5 Tips to Get Some Work Done and Stay Productive on a Plane

While I don’t mind working anywhere – whether it’s in an office or at home – two of the places where I feel like I am the most productive are airports and airplanes. I think that’s because they offer an environment with just enough background noise but not many distractions.

Of course, since I love all things aviation, I might be biased.

Regardless of that, though, chances are that if you stumbled upon this article you either have to work on a plane and are looking for ways to be more productive, or have never tried to work on a plane before and are considering giving it a shot.

Below, are five tips that I follow to get work done on a plane and to maximize my productivity while on the move.

5 Tips to Get Some Work Done and Stay Productive on a Plane

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1. Be Properly Equipped and Make a Plan in Advance

The biggest key to success with getting work done while at an airport or on a plane is the preparation you need to do before you leave your home or hotel. It should go without saying that you should fully charge all the devices and take with you all the chargers (and adapters) you might need.

As for the equipment itself, while working on a laptop is fine (up to 13-inches if you are flying economy, I’d say), you should also consider a tablet – or even your smartphone – with a Bluetooth keyboard as an alternative if it is suitable for the tasks that you need to get done.

Tablets and smartphones not only take much less space in an already cramped economy class seat, but they can easily be charged using a power bank. And so, you don’t have to worry about running out of juice even on a longer flight that might not have power outlets. (Or, as has happened to me a few times, on a flight that has power outlets that don’t work.)

Separately from getting your equipment ready, also make sure to plan what you are going to do in advance. After all, you don’t want to be spending your limited time on the flight thinking about what to do. You want to be actually doing the things that need to get done.

2. Don’t Rely on Having Onboard Wi-Fi

While more and more aircraft are equipped with wi-fi nowadays – and the performance of onboard wi-fi is getting better and better – there are still many flights without wi-fi. And, even on flights with wi-fi, the price tends to be high, the speed slow, and the bandwidth limited.

As such, try to plan on doing tasks that don’t require Internet connection while onboard regardless of whether your flight is scheduled to be operated by an aircraft equipped with wi-fi or not.

To use blogging as an example, instead of replying to blog comments or updating WordPress plug-ins, you would preferably write a new article or edit photos.

Keeping the above in mind, if you have any tasks that can be done offline, but require previous online research or files that you have in email, cloud storage, or similar, make sure to download all of the things that you will need to your device while still on the ground – preferably before leaving your home or hotel for the airport.

3. Adjust Your Work Hours to Your Flight Schedule

If you want to get some work done on a fairly short flight, it’s quite simple – start working as soon as you are allowed to use your laptop. That will not only allow you to maximize the time you’ll have to work, but will also get you into work mode right away.

You have more options in case you are taking a medium- or a long-haul flight. Depending on the flight’s schedule – and whether you want to adjust yourself to your destination’s time zone, how much or whether you want to sleep, and so on – you might choose to work and then sleep, sleep first and then work, or even sleep between two work sessions. Of course, working straight through the whole flight is an option too.

In either case, if you decide to work before sleep or just work straight to the flight, I recommend – just as with the short flights – to get started with your work right away. Certainly do not hold off on getting work done until meal service starts since that might take as long as an hour depending on your flight. And, it might take even longer until you are actually served the meal.

4. Have Some ‘Mindless But Important Tasks’ on Your List

Personally, I love the non-distractive and “offline” atmosphere onboard an aircraft (which is also one of the reasons I avoid using the onboard wi-fi even when it is offered). And, I like to get as much writing or other “creative” work done onboard.

However, there are also times when I just can’t get myself to do that kind of work – especially if I am tired after being on the road for a while. During those times, though, I still try to get at least something done.

“Mindless but important tasks” that need to get done, but don’t require much thinking – like cleaning your laptop’s desktop, scanning your newly acquired business cards, or editing lounge photos –  are perfect for that.

Because of that, I recommend that when you put your work plan together (tip #1), you include not only high-value tasks that require a lot of thinking, but also some of these not-so-exciting tasks that simply need to get done.

In fact, I think a plane is one of the best places to get these tasks done as there are not many better things to do onboard whereas on the ground you might be too distracted to ever get to these tasks.

5. Maximize Your Waiting Time

Finally, while getting work done in the air is great, you should also consider all the time related to your flight that you spend on the ground. Especially so with shorter flights, since the time spent on ground before your flight takes of can often be as long as – if not longer than – the flight itself.

Below are the three “pockets of time” that you can take advantage of before taking off.

First, depending on how you are getting to the airport, you might be able to get your work done on the way. That won’t work if you are driving or using packed subway, of course, but it will be perfectly possible if you are taking a nice train. While working on buses is certainly possible, it’s certainly not as comfortable as on trains.

Second, once you check in, you will likely have a decent amount of time before your flight starts boarding. You might use this time to visit an airport lounge if you are eligible to access one, or you might just want to go to your departure gate and get some work done there. If you are departing from an airport that you know has decent lounge or quiet gate areas equipped with power outlets, you might even plan on arriving at the airport earlier than you normally would and maximize the work you get done on the ground.

Third, while you cannot use your laptop during taxiing, take off, and landing, you can use it while sitting at gate waiting to be pushed back. Depending on how early you board and so on, that might give you anywhere between a few minutes of work time all the way to an hour or so. Or even more if your flight happens to get delayed.

Summary

I don’t work on planes nearly as much as some other people do, however, when flying on my own, I generally try to get at least some work done. I also often go to an airport earlier and work in an airport lounge or in the gate area before actually getting onboard.

Usually, I get the most done if I get on the plane with a plan of things to do that include some “difficult” tasks as well as some “mindless” tasks. And if I don’t rely on the onboard wi-fi.

How about you? Do you usually work on your flights?

If so, do you have any other tips?

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