In this Episode, You'll Learn:
- Which seats are the most productive on a plane
- How to minimize distractions around you
- What are the best things to bring with you to get work done
- Free Flight Focus Playlist to maximize your productivity
- The best to-do apps for managing your tasks
Airplanes are Full of Distractions
Trying to get some work done on the plane can seem near impossible. There are distractions in every direction from the screen on the seat in front of you to the pilot's announcements, babies crying, people talking behind you, to the drink cart. And with all of this going on around us, we can feel like Doug the Dog from the movie Up, constantly distracted by the “squirrels” around us in the air.
So to combat these distractions, we're going to cover 5 strategies to improve your focus while flying and how to get more done in the air.
1 Pick the Right Seat
Before we even start working, there are some things we can do that can drastically improve our ability to get things done and one of them is picking seats on the plane that are best suited for productivity.
Seats to Maximize Space
Anyone trying to get some work done on a plane knows the feeling of doing some “Laptop Yoga” by trying to type on your laptop with no elbow room. So picking a seat with even a little more room can make all that a lot easier so you can actually use your laptop.
Selecting one of these seats might help you get a lot more done:
- First Class
- Economy Plus
- Exit Rows
- Pick a better seat with Seat Guru
Even though these seats can cost a little bit more, it may be worth it if it means the difference between you getting a lot more work done.
Seats to Minimize Distractions
As far as distractions go, some seats are definitely better than others. If you're sitting in the aisle or middle seat then other passengers in your row may interrupt you to get up and use the restroom. And aisle seats also have the added distractions of drink carts and other passengers constantly walking by.
Window Seats offer less distractions. You can stay there the entire flight working away if you want to. It's a much better choice to stay focused.
2 Bring the Right Tools
Laptops Are Still the Best Choice for Productivity
If you are serious about getting work done on the plane, then you'll want to bring a serious tool that can do as much as possible. And nothing comes close to a full blown laptop.
Every other tool like an iPad or Kindle has some type of limitations. But with your laptop you can sort files, work on presentations, get to inbox zero, edit photos in Photoshop and just about anything else that you would do in your office.
I've talked to several other business travelers lately who have tried to only bring an iPad when they travel but they've quickly realized the downside of not being able to get as much done on the road as they would with their laptop.
Use a Smartphone instead of an iPad
While iPads and other limited functionality tablets seem like lightweight options for travel, they often don't do anything more that your smartphone. I can do just about everything I can on an iPad on my iPhone. So why bother bringing both?
Instead I like to bring a laptop for larger projects and then just use my smartphone for anything else. A smartphone can be ideal on a plane, especially if you're cramped and typing on a laptop can be a challenge.
While I don't usually travel with paper notebooks because of their extra weight and the fact that I can use a digital notes app like Evernote or OneNote, there are still certain situations that a good old fashioned paper notebook can still be a fantastic choice. So if you know you've got some writing, journaling, brainstorming or sketching out some ideas to do, then a Moleskine Notebook be a perfect tool for you.
3 Use the Airplane Do Not Disturb Sign… Wear Earbuds
It can be hard to get some work done when your neighbor would prefer to talk to you the entire flight. And that's where the “Airplane Do Not Disturb Sign” comes in handy. While I wish we actually had the same signs they do for our hotel room, there is actually a subtle way to do this even on the plane.
Wear your earbuds to avoid chatty neighbors.
Doing this ever so politely indicates to those around you that you're busy working on something and they are much less likely to bother you.
4 Listen to a Flight Focus Playlist
Another way to stay laser-ed in on the task at hand is to listen to some music to keep you focused. I've found that music without any lyrics is particularly helpful for me to stay focused, because songs with lyrics tend to activate that part of the brain and I start thinking about the song's meaning instead. So instead, I opt for songs from movie soundtracks to accompany my working sessions.
Listening to Music Can:
- Drown out any background noise
- Cover up noisy neighbors around you
- Offer a continuous sound to focus on while you work
And I highly recommend creating your own playlist of songs for this purpose in your phone so you can use it over and over again on every flight. And if you want some suggestions to help you get your playlist started you can download my Flight Focus Playlist, which includes the songs I use whenever I work on the plane.
5 Use a To-Do List
Sometimes when we're trying to get some work done on the plane, we find ourselves aimlessly staring and stopping different tasks without any rhyme or reason. And I've seen too many business people open up a spreadsheet and them proceed to stare at it for the entire 3 hour flight. In other words, we're doing work but not really accomplishing anything.
An easy fix for this is to work off your To-Do list. So instead of randomly starting tasks, open your to-do list and see how many things you can actually knock off the list by the time you land. Not only does this keep you more focused but it helps you accomplish the important things that are already on your list.
I am currently using the Asana app which has both a smartphone app and a web app. It's a really powerful to-do list that works great for
This way when you get back home, your to-do list will be a lot less daunting because you were a smart traveler and got stuff done in the air!
For more flight productivity hacks, check out Episode 18: Airplane Activities for Achievers – The 5 Smartest Ways to Spend Your Time on the Plane.