A few weeks ago Auren made a point that I always think about when I’m on airplanes and see people squeeze their elbows in and struggle to open and use their laptops. Unless you’re in a spacious first class cabin, working on your laptop during a flight is almost always sub-optimal from a productivity perspective.
Your efficiency at the activity is affected by the physical environment you find yourself in. Flights can be bumpy, elbow room skimpy, and wi-fi or power sources non-existent. Yet many people make it a habit to work on their laptop all during a flight. Sure, there are some times when you absolutely have to get some work done, but this isn’t every day.
The single most efficient activity to do on a plane, in my opinion, is reading. I get tons of reading done of a flight, due to my physical immobility, consistent light, and general quiet (especially if you’re wearing a Bose headset).
To take the reading point one step further, some types of reading are better for different environments. I usually read harder stuff / academic books on airplanes because I have maximum concentration. I usually read magazines and lighter fare (paperback) on the stationary bike because there are noises and, well, I’m exercising. In the car I listen primarily to fiction audiobooks, because I have less a desire to underline / take notes with fiction. In bed I read hard stuff (and anything I want to remember — we remember that which we read / do right before going to bed). At restaurants or cafes, when I’m reading alone, I usually bring magazines or articles because they’re easier to fold and place on a table while you’re eating (impossible with hardbacks).
So, when thinking about what you’re going to do, think about where you’re going to be, and how that place will affect your productivity at completing the activity.