You’re finally in Davos. Or shortly on your way. You’re packing, or unpacking, your winter gear. You have a list of people to contact when you land and a list of parties you want to hit.
And, of course, you have an expanding to-do list full of all the meetings and seminars on World Economic Forum themes such as responsible leadership, global economic trends, and how various market sectors can survive the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution.
That’s all great, but to do all that, you actually have to survive Davos yourself. So as we learn about how the world can make the best use of resources for a sustainable future, we need to do the same for ourselves. It’s like what they say on airplanes: Secure your own oxygen mask first before helping others.
So how do you not just survive this week, but make the most of it and thrive? Let’s start with the big one: Sleep. Even in normal circumstances, most people don’t get enough of it. Too many, including plenty at Davos, still buy into the delusion that sleep deprivation is a kind of badge of honor, or at least the price we have to pay to get ahead. But the science tells us – conclusively – the opposite: We’re more productive, creative, make better decisions and perform better cognitively when we’re well-rested.
But sleep is even more challenging when you’re traveling across several time zones. Jet-lag can wreak real havoc, leading to depression, faulty memory and impaired judgment – not exactly the recipe for a productive week.
There are proven ways to mitigate jet-lag. First tip: Put down that food. Researchers have found that when food is plentiful, our circadian rhythms are strongly linked to cycles of light and dark. But when food is scarce, our system uncouples from the light-dark cycle to allow for more time to find food, helping you adjust more quickly to your new time zone. Research suggests that not eating at all for around 16 hours can trigger this response. So, for a 10-hour flight, you should stop eating six hours before and then refrain from those in-fight goodies during the flight itself.
Or, there’s actually something called the Anti-Jet-Lag-Diet, created by the biologist Charles Ehret. Four days before your flying, alternate two cycles of feasting and fasting, switching every two days, making sure to sync the last fasting day with your travel day.
Though one of the best jet-lag tips is this: Don’t start off already lagging! Getting ready for any work trip can be nearly as hectic as being there, so don’t forget to get enough sleep where it’s easiest: In your own bed.
So, now you’ve touched down, and, however jet-lagged, you need to get some sleep while you’re in Davos. Even when you’re not at a bustling conference, sleep in any new venue is challenging. And scientists know why. It’s called the “first night-effect.” What happens is that on our first night in a new environment, parts of our brains stay active and alert for threats (which at the WEF might mean someone breaking into your room and disrupting your sleep to talk about disruption).
So because you can’t control being in a new environment, you should control what you can. Along with your winter boots — and, if you’re adventurous, your ski gear — make sure to bring your regular nighttime routine with you (it takes up no space in your carry-on). Sleep in your regular nighttime clothes, drink the same tea, read the same book. Whatever your routine is, keep it…routine. And, very important – don’t sleep with your phone on or near your bed. Our devices are our repositories of everything we need to distance ourselves from to go to sleep – our work, to-do-lists, worries and anxieties. So physically distancing yourself from your phone will help you sleep, and ensure you both wake up fully charged.
The fight against ‘Schedule Creep’
So that’s the nighttime, what about the daytime? Of course, the two are connected. That’s why it’s important to guard against Schedule Creep – especially daunting in Davos. The WEF Annual Meeting can be overwhelming – there seems to be no end to fascinating and valuable panels and forums. And while they’re all worthwhile, being able truly to take in insights about Responsible Leadership requires Responsible Conference-Going. Don’t try to do too much. And, do you really need to catch that night-cap with someone you can just as easily see next week at home?
And unlike the machines, robots, and artificial intelligence algorithms you’ll hear about as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, humans need downtime. So build some into your days – time to take a break, meet some new people, wander, or just wonder. You’ll be much more present and focused for the panels – and parties – you said yes to. And having regular downtime during the day to digest all that you’ve learned will make it more likely you’ll be able to say goodnight to all the excitement when you get back to your hotel, having responsibly said no to that nightcap.
Unlike Las Vegas, the point of the WEF is that what goes on in Davos shouldn’t stay in Davos, but instead go back home with participants from all over the world. And for that to happen, for you to be truly present, open to collaboration, able to have insights and make connections you wouldn’t have at home, you need to take care of yourself, sleep, and build in some unstructured time. Oh, and if you hit the slopes, take it easy – Davos is a lot less fun in a cast.
Arianna Huffington is the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, the founder of The Huffington Post, and the author of 15 books, including, most recently, Thrive and The Sleep Revolution. You can follow her on Twitter @ariannahuff