10 Things to Do on a Plane While Disconnected

Recently, I had a cross-country flight from Atlanta to San Francisco.

I was expecting to be online the entire flight. (Ah, the things we take for granted these days.)

My plans for doing some online research, preparing a client brief, and even conducting an inflight meeting via chat, all quickly evaporated.

However, being disconnected on the 5.5 hour flight didn’t mean that I couldn’t be productive.

With a little prior preparation, I was able to get quite a bit of work done while enroute.

Getting Work Done on a Plane

We often take our connectivity for granted these days.

Being disconnected can still be productive, it just takes a little bit more advance preparation.

In fact, the isolation can actually be a boon to getting some work done.

I got plenty done on my cross-country flight, even while I was cut off from the world.

Here are 10 Things to Do on a Plane While Disconnected:

  1. Reading – Even thought I am not a fan of physical books, Always bring something to read during the “no-electronics” period. Sometimes it lasts longer than you think. For example, when you are waiting on the runway waiting to take off. This trip, I was reading a copy of Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s new book The Impact Equation.  (affiliate link)
  2. Planning Review – I use Things for my Todo list. So, I was able to do a full review of all outstanding issues even while offline. It auto-magically synced all my changes once I landed.
  3. Watch Video – The night before I left, I had downloaded the latest Apple Keynote to my iPad. This allowed me to review it while disconnected from the Net.
  4. News & Articles – I read all of my favorite websites and news feeds while offline. I use Reeder to collect my RSS feeds for offline reading. As well, I use Pocket to save all the articles that I want to read later.
  5. Writing – I used iA Writer to write several blog posts ideas while airborne. It allows me to concentrate on one task… writing.
  6. Project Work – I was able to review my current book project. It was in my Dropbox, and thus locally synced to my laptop.
  7. Music – No Internet connection doesn’t have to mean no access to my Spotify library. I sync all my favorite playlists for offline listening.
  8. Processing Email – I love processing email offline. It eliminates the feeling of bailing your inbox, while more email pours in. I can batch process my email and then it all sends/updates when I land.
  9. Isolation – Working on a plane can be great because there are no interruptions other than the service cart. I put on my (cheap) sound isolation headphones and turn up the productivity music. (See #7)
  10. Unwind – Travel doesn’t have to be all work and grind. You might need to relax and recover a bit. I might have watched just a few minutes of the The Avengers on my iPad, as well.

Disconnected Can Still Be Productive

Even when you are disconnected on a plane, you can still be productive.

What do you need to bring in order to be productive during your next air travel?

Resist the urge to watch the inflight TV or shop the SkyMall magazine.

Instead, use the isolation time to concentrate and get some work done.

Question: What do you get done while traveling by plane?

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7 thoughts on “10 Things to Do on a Plane While Disconnected

  1. Hi,

    I really like this article.

    Actually, GTD principle suggest to have an “offline” list, e.g. reading articles you printed or books, newspapers etc.

    I personally catch up on RSS feeds, Pocket, videos (or TV on demand which you can download here in the UK). My favourite are evening flights: glass of wine, some nice music, a short power nap and then a brain storming session. Very productive flying. I almost find those inter-European flights of 2 hours far too short.

    My wife commented the other day “when you are coming home from a 2 hour flight you are more relaxed than coming back from the office”.

    Here we go!


  2. All very productive ideas! It’s quite good to incorporate “disconnected” work sessions into your plans because without all the interruptions of constant updates it can allow you to focus on your task without being tempted to check up on your latest social network news.

    Processing email has to be one of the best uses of flights! Like you said, you don’t get the replies right away so you can work through more messages.

  3. I find a plane to be perfect for working on large keyword files or content plans or something like this – tasks that require concentration. In the office, people always tend to interrupt me when I try to concentrate, but during flights I can finally get this stuff done.

  4. When I saw the title, I thought the list would be full of things completely disconnect from technology, not just the internet. Things like reading, doing puzzles or maybe even drawing. I went on a school trip this week which involved a two and half hour trip in which my friend and I drew a stickman battle across the page – completely untouched by iPods or phones.