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How to Be More Productive When Flying

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Let’s face it: flying is no longer fun. From doing the humiliating dance, the Cattle-Chute Sock-Shuffle, as you pass by the scowling TSA-holes to sitting in the cramped cabin in economy with the cheap snacks and stale air, the glamour is gone. Still, doesn’t mean you can’t get some work done. In fact, just the opposite. With a little foresight, travel time can be some of your most productive. It’s also a great way to maintain your sanity during your ordeal de l’air. After all, getting stuff done reduces stress. And a good thing too while traveling: airports are stress-ports. So here are some tips to help you take your personal productivity up, up and away.

Plan Ahead

On a piece of paper, create a realistic punch list of items you wish to accomplish. A good time to do this is while traveling to the airport in a taxi or bus. If you’re driving yourself in a rental, you’ll have to make the list earlier at your hotel. And, speaking of the hotel, make sure to charge up all your equipment – laptop, smart phone, etc. – before checking out. Finally, make sure to bring at least a couple of hours worth of non-electronic work or illuminating reading material. With flight cancellations and weather delays, it’s impossible to tell exactly how long you’ll be sitting in the airport or on that tarmac and batteries have a way of running out.

Head Phones: The Key to Inner E-Migration

During the old Soviet Bloc days, writers and intellectuals practiced the concept of inner emigration, tuning out of the world around them in order to focus on their private spheres of thoughts and dreams. To increase your productivity, you can practice something similar. With a good pair of head phones, a charged laptop, and CLEAR wireless signal, you tune out the world around you in order to focus on your privately connected spheres of thoughts and dreams. Need a label for it? Call it inner e-migration. But, whatever you call it, don’t forget your headphones! Otherwise you’ll have to listen to those tourists from Arkansas jabber away about all those tall buildings in Chicago and how much hay they could stuff in them.


Working on a plane is obviously not ideal: the seat trays are barely big enough to hold the “food” that the airlines serve, much less function as your surrogate desk for your reports and laptop. So, if possible, buy the seat next to you. (It could be worth it if it’s a long flight and you really do have a lot of work to do.) However, since this is not an option for most of us, the next best thing – and assuming it’s a full flight and open seating – is to board the plane directly behind the smallest person you see. No, really. Wherever she sits, (usually it’s a “she”), take the seat right beside her. Be nonchalant, of course. There’s no reason why anyone should raise an eyebrow; you’re just getting on the plane like everybody else. However, unlike some of the other passengers on the flight, you’re now not consigned to several hours of elbowroomless nonproductivity squished in by big fella or his equally large sister.

Take Off and the Non Electronic Work

For the period in which no electronic devices are allowed, suavely remove your reading material from your laptop’s carrying case to keep your productivity soaring. If you have no desire to strike up a conversation with the petite woman sitting next to you, pull out the company report and begin reading so you can be up to date for the meeting. If you do desire to strike up a conversation, then pull out that literary classic you bring along to stimulate your mind and improve your vocabulary, say the collected essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson or the poetry of T.S. Eliot. (And, by the way, studies show that a greater vocabulary correlates with professional advancement. Therefore, putting the office work away for a bit to develop your mind is good use of your time.) Plus, with any luck, the petite woman will have majored in English.

Productivity Flying High

With in-flight wifi now increasingly common, getting work while flying, in a way, is almost easier than doing the same thing from a home office. For example, at 30,000 feet, you can’t step outside for a bit to mail a letter or walk the dog. So get those emails knocked out. However, don’t forget to take some time to gaze upon the sunlit tops of the swirling clouds or the shimmering roads and towns far below that look for the world like a giant neural network spread across the earth. This is your reflection time, the time to allow unexpected ideas and ingenious connections to suddenly erupt into your head from the epiphany place, wherever that is. And, should no epiphanies alight on your flight – capricious creatures they – then perhaps take some time to do the most productive thing of all: take a nap.

  • http://airplanereading.org mark yakich

    To pass the time, try visiting Airplane Reading — airplanereading.org

  • http://www.secureairport-parking.co.uk Parking At Manchester Airport

    Working on the plane whilst travelling as a great idea and a good use of your time. You will feel less stressed when your away knowing you have completed some work tasks on route.