Ah, the workday flight: it’s a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you’ve got several uninterrupted hours of time to yourself. On the other hand, well, you’ve got several uninterrupted hours spent miles away from your desk and the projects that need you.
All that time spent in the air can actually be a huge perk, if you know how to leverage it in your favor. With a little planning, you can optimize your in-flight productivity so you land feeling accomplished instead of frazzled. Here’s how to make the most of your time in the friendly skies.
PLAN IN ADVANCE
One of the biggest hurdles to productivity on the ground is indecisiveness and lack of prioritizing. Things in the air are no different, so consider in advance what your highest priority will be in flight, and prep accordingly. That way you can dive into the task with no hesitation the second you hit cruising altitude.
QUEUE UP YOUR OFFLINE WORK AHEAD OF TIME
In the gate before takeoff (or even the night before your flight, if you’re feeling ambitious), give yourself time to queue up anything you’ll need from the internet. Sure, most planes have wifi, but the connection can be unpredictably spotty. Nobody wants to spend half of their flight waiting for one email to load. If there’s anything you’ll need to access from your web browser, open up each site in a separate tab so you can click right over to it in the sky, and pre-download any files you’ll need while you’re at it.
USE TAXIING TIME AS "YOU TIME"
Those moments before take-off when you’re gliding around on the tarmac can serve a purpose: they’re the perfect opportunity to steal a few minutes of zen. You can use that in-between time to meditate, consider big picture ideas, or just doze for a few minutes. If you have a big workload on your plate for the rest of the flight flight, use this pre-takeoff time to make a quick outline of your to-do list on your phone.
BRING WHATEVER YOU NEED TO GET INTO YOUR ZONE
Most of us require proper fuel to work efficiently. If this sounds like you, pack a few snacks that can keep you steadily energized and focused, like nuts or jerky. Those in-flight cookies are tasty, but they won’t give you the protein you need to power through a big project. Also consider packing a reusable water bottle to fill after going through airport security, because hydration can make a huge difference in your ability to focus. Don’t forget to pack your most important desk essentials too - whether it’s a trusty notebook, a vital flash drive, or a productivity playlist you’ve downloaded in advance, it can make all the difference in helping you stay on task.
Take a hard look at how you react to your flight time, and use it to your advantage. Some people are lulled to sleep on planes the second they hit the skies, while others are jolted into focus by the lack of interruption that flying affords. Whichever type you are, embrace it. If you know you tend to fall asleep in the air, don’t expect to suddenly plow through a massive to-do list on your next flight. Instead, expect to use your flight time to rest up so you can stay up a bit later working in your destination.
If you get distracted easily in the air, plan to work on light-lift tasks that are important but not urgent, like catching up on emails or finally wrapping up a low-stakes project you’ve been putting off. If you ARE the type who can shift into deep focus in the air, use it to your advantage by setting aside your flight time for deep work - smaller tasks can wait for a time on the ground when you’re less focused.
All it takes a bit of awareness and prep to make your flying time the most powerful part of your workday. Buckle up, and don’t forget to pack your to-do list.