The office-based workplace looks a lot different than it once did.

The high-pitched beep of the fax machine has been replaced with modern sounds of the times. From cubicles to ergonomic desks and home offices, our workspaces are increasingly pushing into different landscapes and timezones as we move further and further from traditional workplaces.

A study commissioned by Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk found that by 2020, 50% of the US workforce will be freelancers in some capacity. Productivity is always a hot topic and that is certainly true when working from diverse workspaces.

We expect to see articles like ‘How to be Productive From the Driverless Car’ on the horizon soon, but in the meantime, we will take on productivity tips for the airplane, while travelling, from home and on-the-go.
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Productivity Tips For The Airplane

Whether you’re travelling for business or you’re a freelancer trying to meet a deadline while also attending a wedding, working while suspended at 39,000 feet is an increasingly common occurrence.

Some are at their most productive while on the airplane (chatty coworkers are at bay), but there are certainly challenges that still exist, from WIFI connectivity issues, if there is WIFI at all, to cramped spaces. Here is how to make the most out of your 39,000 foot high temporary office.

1) Inform Your Team & Set Up Out-of-Office Reminders

Before you leave, it is important to update your team to hammer out any important details and to inform them of when you will be available.

If you fail to do this, problems can quickly escalate while you’re away and you may have an additional ten tasks to take care of later. Don’t forget to send those out-of-office reminders while you’re at it.

2) Book Flights with Wi-fi and Power Outlets (But Don’t Worry if you Can’t)

Planning is always important, and that is especially true during travel. If an Internet connection is necessary for your work, you can book flights with WIFI. Most airplane comparison websites will have this listed, although it may require a little digging.

You will also want to ensure that your plane has power outlets (and whether your seat is equipped with them, because not all are) so that you have enough battery power to see you through your work.

If you already have your flight booked, you can use SeatGuru to see what amenities your flight offers, like WIFI and power, allowing you to plan accordingly. If you travel a lot, you might want to consider purchasing a monthly or annual pass with Gogo, the Internet provider of many different airlines. It is also a good idea to choose flights where you tend to be most alert. If you are a morning person, book flights during this time and vice versa.

Don’t forget to charge your laptop or other device that you are going to be working with during the flight. You might want to also invest in an external battery for your laptop or smartphone, just in case, but make sure it meets the requirements for carrying it onboard.

3) Plan Your Tasks

The foundation of productivity, whether on a plane or not, is determining what tasks you’re going to accomplish based on the time allotted.

For shorter flights, you might want to focus on easier tasks like clearing your inbox while more complex tasks like writing can be designated to longer flights.

Planning your tasks in advance not only allows you to focus your priorities, but also gives you time to ensure that you have all of the tools you need to complete those tasks.

4) Download the Necessary Offline Extensions and Tools

Do you plan to answer emails on your flight but without the certainty of having an Internet connection? Even if your flight does have WIFI, you may want to have that additional layer of protection in case it’s slow or you come up against other problems.

The Chrome extension Gmail Offline allows you to read, respond and search through your emails without Internet access. To use Google Docs while offline, you can set up Google Docs, Sheets and Slides offline. If you have web pages that you are going to need to access while offline, you can easily save them. Click here to find out how to do it. Pocket is the smartphone version.

Don’t forget to bring along a screen protector if you’re working on sensitive business documents - they prevent people from being able to view your computer screen.

5) Maximize Takeoff/Landing Time

A lot of time is spent waiting for people to board and also during takeoff and landing when your tables have to be stowed and electronics typically need to be turned off. It is not all that uncommon to experience delays, either.

This is a great time to pull out your notebook and pen and do some brainstorming or to catch up on any reading that you need to do.

6) Optimize Your Environment

First of all, you will want to think about how to make yourself relatively comfortable during your flight. Consider whether you prefer an aisle or window seat. If you like a lot of space, you might want to consider upgrading your seat.

You’ll want to invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to cancel out any crying babies and constant announcements. Dress comfortably.

Otherwise, the same kind of optimization tips that you would apply to your own office workspace, like working in sunlight (leave your shade up a bit), warmer conditions (planes are notoriously chilly, so don’t be afraid to ask the flight attendant for a blanket) and turn on the in-flight music if you prefer.

You should already be in a relatively ergonomic position, although you may want to even bring your own lumbar cushion for your back to avoid back pain, especially if you’re on a long flight. It is also especially important to stay hydrated (don’t forget to pack an empty water bottle and fill it up at the airport) but to also stand up and stretch your legs on the hour.

While Travelling

You’ve maximized your time on the plane, but what about the rest of the trip? A large part of being productive while travelling is filling those gaps of time with tasks. Just because you’re in the car, doesn’t mean you can’t be getting things done.

1) Get Things Done In Advance

You will be in a much better position if you can accomplish some tasks in advance of travelling instead of giving yourself a giant to-do list or overbooking yourself. Here’s how you can go about getting things done in advance.

