Arianna Huffington, Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post shared her personal wake-up call with over 2,000 attendees in her Cvent CONNECT keynote. In 2012, when she "came to" after collapsing from exhaustion and sleep deprivation she asked herself "Is this what success looks like?"
Arianna made major adjustments in order to improve her work/life integration and advised her audience to learn from her experience rather than waiting for their own wake-up calls.
Event planning regularly makes the top 10 in lists of the most stressful professions. Arianna encouraged event planners to take small, actionable steps to reverse this trend and get those figures into the double digits by 2016.
"Exhaustion has become the new normal in North America. There is a collective delusion that burnout is the way to succeed. Sleep deprivation is a national epidemic and addiction to this style of living is dysfunctional." Arianna cautioned.
She also underscored the fact that "the need for downtime is not a bug of the human system, it's a feature." When we take better care of our smartphones than ourselves something is wrong. Smartphone users monitor battery life and when the power level is running low, they re-charge them. In the same way, it is important for event planners to monitor to identify when they need to re-charge.
The specific strategies that Arianna recommended for recovery from this national addiction:
1. Sleep and Meditation
- make the time for sleep and meditation, whether it be prayer or some other form of meditation
- transition between work life and sleep life by turning off all devices at a certain time every day
- discontinue the practice of re-charging phone batteries beside the bed and checking messages when one wakes up in the middle of the night
- keep your bedrooms cool to improve the quality of sleep
She reminded the group that a 20-minute nap is more profitable than a cup of coffee or a hit of sugar. As a result, The Huffington Post has introduced two nap rooms in its New York newsroom.
2. Conduct Mini-Life Audits
- identify the projects to which you can realistically make a commitment and drop the others so that you will have the energy and time for the commitments that remain. ("You can complete a project by dropping it," she advised.)
- Get to the other side of grudges as they sap your energy. She stressed the importance of forgiveness for emotional health.
3. Disconnect to Re-connect
- refrain from picking up business email at home and during vacation. Instead focus on re-connecting with family and friends and really being present.
Companies in other countries are making headway in this area. Adrianna shared examples:
- Daimler's approach to the extended absence email to discourage employees from picking up business e-mail during vacations. The auto-responder advises that the employee is on vacation and when he or she will be back. The message provides the contact information for a back-up to be used in case of emergencies. Then the email is deleted. The Huffington Post will be implementing this strategy.
- Volkswagen provides employees with company phones that turn on at 7 AM and turn off automatically at 6 PM
For her timely and relevant speech, Arianna Huffington received a well deserved standing ovation.
Will event industry professionals accept Arianna Huffington's challenge?
Written by Anne Thornley-Brown.