11 Ways to Make Productivity Soar While You’re Grounded at the Airport

Stuck at the airport for a few hours waiting for your flight and dreading it? Instead of moaning about all that lost time, why not turn it into an opportunity to profit from being out of the office?

Sometimes you know in advance that you will be caught at the airport, so here are some ways you can prepare for just that:

  • Have a To Do list ready to check off.
  • Have a cellphone charger, laptop power cord, cables and external drives, if needed.
  • Bring noise-cancelling headphones — essential to block out those annoying airport announcements about all the other flights.
  • Bring backup power and a USB charger for your cell phone or laptop. It’s amazing how often people forget them. For travel pros, bring a power strip so you aren’t an outlet hog and several other business travelers can charge as well.

Now that you have everything, what’s next?

1. Find a comfortable base to position yourself in

Remember, if you are working on company data you need to ensure some privacy so that people don’t see your screen or hear your conversations. Norton has a helpful article on Safely Using Airport Wi-Fi. But comfort goes beyond knowing your data is safe to being able to focus. Perhaps you could find a good spot in a quiet cafe. If you have a business class flight, then you have access to a lounge with amenities and peace.

2. Inspire yourself by checking out some TED talks

You may have built up a list of ones relevant to your own business, so now is a good time to hear some inspiring words, and you may also pick up some useful ideas. There are some incredible TED talks around so watch and learn. We love these three lists:
10 TED Talks to be an effective trailblazer in your office via Inc.
12 Must Watch TED Talks for Entrepreneurs via Shopify 
Top 10 Best TED Talks for Business Leaders via Investopedia

3. Listen to podcasts or webinars

Podcasts and webinars are hugely popular today, so you probably earmarked a bunch to check out, but just never sat down and listened to. Well, now is a great chance to catch up. Pick a couple and save the others for when you board the plane, or the next time you’re stranded at an airport. Here at Teamwork.com, some of our favorite podcasts are Startups for the Rest of Us (you may remember we interviewed Mike Taber last year), HBR IdeaCast, Convince & Convert (read our own interview with Jay Baer) and Knowledge@Wharton.

4. Read blogs or articles

You probably downloaded or bookmarked these because they caught your eye days or weeks earlier, so now is the perfect opportunity. Select five or six and give them your undivided attention. They may provide insights or motivations on how to do your job better, or some takeaways you can apply to your work life. We happen to have a hefty arsenal of collaboration and productivity posts.

5. Network with new people

Reach out and chat to someone nearby and you may be pleasantly surprised. It’s amazing how making the effort to communicate with fellow passengers can open up some amazing possibilities. Ok, not everyone is interesting or good company, but you might strike it lucky. If you do, then exchange business cards. Who knows, you may have found a potential customer or future business partner. You’ll never know until you loosen those vocal chords and say hello.

6. Brainstorm ideas

With no real distractions — apart from the usual tannoy announcements which you can easily block out with those headphones you packed earlier — now is a good time to clear your head and see if you can tap into your creativity.

Have a project you are working on that has run into problems? Trying to figure out how to deal with a tricky situation with one of your team? Or do you have a speech to write for a conference in a couple of weeks? Now is a good opportunity to outline your approach, do some mind mapping, or sketch an outline of the speech.

7. Call a friend/family

Instead of twiddling your thumbs and staring into space, why not call your family or friends. They’ll surely be thrilled to hear from you and you’ll feel a lot better.

In fact, you may feel so positive afterwards that you’ll want to tackle another task and you’ll do so with a warm glow. The vibes may be so good you might call someone else.

8. Work on your emails

While you have those free hours, why not tackle the dozens of emails that are filling your inbox. Remember to prioritize them, tackling the more urgent ones immediately, replying when necessary.

The rest you can file away for later, or if you’re feeling really good go through them now instead of putting them off. Responding now means you will have fewer to attend to on the plane or when you reach your destination.

9. If you need a rest take it

When the batteries in your laptop or cellphone are rundown you recharge them. Humans are no different, except our powerpoint is sleep or rest.

Tiredness means your reactions are slower, you underperform, and are more likely to make mistakes. Take a nap if you can, but do be careful. This is an airport, after all, and probably a pretty busy one, with lots of people nearby, so you need to be security conscious. If you have a laptop, rest your feet on top of it.

10. Keep hydrated and eat

Everything in moderation, of course, but fueling up on water and food is a necessity. If you do need the adrenaline rush of caffeine make sure you ration your intake. As for food, stick to the health options and your body will thank you for it.

Refreshed now? Well then, you’re ready to be more productive.

11. Tune into music

Some people hate distractions while they work. Others find music soothes and helps them channel their creativity while listening to everything from Beyonce to Beethoven or Rachmaninoff to Rihanna.

If it helps you get things done, then start your playlist and start being productive.


Hanging around in airports needn’t be wasteful or boring, unless you allow it. Seize the moment and activate your task list. Think of these hours outside the office without the usual distractions as an ideal way to be productive. What is your top tip for airport productivity?

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