Real Leaders

Arianna Huffington: Digital Revolution Creating Burnout

Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

The world lives under the ‘collective delusion’ that in order to succeed we have to burn out, while multi-tasking is a scientifically disproved myth, says Arianna Huffington, founder of Thrive Global and co-founder of The Huffington Post.

Speaking at the Discovery Leadership Summit in Johannesburg recently, Huffington, who this August changed jobs from running the Huffington Post to start Thrive Global, a wellbeing and productivity company, ­said human beings need time to recharge. The goal was to minimize downtime.

“This is an illusion that stems from the industrial revolution, with some leaders who still brag about thriving on minimal sleep, yet they display classic symptoms of sleep deprivation, such as instability and incoherence,” Huffington said. “Successful leaders and leading global companies recognized the need for rest and “digital detox”, and to cultivate empathy, proper rest and teamwork.

“The digital revolution has exacerbated the crisis of burnout. Now we don’t really know when or how to disconnect, when to put our devices away. We take better care of our smart phones than ourselves.”

Echoing what Discovery founder and CEO, Adrian Gore said in his opening speech, she said there was a global propensity for “negative fantasy,” which had prompted a worldwide pandemic of stress and burnout which accounted for 75% of healthcare costs.

“Wherever you look, you see people running on empty… walking through life like zombies going through ‘to-do’ lists. We’re missing our ability to see around corners, to reconnect with the meaning and purpose of life. If one Googles the question; ‘Why am I…’, the website’s algorithm autocompletes with the words… ‘so tired’, followed by ‘Why am I always so tired’.”

She explained that besides nutrition and exercise, sleep is a vastly underrated commodity, creating a time of frenetic brain activity when the mind gets rid of the accumulated toxins of the day and recharges itself for creativity and ‘being present’ the following day.

A very small percentage of people have a genetic mutation where they can operate on four hours sleep a day, but the vast majority of people need seven or eight hours of sleep.

“A good day begins the night before,” she said, adding that; “we’re drowning in data, and starved of wisdom.”


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