Big mistake. Airports--and airplanes--can be amazingly conducive to disciplined, inspired work. You just have to create and stick to a routine.
1. Invest in the right technology.
An airport is a living stream of traffic, chatter and loud public announcements. Invest in technology that will help you stay concentrated and connected.
Start with a pair of quality noise-canceling headphones. Tune out distractions and create a private space in which to buckle down and work.
A wireless internet card is another smart investment. I fire mine up while waiting for the plane to take off and again right after we land.
That's 30 extra minutes of online productivity that can mean the difference between being a step ahead and a step behind when I arrive at my destination.
2. Take an Uber or Lyft to the airport.
Don't bother driving to the airport. Don't waste your time dropping off and picking up your car, don't waste your money on airport parking. Take an Uber or Lyft instead.
Get in the back seat, buckle in and be industrious. Clean up your inbox. Make phone calls. Complete all those odds-and-ends tasks that clutter your mind as much as your schedule.
Wear your earbuds so that you driver knows you're cranking, and be sure to leave a nice tip.
3. Get there early.
One of my colleagues, Greg Ott, is a master of leaving for the airport at the last second without missing his flight. I prefer to get there early and avoid the stress.
I can settle in comfortably knowing that my departure gate is minutes, not miles, away, and be more productive than if I had remained in the office or at home glancing at my watch every five minutes.
4. Sign up for TSA PreCheck.
It blows my mind when I fly with coworkers who haven't taken advantage of the TSA's PreCheck program.
Do they like standing in long lines, removing their shoes and belts, and throwing their laptops into plastic bins while grumpy travelers breathe down their necks?
Shell out the 85 bucks it'll cost you to skip the harassment--the TSA reports that 97 percent of PreCheck passengers wait in line less than five minutes--and continue your workday in peace.
5. Head to the lounge.
I've traveled enough that I can usually take advantage of an airport's lounge, when available. It's the ultimate escape from the hustle and bustle of the terminal.
If you haven't quite racked up enough miles to do the same, apply for business credit cards that offer lounge access as a perk. You'll find that it's an oasis in which you can do some of your best thinking.
6. Shut out visible distractions.
In the terminal, approximate office conditions as much as possible. Locate a quiet corner and face away from the crowds and restrooms and gift shops.
Avoid falling into that airport trance where you just people-watch until they call your flight. The less you have to look at, the easier it is to get into the zone.
7. Dust off your acting skills.
Once on the plane, I have a fairly simple technique that helps me avoid being bothered. It goes like this:
- I put on my noise-canceling headphones and start working.
- If my seatmate tries to engage me in conversation, I raise my headphones slightly and yell, "WHAT?"
- If they make a second attempt, I repeat myself.
- I then apologize and explain that I couldn't hear them because I had my noise-canceling headphones on.
- They smile in understanding, I smile back, and return to my work and keep at it till we land.
Next time you're in an airport, have a look around. Notice all the business-types taking it easy because they've convinced themselves that travel is separate from work.
That isn't you. Grab those headphones and get busy.