Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Up early and often

I've grown pretty philosophical about jet lag.

When I first started working, it was something to shoulder through or fight. For the CEO of my first company, it was a point of pride to step off a plane and into the office. He'd put in a full day, no matter whether it meant falling asleep in meetings by lunchtime or wobbling a bit unsteadily on his heels at 4 pm. Predictably, it bred a culture of emulation that made everyone arrive at work, worthless, on the day after a long trip. The machismo is great for 25; impractical by 40.

The flight and travel magazines always have suggestion about achieving the right water –alcohol mix, getting sleep on the plane, avoiding certain foods. I took the occasional sleeping pill to relax on transcontinental flights, managing to pull a few hours rest. But one sad day a combination of wine with dinner, cold meds, and the little blue pill all hit synergy: I got up to stretch my legs and woke up with beneath oxygen mask after passing out in the aisle. Now I avoid all three religiously on flights.

Arriving a day early to adjust is expensive, and there's always that temptation to go sightseeing rather than to go to bed.

Melatonin works great: a couple of tablets 30 minutes before bed on the first two night does help me to sleep through the night without waking at 3 am. The alternative is to plug in a podcast when I wake up and quiet my fin down by listening to an interview or commentary.

Lately, though, I have tended to just go with it. Expat's tend to live off of the land anyway, making do with life as they find it and taking the opportunities brought by the unexpected. Same with jet lag; rather than fight it, I am simply accommodating it. Up early in the morning, take advantage of the couple of hours of quiet to think, read, or write, maybe prepare a recommendation or have a plan outlined ahead of the breakfast meeting. In the evenings, well, what's so bad about going to bed at 8:30 or 9 if I'm tired?

And if I don't wrench my body to a new cycle while I'm away, then there's that much less accommodation that has to be made when I get back. Win-win.
Now, if only I can find a way to make people stop scheduling 7 am breakfast meetings.  Too much heavy food; too many heavy eyes.

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