How Do I Work on a Plane

Working on the Plane – is it possible?

Do you travel for work? I bet you do or you wouldn’t be here reading a blog post designed for the road warriors and corporate travelers!

You might like: 105 Business Travel Tips

Since I am assuming you travel for work then you will totally understand what this post is about. Trying to get work done on the plane. How hard is it? Can it even be done? What are the tips and methods to deal with work while you are in transit?

When I am in the air (and I frequently am) my world doesn’t stop. Customers, employees, bosses, they all want a piece of me. And if you’ve spent more than 10 minutes in a job you know that email is a never ending saga. It just piles up! And then the presentations for the next day’s sales meeting, or the report your boss needs done. The business world keeps moving regardless of the fact your 28,000 feet above Salina, KS.

In this post I analyze the ability to work on a plane and offer some travel tips to deal with some of the more common things that come up:

  • Keeping up with email
  • Working on presentations / reports
  • Dealing w/ employee stuff (expense reports, etc)
  • Fighting boredom on the plane

Keeping up with email while you travel for work

When you travel for work you’ve basically got three choices when it comes to keeping up on your email:

  1. Ignore it – if they really need me they will call me (or IM me…)
  2. Do it at night in the hotel
  3. Try to keep up with it on the plane

I’ve employed all three techniques before with varying success, but lately I’ve been deferring to #1. Wi-fi is expensive on the plane and I don’t always have the energy to get it done at night in the hotel. And while I can check it on the phone pretty easily I usually don’t. And getting my laptop out is always a tight squeeze unless you got the upgrade to first class.

Here’s a few exceptions:

  • If I know I have something important to work on (like a presentation) I will fire up the laptop and get it done, but ONLY if I have to. If it can wait, it does.
  • If know that I have important correspondence en route that day (meaning I am expecting something with a short fuse) I will go ahead and connect to the Internet on the plane – but w/ my phone. Anything earth shattering can likely be solved via the small screen of my phone. Keep that laptop in the bag if you can.

Or…do what my old boss did recently. He got a small form factor tablet w/ a keyboard  – something designed for small spaces. Now he can easily watch a movie, or do email w/ a screen that’s bigger than your phone. If he needs to do some word processing it’s no big deal.

Something like this:

RCA Viking Pro 10″ 2-in-1 Tablet 32GB Quad Core Blue Laptop Computer with Touchscreen and Detachable Keyboard Google Android 6.0

Fighting Boredom

So instead paying $15.00 for internet, I kick back and watch another episode of Better Call Saul. Or I will download podcasts and books related to my industry or business and read them. I use the plane time to learn!

When I land, I spot check my email (to see if I really need to pull up the PC back at the hotel) and check my VMs and chats. We now use Google Chat which allows them to really get my attention (instead of an email) if they really need to.

 

Only for the high importance items will I pull up the PC and start hammering away when I get back to the hotel. If I can’t disposition it with a phone call or a return IM it may time to pull it up.

Starting to wonder if I even need to bring that laptop anymore… 🙂

Employee Stuff (expense reports)

I’ve got into the habit of starting my expense reports while I travel. We use Concur for our travel system and their app (which is ok…a little crappy at times, but good enough) allows me to snap photos of my receipts and upload them immediately. I can then start my expense report during the trip. This makes it much easier to finalize it and submit in a timely manner when I get back.

More: Read the Dreaded Expense Report

Join The Conversation

How do you work on the plane or while you traveling? What tips and strategies do you employ? We’d love to hear from you. Join the conversation by leaving a comment, or hit us up on Twitter.

And don’t forget to check out some of our other great content:

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