This is especially true when traveling for business because you don't really know when you'll be able to work once you're on the ground. For example, I recently attended an industry conference in San Diego where it's nearly impossible to get some work done. I mean, sure, I'm technically working while I'm attending events and sessions, but I'm not necessarily doing client work that gets me paid.
Since I already know I'm not going to get a chance to work like I normally do once I reach my destination I try to get work done while I'm en route.
However, I'll be the first to admit that working while you fly is not always easy. I'm pretty good at it and I still find myself struggling sometimes. Between free TV, turbulence, meeting strangers, snacks, and babies there are certainly more than a few distractions to keep you from being productive.
I have a pair of headphones at the ready. Between my co-working space and traveling, I need to drown out as much noise as I can so I can actually work. I even have backup headphones ready to go in case my current pair breaks.
In addition to headphones, you may want to consider creating your own customized productivity playlist on Spotify. If making your own playlist isn't your thing, you can try something like Focus At Will, an affordable service that creates scientifically optimized music playlists to help you focus. This is my go-to whenever I'm feeling very distracted and it works wonders when you're on an airplane.
Just pay for the internet.
While paying for internet access may not be worth it on short flights, it can certainly come in handy during long flights or if you have multiple flights in a day.
For example, I'm more than happy to pay Southwest $8 for all day internet if it's going to take me seven hours to get across the country. That's only slightly more than $1 an hour and I can earn far more than $8 in the time I have to work.
The internet can also be especially handy if you work with a team. I once had to delegate a huge client project to my VA from 30,000 feet in the air because I couldn't get into our social media management system. I could, however, get into our project manager and let her know what was going on.
Create an airplane to-do list.
If you walk onto the plane without a plan, then you'll likely become distracted. That's why if I know I'm going to be flying I come up with an airplane to-do list based on what I know I can get done while in the air. The more I travel, the better my list becomes because I know what works and what doesn't.
For example, on the way to a conference I'm still pretty energized so I can tackle a bigger project. However, on the way back from a conference I'm probably exhausted. I've got just enough juice where I know I can write a conference re-cap or come up with a post-conference game plan, but that's about it.
The good news is the more you fly the more you'll figure out your own groove when trying to work while in-flight. By taking some of these tips into account, you might be able to accomplish more than you anticipated.