Let’s face it: layovers can be stressful. Whenever possible, most prefer nonstop flights, even if they’re a little more expensive. But when you can’t book a non-stop flight you can make time spent at the airport more palatable by putting it to good use.
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, using your layover to tackle some work can help reduce to-do-list-induced stress whenever you finally arrive at your destination. But being productive at the airport is easier said than done. Here’s a look at must-read travel tips to make work happen—no matter where in the world you’re waiting to board.
1. Leave the noise and crowds behind
Some airport lounges can make a layover worthwhile. Once you leave the long security lines behind you, you can escape the noise, crowds and chaos too. Airport lounges transform the airport experience from an endurance test into a moment of indulgence.
Companies like Priority Pass offer membership access to over 900 airport lounges worldwide and a choice of three membership plans to suit your particular traveling needs. If you’re a frequent jet setter having access to independent airport lounge access worldwide is a no-brainer.
2. Create a workflow game plan
You wouldn’t show up to a four-hour investor meeting with no sense of the agenda. Likewise, if you’re planning to work during a layover, don’t just show up without a game plan.
Instead, decide what tasks you want to complete. Then consider whether you’ll actually have the time and mental energy to give your work the attention it requires (and adjust your task list if necessary). Preparing a workflow action plan before you take off will help ensure you can be truly productive whenever you touch back down.
3. Pack the right productivity gear
If you want to get more work done during your layover, make sure to pack the appropriate tech (e.g., WiFi backup, chargers, etc.) as well as any backup files or documents that are critical to the work you’re hoping to get done. Refer to your action plan in order to decide what to bring, and be sure to back up critical files to the cloud using apps like Dropbox so you can access them from anywhere.
Next, double-check that you have a charger or power cord for each of your devices, an extension cord in case airport outlets are hard to find, and noise-cancelling headphones if you’re prone to getting distracted.
Pack these essentials in your carry-on, then confirm that you’re not packing oversized or overweight luggage—to avoid having your precious work materials unexpectedly checked at the check-in counter.
4. Knockout busy work first
You know those tasks that you really should do, but have continually de-prioritized as more pressing issues arise? Layovers are a great time to take care of them—especially if you don’t have the time or mental energy to tackle more complex work.
Do some data entry, organize files on your laptop, try to hit inbox zero, write up a client report, or take care of any phone calls that have been lingering on your to-do list.
5. Get organized
Speaking of to-do lists: The airport is a great place to identify and prioritize upcoming tasks and projects. Take the time to write out a to-do list for the week, month, and quarter ahead of you. That way, whenever you’re back to the daily grind, you’ll know exactly what to take care of when—and you won’t lose valuable brain space to trying to sort out what matters most.
6. Prioritize personal development
Is there an e-book you downloaded to your laptop months ago, but have yet to read? New market research to review? A TED Talk you’ve been meaning to watch? Layovers are a great time to explore low-key professional development opportunities. Another option? Try striking up a conversation with travelers around you in order to do some networking.
7. Neaten up
If you’ll be heading into a business meeting or connecting with a colleague immediately after touching down at your destination, take the time to make sure your appearance is on point. Head to the airport or lounge bathroom to comb your hair, brush your teeth, change your shirt, or whatever you need to do in order to look presentable.
If all else fails? Just relax and let your mind wander. Boredom and down time can actually enhance creative thinking—so you may find that the solution to a big challenge at work comes when you’re not actively trying to solve it.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Kenny Kline is the owner of JAKK Solutions, a NYC-based SEO company. He is a digital marketing expert, MBA, and serial entrepreneurial. When not in front of his computer, he can be found beekeeping, knitting, and being as Brooklyn as humanly possible. Connect with @thisbekenny on Twitter.