Landing Planes

I’ve picked up a new expression. Nowadays, if you ask me how I’m doing or what I’m doing, I’m likely to reply with, “I’m just landing planes.”Landings-Airplane

Last night, I started – and nearly finished – reading Blaine Hogan’s book Untitled: Thoughts On The Creative Process (also available for Kindle for a mere five bucks). It’s a brilliant, inspirational book, and I’m sure once I finish it and a couple of others on creativity, I’ll publish a review/recommendation.

At one point in the book, Hogan talks about the concept of “landing planes.” The idea makes sense: creative work is similar to that of an air traffic controller who handles different types of aircraft coming in at different speeds from different directions at different times.

Here’s an excerpt:

…the thing about big projects is that they tend to be less like one, giant to-do list, and more like landing planes – lots of planes – jet liners, twin prop Cessnas, helicopters – that just keep coming.

Some planes need to be coordinated one at a time, and others come at you all at once.

Some come down nice and easy, and some have turbulent landings.

The thing about landing planes, however, is that you never really feel “finished” in the same way you do after checking everything off your to-do list, because you know that there is always another plane on the horizon.

Airports don’t shut down, and neither do big projects. The planes just keep coming.

[…]

Landing planes can be exhausting and defeating, OR it can be exciting and hopeful.

This metaphor not only works for the creative process – which I can attest to from my writing and ministry work, but it’s also the perfect description of my job,taking care of the operations side of a busy IT Managed Services Provider. Throughout the day, I juggle so many different tasks and diverging duties: strategic planning, human resources, billing, customer service, just to name a few. Add to that the contingencies, emergencies, side projects, and last-minute ideas from the boss, and my day can feel just like this:

Please don’t get me wrong; I love my job, and I believe I thrive on the pace that often comes with the territory. The airplanes I deal with come in at their own speed and angle and land with varying degrees of smoothness and success. Not to stretch the metaphor too far, but I sometimes find myself responsible for making the planes take off, too. The “landing planes” composite-airplanes-taking-offexample resonates with me because I see it both in my creative endeavors and in the often less creative realm of my 8:00-5:00(ish) routine. I’m not always the easiest at managing the stress, but I’d always rather be busy doing good things than being inactive and bored any day.

We can’t always control what comes at us or the frequency and speed at which changes roll our way. Going with the flow and prioritizing help us in landing the planes as best we can. In what areas of your life do you feel like you’re constantly landing planes? Are you handling your air traffic in a healthy way, or does it create unnecessary stress? How can you do a better job and managing the planes that are coming in your way for a landing?

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