14 Tips for Staying Productive at the Airport

Going to the airport isn’t what it used to be.

Whether travelling domestically or internationally, you’ve got to get there hours in advance. Then, after enduring the ever-winding security lines, the shoe-belt-laptop dumps, not to mention the occasional prods, pokes and pat downs — you’re still facing time at the gate with seemingly nothing to do but wait.

Or not.

Recently, I decided to mentally “re-frame” my wait at the airport. Instead of feeling victimized and trapped, I now feel empowered. I’ve taken control of this chunk of time and made it my own. In some ways, I’m more productive at the airport than I am in the office! You can be too. Here’s how to increase your productivity the next time you’re at the airport.

Before You Leave

1. Bring your gear: I’m not talking about your Fitbit or your ski goggles. I’m talking about what you’ll need to stay connected and plugged-in on your trip: Things like your phone charger, power cord, and noise-canceling headphones.

2. Don’t forget to download: You can never be sure about available connectivity. If you have an important email, webinar or podcast you’ve been meaning to view, download it now so you can view it offline at any time.

Settle In After Checking-in

3. Set up your airport office: Of course, the best place to get your work done is at an airport lounge. If you have a free pass to your airline’s lounge, go there. They have everything you need to set up your office base: desks, data ports, computers, Wi-Fi, fax machines, snacks and sodas. If you don’t have a pass, consider buying (or expensing) a 1-day pass; most lounges offer this.

4. Seek out electrical outlets: If you don’t have access to an airport lounge, check out other quiet spots, like an internet kiosk, a quiet restaurant, or even a chapel. Wherever you go, you’ll need an electrical outlet.

5. Set your alarm: Determine the time you need to get up and go to your gate for boarding. Set a time with your cell phone so you don’t miss the last boarding call.

Tips & Techniques

6. Make two lists: Whether you have a short wait or a long layover, make a list of the tasks you hope to accomplish pre-flight. Then, make a second list of the more intense tasks you can accomplish while up in the air.

7. Set a timer: Give yourself some easy work to do and allow between 15­‑25 minutes per task. Between each accomplished task, take a 5-minute break to clear your mind. Stretch your legs, go for a short walk, or grab a cup of coffee.

Pilot Your Productivity

8. Clean out your inbox: How many times have you promised yourself you’d organize and empty out your inbox? You’ll be amazed at how both your mood and your productivity will increase with a clean and tidy inbox!

9. Keep your cell phone handy: Especially if you are working far from your gate, you’re going to want to get that ring or ping from the airline informing you of any delays or cancellations. (More time for you to get work done, yay!)

10. Make your calls now: Airports are not the best place to hold lengthy conversations or conference meetings. Nevertheless, you’re not going to be able to talk on the phone once you’re up in the air. So, if you need to impart some brief but important information, do it now before your plane takes off.

11. Catch up on your reading: You probably have material you’ve only glanced at that require your full attention— stuff you just haven’t had the time to concentrate on. But now you do, so get to it.

12. Listen & watch: Remember that Ted Talk you meant to watch but didn’t? Or that quarterly report meeting you missed? Now’s the time to catch up on your videos, podcasts, and webinars.

13. Buckle down on the busywork: The airport may not be an ideal setting for writing your firm’s annual report, but you can certainly take care of the small stuff — like organizing your files, updating your expense reports, or even logging your client activity in your CRM.

14. Personal grooming: If you’re on your way to an important meeting, you need to look and feel your best. Many airports have gyms, yoga and massage studios, hair and nail salons and, yes, even the ubiquitous shoeshine stands. None of this can hurt when you’re trying to make a good impression!

What are your favorite airport productivity tips? Share them with us in the comments section below.