What Arianna Huffington Taught Me About Productivity

What Arianna Huffington Taught Me About Productivity

For 17 years I worked in digital advertising for AOL.  It was a glorious career for me, marked by many amazing experiences and lots of opportunities to learn from successful people.  One such person was Arianna Huffington.

When AOL purchased the Huffington Post in 2011, Arianna Huffington became one of the executive leaders at AOL, present on all of our company wide conference calls and often would come and speak in our office when she was in LA.

It was at one of those talks that I remember her first sharing her now famous story about how she collapsed on the floor of her home office and woke up in a pool of blood.  Her head hit the corner of her desk on the way down, cutting open her eye and and breaking her cheekbone.

She shared that she collapsed due to exhaustion.  Working 18 hour days, 7 days a week to keep up with the demands of a growing internet company, from the outside it looked like she was enjoying great success.

That was the first time I heard a corporate executive talk about the value of sleep.

"In terms of the traditional measures of success which focus on money and power, I was very successful. But I was not living a successful life by any sane definition of success."Arianna Huffington

Lesson 1: You Must Prioritize Sleep

  I had just come back to work after suffering a mystery illness that kept me bedridden for nearly two months, when Arianna Huffington joined AOL and began talking about the importance of sleep for productivity.

Leading up to that time of intense sickness, (which ultimately turned out years later to be dysautonomia),  I had lots of trouble sleeping. I would lie awake for hours at night unable to fall asleep and sometimes get up and check email, to the amusement of my clients and husband who received emails from me at 3am.

I had already begun trying things to help me sleep, but hearing Arianna talk about the dangers of sleep deprivation made me all the more convinced that I had to make sleep a productivity priority in my life.

It may seem a no brainer that sleep is productive, but too many of us live our lives as if sleep is a waste of time, sacrificing sleep on the altar of productivity.

We pride ourselves on getting by with 4-6 hours of sleep or pulling all-nighters but there is no wisdom in that lifestyle.  Ultimately, the body will stop bouncing back from sleep deprivation.  Exhaustion or illness will undoubtedly set in and that makes life much less productive.

I now have a habit of guarding my sleep.  I function best on 8-10 hours of sleep, so I try to strive for that as a goal.  I have a sleep ritual of a hot bath with lavender or pink Himalayan epsom salts and sleepy time tea.  I also take magnesium and calcium before bed which helps me to sleep through the night. I keep a pad of paper and pen by my bedside to jot down any annoying thoughts that might try to keep me up at night.  And I set my "bedtime" clock on my iPhone to rouse me to the sound of birds chirping instead of a constant beeping  then place it on the charger in the living room when I go to sleep.

Lesson 2: Money and Power Are Not The True Measurements of Success

I have always known that money and power don't a successful life make and yet,  it actually allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief to hear someone who had achieved money and power say out loud, in the midst of a corporate environment, that money and power did not define success. I was working so hard at AOL and enjoying monetary success but I was constantly yearning for more meaning in my life.

It is the quest for meaning that led me to begin Honey and Figs, which I enjoy tremendously, as my own little corner of the world.  Where I can write and share ideas and encourage others to do things that give their lives meaning as well.

He who seeks his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. Jesus

Lesson 3: There is a Third Metric

Arianna taught me that there was a Third Metric.  There was something else to be mindful of when evaluating the productivity of our time and success of our lives other than money and power.  Her "Third Metric" of success, in addition to money and power is well-being, wonder, wisdom, and giving, which she expounds on in her book, Thrive.

Although I don't personally adopt these four as a my metrics of success, I don't dispute them as valuable gauges of success in life.  Whether you hold to them as your definition of success or not, it does  open up this idea of a "Third Metric" for conversation.  And it's an important conversation to have when you're wanting to live an abundant life.  How does one measure a successful life?

I believe the essential metric of success is giving what you have of yourself away to others.

It is in the giving of oneself and the putting aside of self, that we truly live and find meaning.  Whether that be through the sacrifices of parenting, taking care of elderly parents, serving in our communities, our churches or passing along what we have learned to others in some way, giving of oneself is the essential metric.

Jesus said:

"No greater love has any man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends"

Most of us will never be called to sacrifice our lives for our friends, but we may be called to care for a sick parent, raise a child or serve our communities.  If we can be faithful in these small acts of sacrificial giving for others, our lives will soar with meaning.


Working with Arianna Huffington at AOL taught me some invaluable lessons about productivity.  Those primarily being:

  1. You must prioritize sleep
  2. Money & power are not the true measurements of success
  3. There is a third metric of success, which I believe to be giving of yourself to others.

If you are able to put the parameters in place for sleep and giving of yourself to others, your life will be tremendously productive and successful.

Happy giving!


Welcome to Honey & Figs! I'm Lisa. I love helping people with practical ways to live more abundant lives based on my own experience. You can click here to find out more about me.

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