Airplane Activities for Achievers

5 Smartest Ways to Spend Your Time on the Plane

Podcast Episode # 18

 by Brad Kammlah

In this Episode, You'll Learn:

  • How to turn wasted flying time into productive time
  • The importance of rest when traveling
  • How to get ahead in the air
  • The top 5 things achievers do while flying

We are Wasting Hours of Time in the Air

If you travel quite a bit, you may not give much thought to just how many hours are being spent in the air. But those hours actually add up and are severely eating into what we’re able to accomplish. So stop for a minute and ask yourself.

How much time did you spend in the air last month? 

For me, I looked back at my calendar and I took 7 flights last month, added up the flight time for all of them and it was over 18 hours in the air! And that didn’t even count the time spent packing or waiting at the airport. To be honest I was astonished! That’s half of a week of work in the air and if we’re not intentional with how we use that time it can be completely wasted!

So we are going to spend the next two episodes dedicated to solving this problem and maximize our productivity in the air.

Today we are talking about WHAT Activities to do on the plane, more specifically the 5 Smartest Ways to Spend Your Time on the Plane.

And next week, were going to cover HOW to be more productive, including 5 Productivity Tricks to Get More Done in the Air.

Flight Focus Playlist

20 Songs to Boost Productivity While Flying

Trying to get some work done on the plane? Eliminate distractions with my list of 20 songs to help you focus while flying!

Turn Travel Boredom into Productivity

First we should take a look at how we view travel time. Most of us view that 3 hour flight to Los Angeles as just a wash. We’re bored and so we just see it as the cost of traveling. And when we’re bored, we often reach for the fastest ways to pass the time, like Ross did from Friends when he went on his sabbatical. He was so bored, he spent hours wasting time reorganizing their fridge.

And when we’re bored on those flights, we do the same thing. We watch a movie or read Sky Magazine and not realizing that we can take back this wasted flying time and make it work for us.

What if instead we view this time as extra time that we can leverage to get ahead?

The 5 Smartest Ways that Achievers Spend Their Time on a Plane

1 Rest: Catch Up on Sleep

Now you maybe wondering why we’re talking about rest when this episode is supposed to be about productivity. Well let me ask you…

How effective are you when you’re tired?

If you’ve every had one of those late nights trying to crank out some work you’ve definitely experience how painful it can be to get something done when you’re tired. It seems to take twice as long if you can even get through it at all.

In Episode 6: How to Sleep Better in Hotel Rooms we referenced several studies that showed just how sleep deprived we are as travelers. In fact, by the time travelers return home they’ve lost an average of 8 hours every trip. And that lack of sleep results in a 20% loss of productivity.

And if we’re trying to get stuff done when we’re sleep deprived we aren’t nearly as effective as we would be if we would just take some time to rest.

And by rest I mean sleep. Not movies, social media or anything else.

Because these things still keep our mind occupied and don’t allow us to rest much less catch up on any sleep.

So one of the first things you can do to truly be more effective is use this flight time to sleep and recharge your batteries.

2 Get Work Done

Achievers have already made this shift and realize that they can leverage this time in the air to get stuff done. And why not get some work done so that when you get home it’s off your list.

When you think about the actual choice we have on the plane, we could either watch a movie (which I still do from time to time) or use that same 2 hours to get some important work done so that I can have more time when I’m back home.

I’d rather finish that 2 hours of work in the air where I’m uncomfortable and stuck on a plane than on a sunny Friday afternoon, back at home stuck in my office. When I frame it up that way, all of a sudden the choice seems a lot more attractive to get some work done.

Why not finish these up:

  • Get to Inbox Zero
  • Finish that Upcoming Presentation
  • Finish the Expense Report for This Trip
  • Write
  • Analyze those Spreadsheets
  • Whatever, just get it done!

And when your back home, remember to clock those hours you spent on the plane and give yourself that time back. If you spent some hours cranking away in the air, then you shouldn’t feel bad wrapping up early on Friday afternoon. You earned it!

3 Planning

Sometimes it can be hard to get work done on a plane simply because working on a laptop can be a challenge in those tight seats. Other times the Wi-Fi is just too spotty to finish those emails.

But super achievers don’t let any of those things stop them, they quickly move on and start doing some planning.

  • Weekly, Monthly or Yearly Planning
  • To-Do Planning
  • Goal Setting
  • Any Other Type Planning

When I’m returning from a trip, it’s pretty common for me to have dozens of To-Do’s on my mind, so one of the things I do on the plane is my To-Do planning.

And the best part is that you can do this from your smartphone using:

Quick System I Use for To-Do Planning

Step 1: Brainstorm and write down everything you can think of

Step 2: Sort it by categories like work, personal, goals

Step 3: Prioritize it by which items are most important

By doing this on the plane then when I land I know that I have an effective plan to launch into my week when I get back to the office.

Goal Setting:

Another option here is to use this time to do some goal setting. What better way to use the time than to reflect back on your year so far and see if you’re heading where you want to go. Are you accomplishing the things you want to accomplish?

And if you already have your goals outlined, then why not use this time on the plane to actually achieve those goals. Write that book, learn a new language or a new skill.

4  Learn

Another great use of this time on the plane is to learn. Whether that’s

5 Let Your Mind Wander

Since we’re talking about productivity, this may be as surprising to you as sleep. But taking some time to let your mind process everything and sort things out may actually be the best way to get ahead.

Have you every had one of those really long, intense projects? And while you were working on it for weeks your house maybe got a little messy?

That’s exactly what can happen to our brains when we are overloaded too. While at work, we are constantly bombarding our minds with inputs and we’re trying to solve problems and analyze things all day long. And even when we take a break we grab our phones and still are taking in information. It can only process so much and then it has to put it in kind of a holding pattern until you give it some time to actually clear the queue.

And when this gets overloaded you can really start to feel frazzled.

Step 1: Put down your phone

Step 2: Turn off all your electronics

Step 3: Just look out the window… and chill

And your brains will kick into gear and do what it’s been waiting to do for years! File things away, sort things out.

And then all of a sudden your brain will start working naturally again. It will start making connections and solve those problems that you’ve been thinking about for awhile and it even becomes a fertile ground for you next big idea.

Ever wonder why your best ideas come in the shower? It’s because you’re finally letting your mind wander!


So go out there on your next flight and take back that travel time for you! Get some work done, rest or simply let your mind wander. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you’re being intentional and use it for YOU!

For more productivity tips, be sure to check out next week’s episode 19: Flight Focus – 5 Ways to Get More Done in the Air. 

Flight Focus Playlist

20 Songs to Boost Productivity While Flying

Trying to get some work done on the plane? Eliminate distractions with my list of 20 songs to help you focus while flying!


For Business Trips

Want to start packing better? Get your FREE copy of the ESSENTIAL PACKING LIST for BUSINESS TRIPS! The absolute best resource to get you started on your way to better travel.