If you’re anything like me, you’re just about as likely to be able to fall asleep on a plane as you are to win the lottery. For a two hour flight, that’s fine. I’ll just stay awake and won’t feel like I’ve wasted too much time. But when we approach 10+ hour territory, not so much. And what about a red-eye to an obscure time zone? Ooh, honey…

I usually embark on a flight with high hopes and a to-do list that looks a little something like this:

  1. Read 4 books
  2. Learn American Sign Language
  3. Pen the next Great American Novel
  4. Devise a business idea to pay off my student loans
  5. Make peace with my past, present, and future

Approximately one eternity later, I find that I have completed the following:

  1. Watch the same animated movie 2.65 times
  2. Scroll through my camera roll from 2011 to present-day
  3. Use a friend’s T-Mobile number for a free hour of Wi-Fi
  4. Plan an entire life with the cute stranger from the security line
  5. Become wildly insecure about the shape of my thumbs

Something about being up in the air makes it so easy to transform into a slug for the duration of the flight. A grumpy slug, at that. Word on the street is that grumpy slugs aren’t so good at Sign Language.

So, to end this struggle once and for all, I’ve come up with a few ideas to help keep you from wasting away the hours in-flight that could be game-changers.

Know thyself.

First and foremost, you need to take a look in the mirror and realize what productivity looks like for you. Because we can’t all have the laser focus it takes to complete a task all in one go. Think about what you need to get done and how you can do it best. Then, translate that into actual planning.

Take your time.

One thing that stems from knowing yourself is knowing what is realistic for you to accomplish. The list I set out with earlier… probably not the most practical. To give yourself too much to do is overwhelming from the start and could leave you without even knowing where to start.

Coffee, baby!

If you’re anything like me, you’re going to need some brain fuel to get shit done, especially on a flight that departs at 2 in the morning. And even if it’s not the artisanal espresso you may prefer, airplane coffee is freeeeeeee! So load up when the flight attendants scoot by and drink up. Just be sure to pace yourself so you don’t end up taking 14 trips to the bathroom.

Patience really is a virtue.

Try alternating time spent working and being productive with time to unplug and let your mind wander. This might look like taking notes for 45 minutes followed by 15 minutes of free writing. Or reading for 45 then doodling for 15. The important thing is to use your brain in a different way for a while as a reward for your hard work.

Patience really is a virtue.

(Also, don’t look down if you’re as afraid of heights as I am.)

I don’t know what it is about flying, but it somehow turns me into the most melodramatic son of a bitch that I’ve ever been. I’m talking listening to sad music, writing letters to exes, and wondering where on Earth my life is heading. Dark territory, especially if I’m beginning an exciting trip.

To prevent a downward spiral, remind yourself how far you’ve come and where you’re heading! Because if you’re reading this blog, I can guarantee that your future is looking bright, and no embarrassing encounter from 5 years ago should distract you from that.

Don’t look back, leave it all on the track.

Anybody remember that weird horse movie Racing Stripes??

At the end of the day, your flight is your flight, and you should use that time however you need. If jamming out to your middle school playlist is the only thing on your agenda, more power to you. But we’ve all been there, when you somehow find yourself squeezing in an exotic weekend getaway followed by a return trip that lands 2 hours before the start of finals week. So, if you need to maximize the potential of your travel time, I hope this list can be of some assistance!

Originally published on Shut Up And Go.

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