Party! Booze! Sugar! Business Travel Rocks!

by | Health, Productivity, Travel

At home do you….

Exercise, wind down at 8pm, make sure you eat at least one vegetable, stick to 1-2 cups of coffee, stop at one cookie, and stop checking email after 9?

When you travel do you…

Hit snooze, check email until 11pm, eat fast food, drink coffee all day long, take advantage of the corporate per diem at the bar, keep yourself awake by eating cookies all afternoon and forget what a vegetable is?

What happens to us when we travel for business? It took me years to figure out how to get a handle on it. That per diem called my name to spend every penny. That tray of cookies at the all day meeting whispered in my ear. The stress of my email made me stare at a screen until I tried to go to sleep. I watched TV in bed even though I forbid a TV in my room at home.

I was like a different person.

I see this in people all the time. I have one client who said he feels like he is on an all-expense paid party that he not only has to attend, he has to host. He's wining and dining clients, afraid if he doesn't drink it will make them feel awkward. He's the first to show up and the last to go back to his room. He opens his computer and before he knows it, it's 2am.  Tired, he starts his day with an espresso drip and keeps it coming all day until his veins are shot.

 Wired and Tired

Jack and Crash


You need 'em. You're not on vacation. Your body doesn't care that you have $75 to spend or that you're celebrating a sale. Your brain doesn't give you any leeway to grow new pathways just because you have a deadline and you need to stay up all night. Every night. When you're on vacation or you only travel once or twice a year – go for it. It's normal to let your guard down. But travel for your job? Travel weekly or monthly? The only way you aren't going to burn-out, get sick or end up with the ‘travel 15′ is to set boundaries and stick to 'em.

  • Alcohol. I don't drink. Ever. Yes, I am one of those people who actually says they don't drink and they really don't, at least not since the 8th grade 🙂  I have nothing against alcohol but felt I needed to put that out there for the people who know me personally who may say ‘of course she would say to set limits!' Anyway, to me, I would consider several things if I did drink:


    • This is a business meeting. Do I want to do anything or say anything with this person that I might regret?
    • Is this person my boss, peer or someone who needs to see me at my best and not my shuffling feet or slurred words?
    • What do I need to do in the morning? Do I need to wake up feeling good since alcohol affects REM sleep?
    • Do I want the empty calories?
    • Am I only drinking out of social pressure?

If you are always having after-work drinks or dinners out, set a limit. Maybe it's one drink per meeting or no more than three times in a week. Get a drink that looks like a drink if you don't want people asking you about it. Whatever you do…don't go on and on about why you aren't drinking. Just say you have to pace yourself through the week or that it affects your sleep too much and you need to get a good night in since you're in a hotel bed. Tell them you want to make sure you hit the gym or go for a run in the morning and you want to feel good while doing it. Just state what it is and move on. Whatever you do, don't make them feel bad about it.

  • Sugar. What is the deal with the cookie and brownie trays at meetings? The cookies are the size of pancakes and are offered at lunch or in the afternoons when most people naturally have an energy dip. This is the WORST time to be eating cookies, yet….

    • Have the cookie because otherwise you would be obsessed with the cookie. It's right there in front of me. I can smell the cookie. The cookie wants me to eat it. Everyone else is having a cookie. Damn the person who ordered these delicious cookies. Yep. I know what you are saying to yourself. If this is you, try having half the amount you normally would have. If you have two, have one. If you have one, have half.
    • If you are eating out of boredom or to keep yourself awake save some of your lunch for the afternoon. I do this often. Since I have to be gluten-free, I end up not being able to have that kind of stuff anyway so I always save some fruit or veggies for later.
    • If you don't want to be the only one not eating a cookie, simply say sugar makes you sleepy (it does for everyone, after they come down from the high) and you want to be alert for the meeting. Say you are sensitive to sugar and you are trying to cut back. Just don't vilify the people eating the sugar. Focus on how it affects YOU.
    • If you are the person ordering the cookies, stop ordering cookies! I used to offer fruit and nuts in the afternoon and hardly anyone ever complained. I actually had people thank me!
  • Exercise. Be realistic. I know a lot of people who have intentions of going to the hotel gym and never make it there. Most people let their program go to the toilet when they travel.

    • If you normally work out for 45 minutes at home, count on half that time when you travel. 
    • Focus on getting at least 10 minutes in the morning. That way you have at least gotten something in if your evening plans change or your flight is delayed. Try the 10 by 10® Challenge with Lift!
    • Don't want to pack extra clothes or shoes? Don't! Work out in your unders 🙂
  • Phone. Are you available 24 hours a day when you're at home? Then why are you when you travel?

    • Create office hours. Just because you are on a business trip doesn't mean you are working 24 hours the entire time you are gone. I have an iPhone so I set up a Do Not Disturb between 8pm and 8am. This means that I don't get calls between those hours unless they are from someone on my favorites list. Your hours could be different but you should definitely adjust that setting on your phone.
    • Put your phone in airplane mode when you sleep. This isn't just a tip for not getting calls, but you really don't want that phone on near your head while you sleep. There is enough research out there to say that there hasn't been enough research – turn it off for your health.
    • Use an app that syncs with your calendar during meetings to automagically silence all calls. Alternatively, put your phone in silent or DND. I do this for most of my meetings so I'm not distracted.
  • Email. Stuck in the email drip and checking your phone 150 times a day? That's the average. Believe it or not.

    • Create office hours. Same thing as the phone. We treat people how we respond to emails. Just because we have instant access, doesn't mean email is urgent. If you act like a rat, you'll keep getting the pellet.
    • When you are processing email on your phone, there is really only three things you can do – Delete, Archive and quick Replies. Everything else should stay unopened if you are practicing O.H.I.O.

You can create boundaries when you travel. Business travel isn't your job, it's a lifestyle. You have to create a routine out of non-routine to stay on top of your health and productivity.

What's your hardest boundary to set when you travel?

Want actionable, health-powered productivity tips in less than 15 minutes?
check out our podcast!


“Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.”

jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects


You have Successfully Subscribed!