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10 Tips for Being Super Productive On Your Next Flight

This article was originally posted September 14th, 2015 by Nina Zipkin on


If you travel a lot for business, you know that even the shortest flights can take up a good chunk of time. There's the time spent traveling to and from the airport, the time spent going through security, the time spent waiting in the terminal. And don't even get us started on the time spent waiting for your bag.

These trips are meant to help you advance your company, but if you feel like you're constantly in limbo, how can you focus long enough to get anything done?

Here are a few tips to ensure you make the most of your time in the air and hit the ground running once you land.

  1. Stay hydrated and brown bag it.

Traveling is tiring no matter how well in advance you plan. Making sure you drink enough water will make you feel more awake and help prevent you from getting sick. If you know you have to get a big project done, pack yourself a meal and some snacks that you know will keep you to keep you going so you won't have to rely on what the airport or airline has to offer.

  1. Make sure you can work without the Internet.

Airplane Wi-Fi is notoriously spotty, so don't be caught off guard if your internet cuts out mid-flight. When you're going through your to-do list, make sure you download all the documents you need ahead of time and set aside work you can do without being connected, like writing emails to send once you land.

  1. Keep your devices charged.

It may seem like a simple task, but in your effort to get from A to B, it's easy to forget that your laptop-with-everything-on-it needs some juice to stay alive. Remember to put your devices in airplane mode to save battery and travel with your device chargers. You might also want to bring your own power strip; if you're lucky enough to find a free outlet in a busy airport, you could help a fellow traveler out, too.

  1. Don't just keep your head down.

Your inclination is to get as much work in as possible, but you never know who you'll be seated next to you on the plane or who will need to share that outlet with you in the airport. Keep your business cards at the ready because your neighbor could offer you some intriguing advice or become a potential partner, customer or friend.

  1. Get some exercise.

You can't pay attention to work if you're sluggish or exhausted. Even if you only can do some laps around the terminal before you board, run up and down a flight of stairs or stretch your legs up and down the aisle of the plane while en route to your destination, do what you can to keep your blood pumping and keep the stress to a minimum.

  1. Get busy work out of the way before you get on the road.

Don't spend your time in the air doing busy work like filling out forms or rearranging your calendar. On the plane you're largely away from the quotidian distractions that crop up in your office, so devote your attention to a big project or fleshing out a new idea.

  1. Set goals for yourself.

What do you want to accomplish by the end of the flight? When you make your itinerary and book all your travel, also make a list of the tasks you want to complete before you land and check them off as you go. And do the most important item first.

  1. Block out your time.

Once you have your priorities in order, next to each item, estimate how long you each task will take. Develop a system that works best for you -- i.e., working 40 minutes and then taking a 20 minute break. You'll soon get into a rhythm that will help keep you focused.

  1. Calm your nerves.

Many people are nervous fliers -- heights, enclosed spaces, iffy air pressure -- they can all take a toll and make the most confident person uneasy. If you have worst-case scenarios running through your head as your taking off, work may be the last thing on your mind. But remember to take a breath, calm your mind and channel that nervous energy into doing a great job.

  1. Take a break.

Whether your flight is three hours or 13, you can't work nonstop -- before long, you'll start to see your concentration and quality of work suffer. Instead of mindlessly going down an Internet wormhole or flipping through the SkyMall for a third time, do something more creative. Look out the window and listen to favorite playlist for a few minutes, bring a sketchbook or journal with you, work out your brain with a Sudoku game or just meditate.