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How to Get Work Done on a Long Flight

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Long flights are the worst. You’re stuck in one seat (God forbid a middle seat) for 8+ hours. It would be great to relax, apply a face mask, drink wine, watch movies, and have your feet rubbed (this can be arranged, right?) until you drift into a soothing sleep in a spacious first class seat. But that is not the reality. You’re in coach and you have things to do. You need to maximize your productivity on this flight, and here are 5 ways to successfully do so.

1. Get your materials together before you leave.

Prior to getting on the plane make sure that you’ve downloaded all the appropriate documents, emails, and information you need to get things done. (This includes fully charging your computer, for obvious reasons.) Preparation is key to completing the tasks you need to. You also don’t want to rely on plane wifi; you never know when it’s going to randomly shut down, leaving you fresh out of luck for your long journey across the ocean.

2. Make a plan.

Get situated (water, snack, headphones, and anything you want immediate access to so you can get in the zone). Make a specific list for the things you need to get done. Prioritize them in order so you know what to get done first. This will allow you to maximize your time, and hey, if you get your time-sensitive things done and you’re on a roll, then you know what you can do to get ahead.

3. Get on it.

Background music can help to keep distractions out of the way, i.e. little screaming toddlers, snoring seat mates, and the person whose headphones are WAY too loud. You have your list; you’re all ready to go. Don’t forget to cross things off your list as you complete them. It’s a quite satisfying feeling.

4. Get up and stretch.

This is very important to keep blood flowing. Breaks will also help your mind refocus if you find yourself getting distracted. Take a walk around the plane, do some hamstring stretches with a few toe touches while you are waiting in line for the bathroom, and shake out those stiff limbs. Feel free to do an entire sun salutations yoga flow if you’re brave enough, just don’t smack anyone with a rogue arm.

5. Don’t forget to take time to rest.

This is especially important if you’re on a trans-pacific 17-hour flight from Sydney to Dallas. Staying awake for 38 hours after travel and time change makes for a grouchy traveller. Zombie mode does not bode well when you have things to do straight after landing. Power naps are crucial for the mid-length flights, where actual sleep (4-6 hours) is necessary for the ridiculously long ones. Resting during the middle of the flight is best to optimize productivity before and after. Then you can get some work done before you snooze and be fully awake when the plane lands.

Don’t forget to drink water (vino is not the best idea if you need to get work done and land ready to rock). Comfortable socks, a neck pillow, ear plugs, and an eye mask are very helpful for the sleeping portion of your flight. It’s not the most attractive get up, but you’ll be way more comfortable than the lady in 18F whose neck keeps rolling back and forth or the dude in 26C who keeps getting woken up by sound and brightness of the child’s iPad games next to him. Do these things and you will successfully land ahead of your work schedule—and hopefully look semi-rested.

Photo: James Lauritz / Getty Images

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