While building the popular online news aggregator and blog, The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington would only sleep four to five hours a night.
Getting her online publication off its feet was certainly very demanding. Although The HuffPost was picking up well, Arianna was at the verge of collapsing. And she did collapse, breaking her cheekbone and injuring her right eye. That was the red flag for this successful, world-renowned publisher and business leader.
For Arianna, fainting out of exhaustion was the beginning of the end—the end of multitasking, under sleeping and overworking herself just so she can get ahead.
Today, she is campaigning for a redefinition of leadership and success, through her book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder and through her live conferences, The Third Metric.
Here are some new productivity lessons from Huffington that every leader should embrace:
Corporate and business culture has always applauded burnout as though it is something to be proud of.
Exhaustion is equated to productivity and hard work. As such, corporate leaders and entrepreneurs alike are overextending themselves in an effort to get things done, or look like they are getting things done. In my previous career in the commercial legal sector, this was the case for me also. The ‘norm’ was to work excessive hours, and by doing so, you gained your badge of honor and respect. But this approach was, and is, unsustainable in the long term and can lead to all kinds of problems.
According to Arianna, it is acceptable to have big dreams and to accomplish those dreams but not at the expense of your own well-being.
Contrary to popular belief, burnout is not about hard work and creativity. Rather, it really is about taking up so much more than you can handle.
Huffington aptly asserts that successful leaders are those who can see the red flags and the iceberg before the sink ships. If you are too busy multitasking and trying to get everything done, you will likely miss the warning signs of your failing body or an aspect of your business that needs fixing.
Solution: Make peace with your inability to do everything. Instead, focus your time and effort on what is really important. Extend the same practice to your employees; they do not have to burnout to prove that they are working hard.
In a world of big data, metrics and fast moving news and events, it is so easy to get lost in it all and make decisions that could adversely affects your business.
Arianna credits her success in her ability to listen to her intuition. She is able to make decisions based on her gut feeling in an industry that is inundated with big data and one that requires her to stay plugged in throughout.
Intuition is indeed underestimated and regarded as ‘woo-woo’ in the jagged corporate and business world. But intuitive leaders such as Steve Jobs, who was known to ‘go against the grain’ and do what he felt was best for his company, usually made sound decisions.
Without creativity, there is no innovation. In a highly competitive and fast changing business environment, innovation is indispensible.
At HuffPost offices, for example, employees are encouraged to take naps. This might seem counterproductive to fostering a space of creativity and industriousness but it allows employees to take a rest, clear their minds and come back to work with fresh perspectives.
Many companies are now embracing a more relaxed, casual office culture to foster an ethos of productivity through creative thinking.
While you do not have to make your office casual and laid-back, you can encourage your employees to approach work from a point of creativity and resourcefulness. For, example, by allowing them to work on side projects that foster their professional development and creative aptitude.
In her book, Thrive, Huffington lays out a step by step approach to adopting a less stressful, more mindful approach to leadership and success. Unplugging and taking time off for reflection is a recurring theme.
According to Huffington, “If you cannot disconnect, you cannot lead.” In the middle of building a business or running a company, it is easy to lose yourself and to become so disengaged from your business, your vision and ideas. In such a state, how could you possibly lead your team to success?
Engage in activities such as yoga and meditation to enhance productivity and general well-being.
Arianna Huffington’s suggestions on leadership, success and productivity are certainly contrarian. But, her wisdom is vital if you are looking to lead and live more mindfully and purposefully.
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