Be Productive Anywhere: Tips for Getting Work Done During a Flight Delay

Airport and plane delays are on the rise, which means that busy travelers may want to make the most of their time. Turns out that a little productivity might actually be possible.

Here’s an unfortunate reality of travel that’s probably going to bum you out: Delays at the airport and during flights are getting longer. You’re not imagining it.

And some of the delays are so long as to be comical. CBS Chicago recently noted a delay so lengthy that it forced a plane that was supposed to head to New York’s La Guardia Airport to instead be diverted to Newark, New Jersey—an airport 30 miles away—because of a travel curfew involving the NYC airport.

Most delays aren’t quite that bad, but as The New York Times recently reported, taxi time has increased at many airports around the country as congestion has become a more common ailment. According to data from Airlines for America reported by the Times, taxi time for aircraft increased by 19 percent at the 30 largest airports in the country and 24 percent at 31 medium-sized airports.

That’s frustrating, of course, but that’s still time that you could be doing something rather than sitting around and waiting. A few ideas for maximizing your time while you’re stuck in limbo:

Tackle that long list of emails. A period when you’re stuck with not a lot to do may sound like an extreme rarity given your schedule—and that makes it the perfect time to catch up on emails. This is an especially good option if you’re traveling with a tablet or similar device that can handle a lot of words. Likewise, any similar busywork, such as paperwork or forms you need to fill out, might be the perfect thing to tackle during a delay.

Get some thought leadership into your brain. Whether through a book, a podcast, or a news article you pull up on your phone, a delay can turn out to be a good opportunity to read about or listen to things that are happening. Of course, you need to plan ahead: Noise-cancelling headphones and a little pre-downloading are probably smart in the case of a podcast, and unless you want to read an in-flight magazine, you might want to bring some extra supplies, especially for times when you’re stuck in airplane mode with no internet access.

Brainstorm a little. In the late 1980s, composer Danny Elfman was on a plane when he came up with one of his most famous compositions—the theme to the 1989 film version of Batman. Which proves that inspiration can hit anywhere—even in the air. Likewise, if you bring the right equipment, the tight quarters might prove to be a good spot to get inspired, even during a delay. Just be sure to document your brainstorming session. As Elfman told The A.V. Club in 2014, he nearly lost the composition after hearing The Beatles play on the flight and only recovered it because he used a tape recorder to save parts of the melody in the airplane bathroom. (Resourcefulness matters!)

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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