Arianna Huffington, the Pulitzer Prize-winning president and editor of the Huffington Post, has risen to the top of her field by questioning the status quo, taking risks and taking naps (eight hours of sleep is a must). Huffington recently shared some of her hard won-business wisdom with a rapt audience at the Women of Influence luncheon series in Toronto. Here, she talks wellness, work/life balance and why life’s too short to sit through a crappy movie.
To get it all, get to bed!
My whole life changed in 2007 when I fainted from exhaustion. I hit my head on my desk, I broke my cheekbone, I had four stitches on my right eye. It was a rude awakening in terms of how I had been leading my life and it was the beginning of redirecting myself. I started prioritizing sleep. I now get between seven and eight hours every night, which is absolutely essential to my well-being. We have two nap rooms at the Huffington Post. At first people assumed that nobody would be caught dead using them, but now they are perpetually booked. When you have a 20-minute nap, it’s amazing how recharged you are. The worst is walking through your day like a zombie.
To win the game, change the rules
There are institutional barriers that women are facing right now, there’s no question about that, but I also think we need what I call the third women’s revolution. The first one was about getting the vote, the second one was about complete access and equality, equal pay. We’re not there yet, but I don’t think we’re going to get there without the third women’s revolution, which is about changing the world that women are competing in instead of embracing it. The structure of the workplace right now doesn’t work for men or women. It’s fuelled by burnout, sleep deprivation, people making bad decisions. Look at the financial meltdown in the States, the current gridlock in Washington. I think everyone might benefit from a good nap.
Not every project needs to be finished
I have a ground rule: You can complete a project by dropping it. If you’re reading a book and it’s just sort of eeennh, put it away and start something new. I have friends who will keep that book by their nightstand for months and it prevents them from picking up another book that they will actually read. I was at a play the other day and it was just [not very good]. I left at intermission. That was more than enough of my time.
Your phone isn’t the only thing that needs recharging
At the Huffington Post nobody’s expected to respond to e-mails after work. If there is something urgent, I will text you or call you, but for the majority of time, you’re on your own. People need their own time to unplug and recharge so that they are fresh when they come to work. Renewal is a performance-enhancement tool. These policies are not just good for the employees, they’re good for us.
Perspective solves problems
I’m a big proponent of taking your children to volunteer early on and to make service a part of the way we bring up children in the same the way we take them to the movies or go on play dates. I have two daughters and I know that they feel that when they’re engaged and helping others it’s easier for them to keep their own problems in perspective.
This interview has been condensed and edited.