Monday, May 19, 2008

Unemployed in Greenland

I travel a lot, anyone that sticks around here for any length of time knows that, and if you're also following my tweets you'll know I'm current in Italy.

Despite this, most of the traveling I do is actually trans-Atlantic. I'm a regular on the LHR to SFO and LAX routes and have spent more time than I care to recall watching "Godthab", the sole point of interest for at least a thousand miles, slowly move across the in-flight tracking display on the seatback video screen.

Vizzini: And you... Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed in Greenland! - The Princess Bride (1987)

I might do the Atlantic run anything from three to five times a year. This year, barring emergencies, I'll have watched Godthab slide across the screen another eight times before the year draws to a close. That's a lot of time unemployed over Greenland.

Except that I'm not, unemployed that is, Paul Graham talks about avoiding distractions and, at least for now, thirty thousand feet over Greenland is one of the few places in the world with no distractions.

Despite the fact that I spend most of my time watching in-flight movies, sometimes the same movie back-to-back several times in a row, when the boredom finally sets in properly, I spend my time thinking. Which is what I'm paid to do after all, but with all the distractions, have very little time for these days.

Short haul flights just don't offer the same opportunity for boredom, and then after you arrive on the ground you have less opportunity for more boredom.

If you're eight or ten hours out of your own normal time zone people seem to reduce the amount of irrelevant stuff they send your way. If you get email, its generally urgent, and they stop phoning you almost entirely. This doesn't happen if you've taken a short hop out of GMT and into CET. For some reason people think that you should be holding up your normal work load on top of whatever all day meeting you're squirreled away in this time.

Meetings, under any sensible definition of the word, aren't work. However they do take up as much time as real work, if not more. I definitely count most meetings as a distraction from getting work done. As well as traveling too much, I go to too many meetings. I'd really like to restrict the meetings I go to down to those that get stuff done, and hopefully the meeting I'm sitting in now will count as one of those.

Distractions are easy to come by, for instance I just spent twenty minutes writing this blog post, mainly because I want to tell people about my growing obsession with Godthab. That, and in-flight tracking, was what I was thinking about on the short haul flights that got me here after all.