Here's How You Can Be Productive on a Plane

If you're like me, you love getting stuff done.

I'll be taking a 6-hour flight this afternoon. I generally enjoy flying, but 6 hours is a little longer than the trips I'm used to. There'll be no wifi on the plane, and the thought of not being able to work on my businesses while in the air honestly gives me a little bit of anxiety.

So to make sure I have productive things to do on my flight this afternoon, I've compiled a list of helpful tips and things to do while in the air.

1. Bring Noise Cancelling Headphones

Before diving into ways to spend your time, make sure you will be able to spend your time doing it.

If there's too much noise and you can't focus, everything else on this list will be irrelevant. So make sure to pack your favorite pair of headphones. Noise-cancelling, if you have them.

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2. Check the Airline's On-Board Wifi Capabilities

Whether or not you will be able to access the internet will determine a lot of what you will be able to do in-flight.

No connection means no emails, browsing, research, communication, nothing. So figure this out before you start packing for your trip.

Also, keep in mind that even if there is wifi on board, it will probably be really slow. The connection won't be secure, and you can assume everything you do on their network is public. Additionally, it will probably cost a pretty penny to connect.

So, we'll continue as if wifi is not an option.

3. Download Content Before Your Flight

If you're like me you probably stream most of your content now, which can be a struggle without an internet connection (or even with a slow one).

Those headphones won't do you any good if you don't have music to play, podcasts to listen to, or other audio content to enjoy. Make sure to spend a little bit of time gathering these things and downloading them to a device before you take off.

It helps to try and schedule your time too and makes planning and curating the right amount of content a lot easier. If you know you have a certain amount of hours on the flight, you probably need more than a few of your favorite songs. I'm going to download at least a few podcast episodes and music from a few of my favorite work and focus playlists.

4. Turn Off Your Connection and Test Your Workflow

A long flight can be a great opportunity to build that new app, write new content, or learn something new.

But it's important to make sure you will be able to access what you are relying on even without a connection.

Check to see if you'll be able to do what you need, by turning off your wifi and seeing if things still work. I've built apps and websites from scratch while in the air, but only because I was able to run all the services I needed locally on my computer, without an internet connection.

It depends on the environment you're working in, and the work you're trying to do. Anything in the cloud will be tough, and even a lot of native apps still rely on the internet to fetch necessary data.

It's better to check and learn that it doesn't work while you're on the ground and can fix it, than to plan work for the flight only to learn that you can't access what you were planning to.

5. Bring a Book to Read

Flying is a great opportunity to finish that book you wanted to read.

A few hours is enough time to make great progress, if not get through hundreds of pages. It's a reliable way to spend your time too. If you bring a physical book, you don't have to worry about wifi or battery charge. I usually bring a Kindle, but it has a near-infinite battery life too and already has all of my books downloaded to it.

I find that there are also fewer distractions than if I were trying to read at home.

I enjoy the loud hum of the plane's engines as well. The white noise helps me focus on and comprehend the material better.

6. Bring a Notebook

Much like books, anything that doesn't require technology is a great choice.

Devices can run out of battery on a long flight, charging outlets aren't guaranteed, and again a lot of devices are dependent on an internet connection.

A notebook, however, is reliable and bringing one is a great way to allow yourself to organize your thoughts, write, and plan. It's important to take a step back and think about the bigger picture every once in a while.

7. Have a Backup Plan

It's also a good idea to have some flexibility in your plan.

You never know who's going to be sitting around you or what the environment is going to be like when you finally plop down in your chair and buckle in. So it's great to have options.

Bring your laptop and plan to do work on that, but if the battery dies you have a book to read too.

Maybe you end up getting to know your neighbor, make a valuable connection and end up doing none of the work you had planned. Don't be reliant on a single plan, and your flight will be much more enjoyable.

Have a Safe (and Productive) Flight!

Flights may seem like an unproductive time sink, but the lack of distractions and the inability to procrastinate or browse social media can be a tool used to your advantage.

Make the most of this unique environment and use it as an opportunity to make serious progress toward your goals.

Hopefully, you found something helpful.

Safe travels!

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Hey, I'm Nick Dill.

I help people become better software developers with daily tips, tricks, and advice.