How To: Pass Time Productively on a Long Flight

I have been traveling a fair bit this year between my new job (which I can’t really call “new” too much longer… it’s been over 7 months) and planner events (which are really just sleepovers for grown women who love stickers). This has led to quite a few flights that have left me with a low phone battery and multiple hours stuck in my seat.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t mentally comprehend reading an ebook on my phone screen for 3+ hours; my eyes start to hurt and the plot usually isn’t good enough to sustain my attention. Besides, travel days are basically dead time where I can’t be productive even though I feel like I should be.

But what if you could use this captive time to do something that doesn’t make you feel like you’ve lost a day just sitting, doing Sudoku, and staring out the window?

Here are 5 reasonably productive things to do while on a long flight while on airplane mode that won’t kill your phone battery (probably).

Goal Setting

There is something about flying, especially for work trips, that make me take inventory of my life. Maybe it’s the anxiety of flying and the ever prevalent fear of an untimely demise, maybe it’s because I’m flying commercially and not on the company plane, maybe it’s all the peppy planner people I hang with who hold their life together with washi tape… at any rate, I’m filled with thoughts of things I would like to accomplish and the things I could do better at.

Creating a SMART goal is super easy to do from your tray table with a pen and paper. Since you have the time, level it up by sketching out the milestones along the way and a step by step process for how to reach them.

If you’re not familiar with SMART goals, I really like MindTools‘ explanation of them.

You know you’re a 90’s kid when you sing this theme song while making goals

Update Your Phone Calendar

Look, I love my paper planner. The reality is that it’s not always a practical thing to carry around with me and I’ve been relying on my GCal a lot more. This has made me need to keep a consistent daily schedule in there do I can work my appointments around my overall tasks.

I mentioned time blocking in another blog post as something that has helped with my overall productivity. Use your flight time to create your own reoccurring blocks; even if it’s just a lunch break and your morning/evening routine. If you pop for the plane WiFi, run through your local event calendars and find something to do in the community. Update birthdays and anniversaries. Pop in the milestone dates from your goal setting. Find wacky holidays to celebrate (like Leif Erickson day).

Two very important holidays.

Create a Vision Board or Mind Map

Maybe you’re like me and you pack a small arsenal of craft supplies everywhere you go. High five to you. You can probably take it from here on your own.

But, maybe you’re not someone who travels with a sticker book, multiple pens, travel scissors and a tape roller. It’s ok, you can still flex some creative muscle from seat 3D.

I made both of last years vision boards in Canva, which is going to require some WiFi to fully utilize. However if you’re trying to be electronic free, may I suggest some mind mapping?

It’s like a bubbly spider web of aspiration.

Much like the goal setting, this one is easy to do with a pen and paper, although I do like Mindly as an app version, as seen above. Using shapes and lines, simply your visions for the next period of your life in to succinct thought bubbles. I highly encourage doodling. Steal that screaming child’s crayons if you want.

Digital Declutter Your Apps

My swipe screen is a cesspool where apps go to die. I never realize how many pages I have until I get the “ffs you’re running out of phone space” notice. Use this time to go on an Archer style rampage and kill some apps you don’t use. Once that’s done, organize the damn things so you can find your budgeting app before you hit up the Amazon one.

There are two types of people in this world… Archers and Lanas

Maybe you’re someone who has your apps already color coded alphabetically. How do your notifications look? Why not mark them all as read? You’re probably not gonna read them anyway… unless it’s an international flight.

I have no idea what Pinterest would even send a notification for.

Prepare for Touchdown

I find that as I’m heading home after any sort of trip, my mind is full of fleeting thoughts…

  • I need to do laundry
  • Do I have food for dinner?
  • The cat probably needs more water…
  • God, I smell like an airplane…
  • Hope I can get an Uber quickly…

Instead of agonizing during the flight, and then feeling very scattered and discombobulated once you land, why not give yourself a head start?

When in doubt…

Whether you’re coming or going, you probably have a bunch of little things that pop in your head that need to be done, that you forgot, or that you want to look up once you have a solid internet connection again. Write it down! Even taking 15 minutes while landing can get you set up to be a lot less stressed upon landing.

I always try to have a 85% solid plan of how to get to my hotel/house, what my next meal is going to be, and 3 things to make my night easier before I land.

Next time you’re up in the air, why not use that time to get ahead? It makes the time go by faster and keeps you occupied so you don’t have to speak to your seat mates about their 27 grandkids.