How to be Super Productive on a Plane (or Train, or Bus)

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True to your savvy, ambitious nature, you may often find yourself with a million things to do, and almost no time to do it all! One of the most valuable chunks of time can often be while you are in transit- either on a long-haul flight, a bus ride between cities, or a decent train commute. Sometimes though, that is also one of the hardest times to focus. Next time you know you’ll have a long trip ahead of you, use these 7 handy tips so you can be super productive on a plane (or train, or bus).

1. Make A To-Do List In Advance

Checklists are productivity’s best friends! Before your journey, make a list of everything you need to get done. Prioritize things that are most conducive to on-the-go work, like reading articles, or writing that productivity guide that you have been procrastinating on. There is nothing more frustrating than knowing you have a million things to do and not actually being able to remember what those things are. A checklist eliminates this problem. Also, there are few things more satisfying than the physical act of checking something off a list!

2. Print Things Out

Printing work out in advance can be great for a couple of reasons. First, being able to see and touch tangible work is usually more motivating than trying to make yourself work on something that seems more abstract (like a file on a computer). It also makes it easier to gauge your progress. Flipping a page is undoubtedly more satisfying to your brains productivity sensors (I just made that up…) than scrolling down on a mousepad. It’s also nice to not have to worry about battery life- a piece of paper will never shutdown on you. Also, I know my eyes get really tired after staring at a screen for a while, especially when I’m on a red-eye and the computer is the only real source of light around me. Having everything printed and using a booklight or the overhead light can really save your eyes (and your potential headache).

airplane line waiting
Checklist? Check! Printouts of work? Check! Let’s do this!

3. Try To Get An Aisle Seat

I am a window seat girl myself, but I’m also a pro at staring out the window for hours on end. Truly, its a talent. If you are like me in that regard but still want to be super productive on a plane, get an aisle seat. This tip will also factor into other points later on…

4. Hydrate!

This is actually a tip for life in general. Your whole body functions so much better when you are well hydrated. I keep a water bottle (with a filter) on me at all times so that I never have to worry about my hydration situation. Drinking lots of water will really help boost your productivity by (1) keeping your cognitive functioning in tip-top working order and (2) preventing you from feeling drowsy.

5. Get Rid Of Distractions

We already snagged our nifty aisle seat to help keep distractions to a minimum. What else can we do to be super productive on a plane? First, don’t have anything else out that could be a potential source of distraction for you. If you brought personal books or magazines, leave them in your bag so you aren’t even tempted to open them. If there is in-flight entertainment available, do your best to not even turn the screen on.

Some people focus best when they listen to music. If you are one of those people, make a playlist beforehand of some of your best ‘productivity jams’. If you are like me and music is distracting, keep your phone and headphones with your other personal items- in your bag. Sometimes though, the flight is loud and music becomes the best option for tuning things out. In this case, pick songs that don’t have lyrics and that you don’t know very well. This makes it easier for the music to fade into the background. In these situations, I use the Spotify playlist ‘Hardcore Dubstep’. I know… it’s weird.

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Me failing at being productive because I didn’t get an aisle seat… learn from my mistakes, friend.

6. Keep Track Of How Much Time You’re Spending On Tasks

Tracking your tasks down to the minute holds you accountable for your time. You generally know how long something should take. If it ends up running longer than that, you’ll know that you need to re-up your efforts to focus. Also, if you are charging work hours for this time, its always good to have precise records of how you are actually spending that time that you will be paid for.

7. Take Breaks

When you reach a reasonable stopping point, take a break! Stand up, stretch your legs, go to the bathroom (because you have been hydrating like a champ). Your super fabulous aisle seat will come in handy here because you won’t have to worry about having to ask people to let you out of your row… you can just stand up! It’s a pretty great power. Try to stand up at least once every hour. Stay standing for 5-10 minutes (assuming there is no turbulence) to get the blood flowing to your legs.


Have other tried-and-true productivity tips? Drop them in the comments below!



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2 thoughts on “How to be Super Productive on a Plane (or Train, or Bus)

  1. Great suggestions! Luckily, I do most of these things….except the aisle seat! I’m a window seat gal too, but I like to get up and take breaks….hmmm, I’ll have to work those two things out!

    1. I completely understand that struggle! I force myself to get an aisle seat if I know I have to get work done- but being able to look out the window is just so tempting!

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