Arianna Huffington – Interview on How to Avoid Burnout at Work

I spoke to Arianna Huffington, who is the chair, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, a nationally syndicated columnist, and author of fourteen books. Her latest book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder makes an impassioned and compelling case for the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today’s world. In May 2005, she launched The Huffington Post, a news and blog site that quickly became one of the most widely-read, linked to, and frequently-cited media brands on the Internet. In 2012, the site won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. For daily updates from Arianna, you can follow her on Twitter at @ariannahuff. In the following brief interview, Huffington talks about why workers get burned out, how to manage your time so you don’t get burned out, how to manage your mind and body to get more energy and how other people can save you from burnout.

Dan Schawbel: Do you think more workers today are getting burned out than a decade ago? Why or why not?

Arianna Huffington: Yes. There are many factors, but the ubiquity of smartphones—which can keep us tethered to our work 24/7—is certainly one of them. You used to be able to leave the office at the end of the day or for the weekend. Now we carry around our offices with us—and our work can intrude on any moment. Call it an iParadox: our smartphones are actually blocking our path to wisdom. We are finding it harder and harder to unplug and renew ourselves. As Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist who studies the science of self-control at Stanford’s School of Medicine put it, “People have a pathological relationship with their devices. People feel not just addicted, but trapped.”  

Schawbel: How do you manage your time so that you don’t get burned out?

Huffington: Each day starts with the night before! Getting enough sleep (which for me means 7-8 hours) is the priority to avoid burnout. And if, for some reason I can’t do it, trying to fit in a nap. Meditation and yoga are two other regular practices that help, and so is managing my relationship with technology. In Thrive, I advise having a specific time at night when you regularly turn off your devices— and gently escort them out of your bedroom. Disconnecting from the digital world will help you reconnect to your wisdom, intuition, and creativity. And when you wake up in the morning, don’t start your day by looking at your smartphone. Take one minute— trust me, you do have one minute— to breathe deeply, or be grateful, or set your intention for the day.

Schawbel: What can you do to your mind and body that will give you more energy and a better attitude?

Huffington: -What matters, for our mind and body, is that we find a way – any way – to recharge and renew ourselves. I have twelve steps I recommend in Thrive, and each one of us needs to pick the step that most resonates with us. Here are just three of the twelve:

  • Focus on the rising and falling of your breath for ten seconds whenever you feel tense, rushed or distracted. This allows you to become fully present in your life.
  • Introduce five minutes of meditation into your day. Eventually, you can build up to fifteen or twenty minutes a day (or more), but even just a few minutes will open the door to creating a new habit— and all the many proven benefits it brings.
  • Drop something that no longer serves you. I did a major “life audit” when I turned forty, and I realized how many projects I had committed to in my head— such as learning German and becoming a good skier and learning to cook. Most remained unfinished, and many were not even started. Yet these countless incomplete projects drained my energy and diffused my attention. As soon as the file was opened, each one took a little bit of me away. It was very liberating to realize that I could “complete” a project by simply dropping it— by eliminating it from my to-do list. Why carry around this unnecessary baggage? That’s how I completed learning German and becoming a good skier and learning to cook and a host of other projects that now no longer have a claim on my attention.

Schawbel: How can other people save you from getting burned out?

Huffington: It helps to have a support network. Sort of like a 12-step program, you need someone, a Thrive buddy, whom you can call when you’re being tempted, or who will call you out when they see you veering off course. Like a sleep sponsor, who might call you and say, “Hey, it’s one in the morning and I just saw your Tweet that you’re about to binge watch a whole season of Breaking Bad. I want you to quit Netflix right now and close the computer.”

In my case, my well-being sponsors are my daughters, who are always checking up on me, occasionally sending me a text or a direct message on Twitter that says, “Mom, go to bed!”

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Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. His new book, a New York Times best seller, is called Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press) and his previous book, Me 2.0, was a #1 international bestseller.

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