10 Tips for Getting More Work Done While Flying

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10 Tips for Getting More Work Done While Flying

Written by Tim Croft Dec 14, 2023 11:05 AM

When traveling for business, those hours spent on an airplane can be prime time for getting meaningful work done. 

However, the airplane environment also comes with distractions and discomforts, making working productively challenging. With the right strategies, you can take advantage of inflight time to manage your workload effectively. 

Here are several tips for maximizing your productivity when working on a plane:

Choose The Right Seat

If you need to work during your flight, book an aisle seat or emergency exit row seat when possible. The extra legroom and ability to get up without asking others to move are crucial for an optimal work environment. Exit row seating typically provides the most spacious legroom on an airplane. 

Consider paying extra or utilizing your airline perks to obtain these seats for work purposes.

Come Prepared With Offline Materials

While inflight Wi-Fi is increasingly common, it cannot be entirely relied upon. Save relevant files and documents to your devices in a dedicated folder for offline access as a backup. 

Sync materials beforehand and have cloud access as well. Although Wi-Fi availability on planes is improving, it can still be intermittent or fail altogether inflight. Offline access ensures you can keep working no matter what.

Noise-Cancelling Headphones Reduce Distractions

The consistent hum of airplane noise can hinder focus and make concentrating difficult. Invest in a quality pair of over-ear, noise-canceling headphones to provide a bubble of sound insulation around you. 

Combine noise-cancelling headphones with instrumental music without lyrics if ambient noise still proves distracting. The reduction in background interference can greatly aid productivity.

Request Workspace Items From The Crew

Don't hesitate to politely ask the flight attendants for any items that could help mimic a desk setup. Paper, pens, a clipboard, snacks, or even a water bottle to use as a paperweight – most airline crews are happy to provide small items that can aid your comfort and productivity needs within reason. 

Build quick rapport upon boarding and explain you'll be working so they understand any requests.

Schedule Focus Time

Block out set chunks of time during longer flights to devote to tasks requiring deeper strategic thinking or planning. Whether crafting a presentation, plotting business ideas, or creative problem solving, dedicate 1-2 hour blocks to avoid constant task-switching. 

Use smartphone timers to stay focused in those blocks without getting interrupted or distracted.

Tackle Tedious Tasks

Take advantage of longer flights to power through mundane administrative tasks like organizing receipts and expenses or cleaning up your inbox. 

Download and handle batch emails while offline to efficiently respond later when reconnected. Knocking out tedious tasks inflight helps make the time pass quickly while getting necessary work handled in the process.

Stay Hydrated

Airplane cabins sap moisture, leading to quicker dehydration symptoms like mental drainage and fatigue. Drink plenty of water before and during the flight, more than you normally would. 

For longer hauls, keep hydrating skincare items on hand to help retain moisture in the skin and energy levels. 

Dehydration should be proactively avoided when working inflight.

Keep Blood Flowing

Sitting stationary negatively impacts circulation and blood flow over time, resulting in mental fatigue and impaired thinking. Every 30-45 minutes, do simple leg lifts, shoulder rolls, or other subtle seated movements to get blood pumping. 

Set a smartwatch or phone to vibrate as a reminder to stand up and discreetly stretch when possible. Staying in motion fights cognitive decline.

Stay Fueled

Hunger and plummeting blood sugar make focusing exponentially more difficult. Always travel with quick snacks that can be eaten quickly while working, such as protein bars, mixed nuts, apples, or cheese sticks. 

If the flight duration includes meal service, proactively order food even if you are not hungry since options dwindle quickly once served. Having nutrients sustains energy and functioning.

Adjust Clothing For Comfort

Given unpredictable cabin temperature changes, dress in layers and breathable fabrics. Bring a scarf or shawl to serve as a blanket if cold or lumbar support when seated. 

Wear slip-on shoes to expedite airport screening while allowing easy inflight removal. Compression socks discourage swelling. Ultimately, wear versatile items that support comfort and alertness.

Getting The Most Out Of Your Travel Time

Implementing even a few of these inflight productivity tips can salvage many wasted hours, saving business travelers precious time both in the air and upon arrival. 

Don't just watch movies or nap for a 5+ hour flight – that's 300 minutes of potential work time lost. Treat airplanes like your temporary office, and you can significantly expand productivity. 

You'll land well-rested and ahead by staying fueled, focused, and comfortable inflight.