Essentially, for many years, Gates went into seclusion for two, one-week “Think Weeks” a year. Family, friends and Microsoft employees were banned from his retreat.
A lot of the innovations that evolved out of Microsoft came from these “Think Weeks” that Bill Gates would take every year. While I was in Costa Rica, I reflected on my personal goals and aspirations, which allowed me to reset and recharge by really taking a 50,000 view of everything that was going on throughout my life.
I created a life to-do list, did a lot of research on happiness (where I learned that it’s about the frequency, not the quality of positive experiences.) I focused on my personal development (not career development). I went for a hike in the woods. I learned how to cook organic food. I read 3 books I’ve been meaning to finish forever. I did yoga and meditation everyday, which cleared my mind. And I sat for hours and just stared at my beautiful surroundings during the morning sunrise.
It was an enlightening experience that allowed me to make a clear decision on what I wanted to do next with my personal and professional life.
In an age where we are connecting to everything through our phones, internet, facebook, twitter, etc; we are constantly being interrupted. A couple of years ago, I heard a statistic that having a Blackberry is equivalent to smoking two joints because you are always being interrupted, and never really “here”. Just think about that for a second.
By disconnecting from the world, time moved really slow. I really got to enjoy the moment, which we often neglect in our chaotic worlds. This is the time worth cherishing, which is more valuable than the time that flies by because you’re working hard on something “you’re passionate” about.
As many of you know, I’m the Co-Creator of The Feast. We just finished our fourth conference last Friday, which was a huge success. If you didn’t get a chance to attend, I highly recommend watching the videos on our Livestream. (And thanks to everyone that attended!)
Unfortunately, the conference portion of The Feast will cease to exist as I believe the value of conferences are diminishing (I have also limited myself to attend one conference in 2011). Instead, our team will organize “Feast Retreats” for 20 people (max) where we will ban cell phone/WiFi usage throughout the weekend. My goal is to share what I learned during my time off with The Feast community. There will be lots of yoga, healthy eating, and personal development to show the value and power of taking time off.
So, as you start working, hustling, and bustling on your ideas, take a step back and think about the power of time off. If Stefan Sagmeister can take a year off every seven years for his sabbatical, you can take a week off every year for yourself. Like Caterina Fake says, “Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.” And, I mean, who doesn’t want to go hang out in the jungle in Costa Rica for 10 days? It could be the difference between burning yourself out, success, and maximizing your personal happiness and well-being.