The Danger of Always Being On

OK, I’m going to be honest: I don’t read Huffington Post. There. I said it. It just felt like, because this blog is about what we’re reading, if would be weird if I didn’t say that. Anyway, I have my reasons, and let’s say most of them come from an aversion to the overuse of ALL CAPS and multiple exclamation marks.

Huffington speaking at Inman Connect, January 2014

Phew. That said, I truly enjoyed hearing HuffPo Chair/President/Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington speak at Inman Real Estate Connect this month. She talked about the topics she’ll address in her next book, which is broadly about unplugging from a constantly-on life.

As I’m reflecting back on what I heard in New York that day, I’m also reading through a sliver of the hundreds of 30 Under 30 applications we received for the 2014 competition. This year we asked applicants about their business challenges, and so many responded that time management and work-life balance have been real struggles. So now seems like a perfect time to share Huffington’s excellent observations and tips with you.

Now that the market is red-hot in many areas across the country, agents are still trying to do it all like they did when things were slow. Huffington’s message to real estate pros was this: It’s a different market, and we need to adjust.

“We have all focused so much on surviving,” Huffington said. “Its really exciting to be alive today.”

So, what’s changed? First, we all need to stop talking about sleep deprivation as a badge of honor. Huffington told an anecdote about meeting an unnamed gentleman for dinner who boasted of only getting four hours of sleep. She thought to herself that, if he had bothered to get five, the dinner conversation would have been a lot more interesting. Similarly, instead of praising the guy in our office who never takes lunch, she said, we need to start re-framing.

“Ultimately, we all need to redefine success,” she said. “You should be really worried [about those people] because they can’t be possibly making good judgements… Leadership is about seeing the icebergs before they hit the Titanic, and you’re not going to be able to see the icebergs if you’re sleep deprived.”

And it’s not just sleep, either. Huffington said we’re all spending a little too much time on our devices. She talked about how liberating it was, during a week without social media, when she realized that she could eat something without taking a picture of it.

“They make [these devices] deliberately addictive. It’s not accidental,” she said. “There has to be an AA for devices. You know, ‘Hello, my name is Ariana and I am a tech addict.’”

According to Huffington, the real problem with devices isn’t what your mom told you when you were a kid about too much screen time ruining your eyesight. Mobile devices by their nature divide one’s attention, which creates more stress and only provides the feeling of being more productive.

“Multitasking is a complete illusion. You are doing neither [task] well,” she said. “As a result, we’re not giving anything 100 percent.”

Huffington does have science backing her up on that assertion, and she referenced plenty of recent studies and stats regarding how this always-on lifestyle is negatively impacting our health and bottom lines. For me though, the most compelling reasoning behind moderating our connectivity was psychological. For many, myself included, always being tuned in reflects a worry of the unknown. After all, how can I possibly anticipate what will malfunction in the future if I don’t have a live stream of the present constantly in front of my eyes?

“Things will go wrong in our lives,” Huffington assured the crowd. “It’s much harder to deal with them in advance, in your head, before they happen.”

Cue deep breath. Spread smile. Repeat.

So, the question to which you’re all dying to hear the answer: Will I read Huffington’s new book when it comes out?

Maybe. We’ll see what the font looks like.

Meg White

Meg White is the managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]

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  1. Layla

    Thanks for a thoughtful read…agree time is a second luxury next to money nowadays…happy year of the horse

  2. Recently I met an agent who was so addicted to her cell phone that she could barely have a meaningful conversation with the person right in front of her, i.e. me. She thought that hiring an assistant might free up time for her to get the important things done but after listening to her conversations with her hair dresser and with another agent plus a couple of urgent text messages that were read and responded to, I realized that this gal needed to unplug more than she needed an assistant. Her addiction illustrates the point I think you make in your excellent article.