Human Resources magazine and the HR Bulletin daily email newsletter:
Asia's only regional HR print and digital media brand.
Register for your FREE subscription now »
From meditation practice and standing desks to 15 minute walk-breaks and office plants, it seems like everyone has a recommendation when it comes to boosting productivity and staying motivated in the workplace.
But what if we need something more to truly thrive in our careers, year after year? At what point do these quick-fixes fall short and leave us questioning the quality of our work?
Instead of trying to weave inspiration into our day-to-day routine, maybe we should allocate time into our yearly calendar to do nothing at all.
Take it from tech powerhouse Bill Gates. The business icon famously takes a seven-day retreat in complete seclusion twice a year to reflect, brainstorm and come up with profound ideas. Coined his biannual ‘Think Week,’ Gates takes this time for himself quite seriously.
Aside from reserving a full week off from work, he says his goodbyes to colleagues, friends and even family members to then isolate himself in a two-story cabin tucked away somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Before you have to ask, yes – he also disconnects from Wi-Fi and comes prepared with books as well as print-outs of newspaper articles, industry news and Microsoft reports.
Before you dismiss the idea of trading in vacation time for structured isolation, you may want to consider the results of Gates’ legendary ‘Think Week’ practice. Back in the mid-nineties during the rise of the internet, Gates was uncharacteristically “behind” on the momentum and wrongly assumed this new technology would be a passing blip, unworthy of Microsoft’s attention.
But as the story goes, Gates saw the light during a ‘Think Week’ and developed a famous memo called “The Internet Tidal Wave” that was shared with Microsoft’s executive staff.
In it, he accurately predicted the trajectory of the internet and called on his company to evolve in order to dominate the emerging landscape. Aside from this revolutionary memo, his ‘Think Weeks’ have also resulted in important thought-pieces as well as other technology innovations such as Microsoft’s Tablet PC. Rethinking the solo retreat idea yet?
Although there hasn’t been much direct research on ‘Think Weeks’ themselves, proponents of the practice report major improvements in both their professional and personal lives. Furthermore, plenty of studies do in fact back-up the benefits of different ‘Think Week’ recommendations, such as switching up your environment, disconnecting from technology, spending time in nature and blocking off time in your schedule.
Removing distractions such as coworkers and Wi-Fi increases one’s ability to focus exponentially, and studying in different environments can upgrade your creativity and tremendously improve performance.
One study found that hikers fully immerse in nature for four days optimised problem-solving skills by a full 50% and reported lower levels of stress.
While we all can’t mimic Gates’ exact ‘Think Week’ formula, we can choose to mix-and-match different features of his practice to create our very own version. Whether you can manage to swing a weekend away in solitude or just a 12 hour hiatus dedicated to brainstorming, there is a way to make ‘Think Weeks’ work for your schedule so you can achieve optimal well-being – both professionally and personally.
Infographic + Lead image / Reservations.com