Contessa on the Go: Don't Let Business Trip Jet Lag Ruin Your Routine
Work + Life Balance

Contessa on the Go: Don't Let Business Trip Jet Lag Ruin Your Routine

by Khaleelah Jones
Photos Stephanie Yang | October 02, 2015

JET LAG CAN BE DEBILITATING, BUT BY SETTING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES WHILE ON THE GO, YOU'LL ENSURE YOU'RE THE MOST PRODUCTIVE, TALENTED VERSION OF YOURSELF.

Business trips can be tiring, regardless of how much you love to travel. Take it from me: I'm London-based but, with most of my clients in San Francisco, I feel like jet lag is an old friend. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve used it as an excuse for skipping the gym, eating Chinese takeout at 2am, and lying in bed, ignoring texts and coffee dates, for whole weekends at a time.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though! With a little preparation, good communication to manage expectations, and some self-discipline to “play through the pain” that first day, you don’t need to let jet lag ruin your routine.

MANAGE EXPECTATIONS

Manage expectations on the other side. You may think you’re going to get some sleep on the flight making it tempting to make appointments as soon as you land. Even if you are one of those lucky few who can doze on planes, though, plan to take your first afternoon as easy as possible. Only schedule appointments that are absolutely critical, and when booking, don’t be afraid to let people know you’ll have just come from a flight. Generally, setting expectations gives you a little leeway to request flexibility with meeting times, and if there’s no way around some meetings as soon as you arrive, communicating your travel itinerary means you’ll earn the respect of (and, hopefully, some coffee from) your clients or colleagues.

Setting expectations gives you a little leeway to request flexibility with meeting times. Communicating your travel itinerary means you’ll earn the respect of your clients or colleagues.

Only schedule appointments that are absolutely critical, and when booking, don’t be afraid to let people know you’ll have just come from a flight.

Keep yourself awake until bedtime. If you’re on a trip that allows you to gain time, such as going from PST to EST this shouldn’t be such a problem, but if you lose time, you could find this to be quite the task—you’ll more than likely feel very, very tired. Here’s the trick: if you stay up until at least 9 or 10 pm, you’ll start to set your body clock to local time. {Click to Tweet} You may still find yourself awake at the crack of dawn, but at least you’ll be well on your way to acclimating to the local time. And with all that extra time in the morning, try the next tip.

PREPARE

Book hotels with a gym. Some hotels give free or reduced access to hotel guests. If that doesn’t work, go for a run around the block. If you exercise regularly, this will keep you in shape until you can pick up your regular routine at home. If you don’t, try it anyway. Exercise will be more effective than a morning coffee to wake you up, and make you more ready for sleep when it’s time to hit the hay the next evening.

Pack good food or Google your nearest grocery stores. There’s a myth that you can’t eat out of a hotel. Even if all you have is a coffee maker, you can pack healthy snacks, such as dried fruit and veggie chips in your carry-on, and you can find your nearest grocery store or deli to pick up breakfasts to keep in the hotel fridge or healthy salads for lunch and dinner. If you have to eat out, try to stick with foods you’d usually eat at home, or even slightly healthier options. Lay off the sauce, too. Too much alcohol will just make it harder to sleep.

Here’s the trick: if you stay up until at least 9 or 10 pm, you’ll start to set your body clock to local time. 

SELF-DISCIPLINE

Take a bath and enjoy yourself a little. If you’re lucky enough to have a bath in your hotel, or a sauna, why not unwind in the evening with a little R&R? The number one mistake I’ve made on business trips is booking myself straight through the day and night, and not taking even one minute to unwind. I’d never do that at home. Give yourself at least a few hours a day to yourself and try to relax, even if it’s just reading a book (or a Career Contessa article!) for an hour before bed. This will help you retain as much energy as possible for the day ahead—as well as keep some energy reserved for your return home.

Although business trips are never the time or place to unwind 100%, you need to keep a simulacrum of your work/life balance to make them productive, and keep you ticking along until you’re home again. {Click to Tweet} If you follow these tips, you should also find you have enough energy to jump back into your routine when you’re back so you don’t have to recover all weekend on the couch in front of Netflix.

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Got a trick we didn't mention for beating jet lag? Leave us a comment.