It’s important to find a balance between work and rest, especially when you’re on the road as often as I am. Even though I’m based in New York, I spend an average of only eight weekdays, plus weekends, in the city – the rest of the time, I’m traveling. Given my schedule, I have to be flexible about when and how I spend my downtime. I do, however, have two non-negotiables: my daily workout and eight hours of sleep every night. Those two things keep me balanced and help me function more effectively.
Believe it or not, the sleep component is the easier one to manage – if I’m up too late, I’ll just fall asleep. Some people say they can function on four or six hours of sleep; I’m not one of them. Sometimes I do have events or meetings scheduled for the evening time. If that’s the case, I’ll have an espresso before dinner. It also helps if the meeting is a really important one. But if goes too late, I’m done.
It’s funny, because these days people always ask me, “What keeps you up at night?” And, speaking as a political scientist, there is a lot to worry about – North Korea, Iran, Russia, trade war, etc etc etc… But my answer is always the same: It doesn’t matter what the daily worries are, I’m out like a light come bedtime. All those things will still be around, and I’ll be in a much better mood and clearer state of mind to think about them tomorrow.
Which brings me to my other non-negotiable: my daily workout. Working out clears my mind, boosts my energy, and readies me for the day ahead, which is why I like to do it first thing in the morning. I’m a routine person, so I usually wake up around six a.m. (fortunately, I’m also a morning person) and listen to NPR for half an hour before heading to the gym. There, I’ll do a little rowing, lift some weights, and run 5-10K on the treadmill, followed by a good stretch. If the weather is glorious, I’ll run outside instead of in the gym. The whole thing is about 75 minutes.
Of course, this routine is harder to stick to when I’m traveling. If that’s the case, I’ll work out as soon as I land – my folks understand this isn’t negotiable. No, really. Once, I had a full day of meetings scheduled in Japan. When I realized there wasn’t time for a workout, I asked my folks which meeting they were going to cancel. They thought I was joking. I said no, you can choose or I will, but we’re not doing one of the meetings. They chose. I was sorry to have to do it, and I apologized profusely to the person I would no longer be meeting with – you don’t just cancel meetings in Japan. But this was six years ago; nothing like it has happened since. And in the last decade, I’ve only missed two days of working out (on days I was sick). When you know you’re a little compulsive, it’s better to channel that energy into a compulsion that’s healthy. That’s my theory.
At the end of the day, life is all about balance. Until it isn’t. And maybe even then. But that’s a different piece.