Arianna Huffington just wants to get some rest but she’s not lying down yet. Last year she left her namesake site to start a new company called Thrive Global, taking aim at rectifying the chronic stress and burnout that has become standard in many industries.
The change wasn’t out of left field; Huffington has previously written on the subject of work-life balance in her books Thrive and The Sleep Revolution. Her new venture, she says, strives for a deeper understanding of the relationship between productivity and well-being:
“Thrive Global is based on the truth that work and life, well-being and productivity, are not on opposite sides - so they don’t need to be balanced. They’re on the same side, and rise in tandem. Increase one and you increase the other. So there’s nothing to balance - increasing well-being and the productivity that goes along with it is a win-win, for work and life.”
The shift in focus from the newsroom to a health and wellness startup has spurred some quizzical reactions, in part due to the allegedly stressful environment of the Huffington Post itself. But there’s no question of Arianna Huffington’s influence during the nascent years of online media. With her next act just starting, here’s how she works.
Location: New York City
Current Gig: Founder and CEO of Thrive Global
One word that best describes how you work: Mindfully
Current mobile device: iPhone
Current computer: MacBook
Why did you decide to changed your trajectory at this point in time? Why Thrive Global?
It was both a hard decision and an easy one. Hard because HuffPost was my baby and I’d always thought The Huffington Post would be my last act. But easy because I’m so passionate about Thrive Global.
Since publishing my books Thrive, and Sleep Revolution, I became more consumed with the impact of burnout and stress on our lives. And as I went around the world speaking, and saw how deeply people want to change their lives, I felt the need to turn this passion into something real and tangible. It was a call to action I just couldn’t ignore.
What do you hope to achieve with Thrive Global that you couldn’t necessarily do on a purely editorial platform?
Writing about this problem and spreading awareness is great, and I’ll keep doing that, but I also wanted to go beyond that actually doing something about it. So while Thrive Global contains a media element, The Thrive Journal, it’s also all about behavior change-helping individual and businesses go from knowing they need to make changes in the way they work do actually incorporating those changes into their daily lives. So everything about Thrive Global-including the media platform-is built around action.
What apps, software, or tools can’t you live without? Why?
Sleep is the biggest and most effective tool for productivity and performance. After that: meditation. Actual apps include Silo, Thrive Global’s new app that turns your smartphone into a dumbphone, which allows you to disconnect with the world and connect with your own thoughts.
What’s your workspace setup like?
I work at both my home and the Thrive Global offices. At home, my work area is often a dining table or couch. At our offices, all the desks can be adjusted to become standing desks, and we also have a treadmill desk and a nap pod.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
It’s not an everyday time-saver, but it’s something I’ve done a few times, the first when I turned forty. And that’s to do a kind of audit of your long-term to do list. We all have these projects piling up on our on long-term to-do lists, and even when we’re not thinking of them everyday, we know they’re there. And the ever-increasing weight of them has a psychological cost-they don’t live rent-free in our minds and they take up a lot of space, draining our energy and diffusing our attention. It’s like paying for storage for things you’ll never use.
So what I did in my life-audit was to “complete” these projects simply by dropping them, which was very liberating. So if what you need to get rid of them is to give them a “done” checkmark, then check them off! It was very liberating to realize I could “complete” a project by simply dropping it-by eliminating it from my to-do list. 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.
What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
I like plain paper-it’s nicely analog and the act of writing something down helps you remember it and think about how important it is.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
My analog alarm clock. Since it eliminates the need for using my phone as an alarm clock, it allows me to charge my phone outside of my bedroom, which allows me get the sleep I need. This is important since our smartphones are like kryptonite to sleep, so anything we can do to get them out of the bedroom at night is helpful.
What do you listen to while you work? Got a favorite playlist? Maybe talk radio? Or do you prefer silence?
What are you currently reading?
I read The Thrive Journal every day, of course. And I can also recommend Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, which I recently reviewed for The New York Times. The title says it all-if you’re prone to burnout or still believe that overwork actually works, this book will set you straight.
How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?
To recharge, I’m extremely deliberate about my getting my seven to eight hours of sleep every night. To forget about work, I love to hike, which was a lot easier to do when I lived in Los Angeles.
What’s your sleep routine like? (I ask this of everyone, though it’s certainly relevant to your new venture.)
I now treat my transition to sleep as a sacrosanct ritual. First, I turn off all my electronic devices and gently escort them out of my bedroom, since phones and screens near the bed are terrible for sleep. Then, I take a hot bath with epsom salts, maybe with a candle flickering nearby. I’ll prolong the bath if I’m feeling anxious or worried about something that I need to separate from. Then I’ll put on real pajamas or clothes I use only for sleep, since I no longer sleep in my workout clothes (which sends very mixed message to our brains). Sometimes I’ll also have a cup of chamomile or lavender tea if I want something warm and comforting before going to bed. And then I’ll usually read-I love reading real, physical books-especially poetry, novels and books that have nothing to do with work.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
From my mother: “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.”
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?
I’d like to invite them all to write for The Thrive Journal!
The How I Work series asks heroes, experts, and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email Andy.