ending up back in Boston, perhaps we’ll start in Istanbul and follow a great circle route back. The screen will helpfully inform you that it’s -52C outside, which should serve as an incentive to remain in the facility.
Visibility – I often work in coffee shops because I find that I focus better when other people can look over my shoulder. I’m less likely to watch a movie I’ve ripped to my laptop or flip through my photo collection if everyone around me can see that I’m procrastinating.
“Long Flight” will assign you a pod within a shared space. You’ll be able to see what your neighbors are doing, and they can see you. Conversation will be discouraged by a loud white noise machine that permeates the space, encouraging you to put on headphones and listen to whatever music you’ve brought with you.
Food and beverage – When I’m working in libraries, what ultimately breaks my concentration is the need to go out for lunch or dinner. While the snacks and meals provided on board planes aren’t always the tastiest, the ability to eat where you’re working is helpful, and being able to walk to the galley for another beverage can be a useful break in routine.
Your admission to “Long Flight” will include unlimited food and beverage from the galleys. The food and beverage won’t be very exciting – cheese sandwiches, salty snacks, and a soda fountain. I’m undecided on whether there might be a booze option – for an extra fee – for those who want to work sober, then have a drink or two and work more loosely.
Let me know if you have any other feature requests, or ideas for where we might locate these facilities. I’m thinking about locations that are accessible via public transport, but in lower rent neighborhoods, as no one will be leaving the facility anyway, and the windows will simply show a blue sky with clouds below you.
Franchise opportunities are available, cheap. :-)