I travel a lot and since my kids are little and I don’t want Frank to go crazy, I try to make the trips as short as possible. Which means I often travel 8 time zones away for just a couple of days.
I’ve tried lots of different ways of coping with jet lag on short trips and here are my secrets to success.
- Jet lag doesn’t bother you. Seriously, you must convince yourself that jet lag is not a big deal. If you spend all your time worrying about it, talking about it and complaining about it, well, then, jetlag will always bother you. Repeat after me “jet lag is no big deal”. Not on a trip of 2-5 days! Seriously, you might be a bit tired, but aren’t you often a bit tired at home too? Nobody gets enough sleep every day at home or on the road. Plus, after reading this post, jetlag really won’t be a big deal.
- Sleep on the airplane – especially east bound. Read John Graham-Cummings’ excellent post about how to sleep on a long haul flight.
- Keep yourself busy during the day – especially the first day. Try not to set up a schedule where you’ll be passively watching presentations or sitting in a slow meeting the first day.
- Sleep when you’re tired whenever you can. Conventional wisdom says you should stay awake until it’s time to go bed local time. While that works to help reset your clock in the following days, if you are only going to be there a few days, I recommend getting the sleep whenever you can. Plus, if you are on a short business trip, it’s likely you’ll be getting up early and staying up late with breakfast meetings, dinner meetings and post dinner meetings.
- Don’t feel guilty about naps. I used to feel guilty about taking a nap in the middle of the afternoon. (I so rarely do it that it feels like a luxury.) Then I realized that I never sleep more than 8 hours total in any 24 hours – and rarely that on business trips – so it’s not like I’m lazying around in bed all day.
- Don’t worry about what time it is at home. Except for making sure you don’t accidentally wake up your spouse, don’t worry about what time it is at home. You can fool your body easily. On my trip to Berlin on Wednesday, I fell asleep on my second flight. After a few hours of sleep I was exhausted and felt like I was waking up in the middle of the night. I found it amusing that it was only 8pm at home. Basically I had just taken a long afternoon nap but my body was convinced it was the middle of the night. So don’t worry about it. Sleep when you can, be awake when you need to be and don’t worry about what time it is at home.
- Stay away from alcohol unless you are planning on sleeping in the near future.
- Use good sleep habits. When you get a chance to sleep make sure you are doing your best. Make sure the room is dark and quiet (or wear ear plugs and an eye covering.) Wear whatever you normally sleep in. Try to keep the room cool. Think about something that makes you sleepy. etc.
- If you can’t sleep, don’t stress. If you get a chance to sleep and you can’t, don’t worry about it. Get up and work or work out or read a book. Use the time to get stuff done. Sleep later. Or don’t. Just don’t stress about sleeping.
- Do as much work as possible before the trip. It’s really hard to be on a business trip and keep up with all your email and regular work. Try to get ahead as much as possible. If you are really tired the afternoon before your talk and you have a chance to take a nap, you don’t want to have to work on your slides. You want to take a nap so that you can be awake during your presentation!
Does this work for you? Anything you would add?