Arianna Huffington on Burning Out at Work
I disagree with a policy of needing to be at the office. I don’t want rules about where people work. The whole debate around where you work is just a tiny part of what we’re dealing with. Because we’re able to work from everywhere, we’re expected to work from everywhere. You answer e-mails until midnight and get up to answer more at 7 in the morning. What I say to people here is, “Once you leave the office, unless there’s an emergency, you’re off.”
I learned this the hard way. Five years ago, I fainted from exhaustion. It was still the early days of building the Huffington Post. I’d just returned home from a college tour with my daughter, where I’d agreed not to be on my BlackBerry while we were looking around. We stayed in hotels where she would go to sleep and I’d start working. When I got back to my office, I fainted, hit my head on my desk, broke my cheekbone, and had to get five stitches around my right eye. It got me thinking about what kind of life I was leading. I was getting four to five hours of sleep a night. I had to slow down and reevaluate the choices I was making.
The toughest part was disconnecting from all my devices, especially as I was running an online media company. I thought people would need an answer, things would be left undone. I had to get better at living with incompletion. I learned to say no to things I wanted to do. The reality was I couldn’t do it all.
It wasn’t easy. It’s a process. I now charge my devices in another room. I go to bed with a real book, not a Kindle. I don’t always get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, but I try. I start my day by meditating. I do yoga. I’ve tried to stop multitasking. I am much more able to deal with challenges. I think I’m more creative because I don’t miss the subtle things, what Steve Jobs called listening to the whisperings.
Women need to define success differently than men. If you don’t learn to unplug and recharge, you’re not going to be as good a leader. Look at the price we’re paying. Look at the increase in heart disease and diabetes for career women. If success continues to be defined as driving yourself into the ground and burning out, it will be disastrous for our families, our companies, and our world. We have so many people making terrible decisions, despite the fact that they have high IQs and great degrees. If success doesn’t include your own health and happiness, then what is it? — As told to Diane Brady