2) Create a (Realistic) Schedule

It is important to create a schedule of all of the tasks that you plan to complete on each day of your trip. By having a goal to work toward, you are much more likely to actually complete those tasks. Keep in mind that you will want to be realistic about your schedule.

Travelling comes with a lot of unexpected events; to avoid overbooking yourself and overwhelming yourself in the process, schedule things into your calendar with flexibility in mind.

Although you may have grand plans to take on that report the moment you get to your hotel, you may find that you’re tired after a plane ride. In short, be realistic about how much you can accomplish.

If you’re looking to work during your vacation time, it can be helpful to set a designated period of time - perhaps two hours - and commit to it each and every day. Just ensure that everything is on board, children and pets included.

3) Use Unexpected Downtime: Car Rides For Phone Calls

Maximize your time in cars for any phone calls you need to do - it’s a great way to maximize your time. Just ensure that you’re using a hands-free headset if you’re driving.

4) Use Keyboard Shortcuts on your Smartphone

You may find yourself with a lot of odd moments to answer emails while not necessarily having access to your laptop. Use keyboard shortcuts to save time while responding to emails and stay up to date with clients on the go.

5) Set up a Mock Office Away From Home

When working in an unfamiliar environment, it can be difficult to get to work. To get around this, set up your temporary office with everything you need. Often times, we just need these visual cues to get us into working-mode.

6) Network Wherever Possible

At the end of the day, it may be tempting to retreat back to your hotel room. Don’t miss out on further opportunities for networking, perhaps over dinner. This is a great way to maximize your time.

Pro Tip: Take a picture and follow-up when you’re back so that they remember you. Also don’t forget to bring your business card. A great tip, courtesy of Forbes, is to take your company’s paper and write a handwritten note to be sent to your new contact.

7) Eat Healthy and Exercise - Even on the Road

It can be tempting to make less than healthy choices, especially given that finding healthy options is not always easy.

Consider getting a room with a kitchen and stocking up on groceries ahead of time. Fit in exercise, even if just a quick hotel-room workout. Get adequate rest each night.

Getting Work From Home

If you aren’t spending time at your office, chances are you are working from home. Here’s how to be your most productive.

1) Work when You Are at Your Best

There is conflicting information on when you should work to be productive. But, the point is to work at the hours that you find you are most productive.

2) Use Productivity Hacks

When a deadline is in the distant future, procrastination becomes easy. It can be easy to give in to various distractions at home, such as a looming pile of laundry. In general, you want to treat your time at home as if you were at the office.

To prevent further procrastination, take small steps first. Try out the Pomodoro technique, which requires that you only work for 25 minutes, followed by a small break. You repeat this four times and then take a longer break.

This can be a helpful way to get started when you’re tempted to procrastinate. Reward yourself when you complete a task.

3) Retain Work-Life Balance

If you are a freelancer who works from home, it is important to work on a work-life balance if you want to keep stress low and avoid burnout.

Research shows that people who work long hours are actually unproductive. After 50 hours of work, productivity declines and that is especially true after 55 hours. Moreover, longer hours are associated with adverse health outcomes.

Set designated times to end work so that you don't end up working late into the evening.

Getting Work Done Everywhere Else

Freelance work and flexible schedules take you to many different workspaces, from the doctor’s office to your child’s soccer game. Don’t let your productivity be determined by one location.

It’s not always easy to get into work mode in a new environment, but these tips will help you turn any workspace into a makeshift office.

1) Keep Your Tools Easily Accessible

Designate a specific bag for all of your work tools and keep it handy. Then, when you’re on the way out, you can quickly locate it and fill it just a few things to complete your tasks, making it easy to get things done on-the-go.

2) Use Dead Space

Working from your child’s soccer game doesn’t mean just working from your kid’s game - you have all of that time travelling to the actual game that you can also use. Be mindful of this time and make use of it whenever you can.

Whether you conduct a meeting via a hands-free headset or you use the time to brainstorm, use this time to your advantage.

3) Assign Tasks and Use Timers

To make the most out of your time and eliminate distractions that arise in these environments, you have to get yourself into hyper-focus mode.

You can do that by assigning a task to complete in the allotted time (a one hour soccer game, for example) and setting a timer. Setting a timer allows you to focus on the task at hand. but there are other ways to get yourself into hyper-focus mode.

It is always a good idea to have your to-do list easily accessible so you can remind yourself of what tasks need to be completed while you are on the go. As workspaces continue to shapeshift, we will need to continue to not only sharpen our tools, but also shapeshift alongside them so that regardless of what our workspace looks like, we are as efficient and productive as possible.

Author's Bio: 

Arash is the CEO of and the Managing Partner of Arete Venture Capital. He was named the Top Forty under 40 business executive by Business in Vancouver and The 30 Most Creative CEOs to Watch in 2018 by Insight Success Magazine. As a co-founder and CEO of, Arash has built the startup from ground-up to a staff of over 25 people - winning the prestigious Silicon Valley's Top 50 Startup award amongst 2000 companies in over 13 Countries.