Issue #20 Deep work and time off

Imagine Bill Gates in 1980.  Microsoft was five years old, busy, on the precipice of amazing growth, and there was plenty to do.  

So Gates decided to take a week off to go to his grandmother’s house to think.

Of course.  

This became a tradition that he carries out to this day: two weeks a year, one week at a time, he completely cuts himself off from the world to read and think.  

Ideas such as Internet Explorer, enhancing windows security, and starting online video games came out of these “think weeks.”

Without them, Microsoft likely would have stagnated.  

And while Gates has a very focused and regimented regime that he follows, some research suggests that boredom itself is good for creativity, productivity, and problem-solving.  

As a business owner, your mind must, at some point, disconnect from the day-to-day.  

It is the only way you can let the subconscious mind do the work it needs to do to develop new ideas and begin to see your business from an outside point of view. At Start Grow Manage, we are shutting our business down for two weeks this summer to give everyone some time off.  This also benefits clients since it is invariably when we are not trying to develop ideas that the best ones surface.

When you can pause,  a “think week,” or disconnect without thinking, you may find it is transformative.  


Bill Gates Rules for a “Think Week”

Here are some guidelines from Bill Gates on how to have a valuable “think week.”

  • No computer, phone, or television.
  • Minimal time spent on anything but reading.
  • No visitors.
  • An isolated cabin in the woods is an ideal setting (but you don’t need an isolated cabin in the woods).

Really, the core idea is to reduce distractions and allow for a total focus on reading and recovering.

Here is a great, detailed blog post on how to take your own “Think Week.”

Scientific American on Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime

This is a great article, a bit on the long side, that summarizes research on how naps, meditation, and nature walks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity.  

They focus on high-performing athletes and artists, but the research is relevant to other disciplines (including business) as well.  

Read the article here.

Managers Encourage Your Team to Take Time Off

And, of course, the Harvard Business Review has something to say on the topic as well.  This article talks about time off, especially as it relates to COVID burnout.  This has been an intense period and burnout can seriously impact your team’s performance.  

Read the full article here.

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