How To Be Productive on a Flight
Twice a year, my family and I spend a week or two at a remote St. George Island in Florida, remote meaning it requires two flights from Toronto. For most, I know, this would be a deal-breaker, but I don’t mind it. It was not until this trip that I realized just how productive I am when I travel. From before, to during, and throughout the layover too, I’ve found ways to make travel time some of the most productive of the trip.
Having a business does give me flexibility, but it also requires me to plan a lot if I’m going away, especially if that’s for longer than a weekend. I try to limit the number of hours that I work on a trip.
That way, when I arrive, I can take time to focus on the creative work I’ve had to put on the back burner because of everyday work responsibilities—that creative work being projects and ideas and the like.
Here’s what I have learned that makes me most productive during travel.
Good night’s sleep - I usually take 6am flights when traveling in North America, and I take the redeye to go transatlantic. Early morning or late night flights are not the best for productivity unless you’ve rested. For morning flights, I will get a workout in before bed and focus on getting at least 6 hours of sleep. For late night flights, I focus on having at least 8 hours of sleep and get a workout in a few hours before boarding. The exercise gives me the much needed energy to stay productive until late.
Water and Snacks - Buy lots of water! Water keeps me awake and hydrated after coffee. Personally, I like to have a strong coffee before every flight, morning or evening. It is a personal choice that makes me more alert. Healthy snacks such a protein bars, trail mix or seaweed are a must—I’m a muncher on flights.
Pack Strategically - I always bring a well-packed carry on purse or backpack. All of my things are easily accessible and organized in Ziploc bags. A laptop case is a must; I’ve broken enough computers to know so. A quality case with padding helps save the screen from cracking. Pens and highlighters, along with lip balm and hand sanitizer are in a separate Ziploc. Chargers and a portable charger for phone are in another one. Don’t forget headphones either. If you’re an Apple user, then pack your headphone jack. You’ll need to use it during flight, or to listen to music and charge your phone at the same time. All of my snacks are also in a large Ziploc bag, too. It’s not a fancy organizing system, but Ziplocs work well for me.
Plan the Night Before - Download all of your emails and reading material so that they’re available offline. This should be done on your laptop and phone. My flight time is when I reply or write emails. It is also a time that I send last minute notes to my clients and team. Depending on seat space, I tend to use my phone on shorter flights.
Make a To Do List - Before my flight, I always create a list of things I’d like to accomplish. That way, I stay focused and accountable.
Read - For the times that I have a hard time concentrating on work tasks, I will switch over to reading work related material. As with every profession, staying up to date and in the know is very important. So, I’m always reading. Travel time is perfect for it.
Music - Always download your Spotify music and podcasts ahead of time. I like to listen to classical music while reading or working to eliminate noise or chatty seat mates. Count on me to be antisocial.
Netflix - Always download Netflix shows and movies for long haul flights. Might as well have some fun.
Posture - Travel is hard on our body. So, be sure to keep your posture in check when working, especially if you’re on a laptop. Try not to hunch over your computer. Your back will thank you later.The most important aspect of being productive while traveling is to plan ahead. Over time you will begin to understand what works best for you. During some flights, I use the time for leisure, to watch shows or joy read. Most of the time, flights are a time to catch up on work without the distractions from the outside world.
What makes a huge difference is how you view travel. You don’t need to love it, but you don’t need to dread it either. Doing so will only make it hard to find motivation to get work done, or to enjoy the downtime. Again, plan ahead. Make the most of your quiet time and enjoy the next adventure that is coming your way. Perspective and attitude can create some of the greatest changes in our lives. Start with this small improvement to begin building a habit of productivity.