As an entrepreneur, performing well under pressure along with making high-quality decisions on a daily basis are a normal part of the game. However, thinking and performing better isn't a cakewalk due to potential obstacles and distractions along the way.

Two of the biggest culprits are burnout and mental fatigue. With a bevy of solutions available on how to handle these two issues, I came across a recent column published on CNBC with an interesting solution from Bill Gates.

In the 1980s, Bill Gates started to take "think weeks" where he spent time in a secret cabin located somewhere in a cedar forest in the Pacific Northwest. This week was spent reading papers written by Microsoft employees pitching new innovations or potential investments.

Work done during those "think weeks" eventually led to Internet Explorer launching in 1995. While initially a solo activity, Gates later expanded this notion to include more key individuals as he mentioned in the video below.

For the entrepreneur who doesn't have loads of papers from employees to review now, there is still immense value in adopting this "think week" concept. Here are two of those reasons.

1. Innovation manifests through solitude.

Individuals such as Warren Buffet are reported to spend as much as 80 percent of their time reading and thinking. Spending time in solitude free of distractions allows you to take a more big-picture outlook along with gaining more self-awareness about your life.

This is important because your business is often a mere reflection of your life.

Without periodic blocks of disconnection, it's nearly impossible to accurately participate in self-reflection. Without periodic blocks of disconnection from your business, it's nearly impossible to reflect and operate in a peak innovative state.

If one week is too much for you right now, start with scheduling 30 minutes of focused daily thinking time.

2. Deload periods make you stronger.

When I first started working out over a decade ago, I thought the more weights I lifted along with boosting the intensity of those sessions, the quicker I would grow.

I was terribly wrong. What happened was a worn-out body with very little results to show for the effort put in. I forget the other critical ingredient for fitness success: recovery and rest.

Hustling at all costs is glorified in today's entrepreneurial landscape while taking breaks is shamed in some circles. But, just as I didn't make progress in fitness until I prioritized recovery, you will make very little progress working yourself into the ground with no strategic recovery involved.

In business, an obvious recovery tool is sound nutrition and consistently high-quality sleep. But an under-the-radar tool is finding a way to mentally disassociate yourself from the everyday activities of your business.

Let's be honest, detaching 100 percent isn't going to happen, but 75 percent could be feasible. One thing I've done is to schedule a full seven-day deload period at the end of each quarter.

I don't participate in mundane everyday work habits. I get away from my natural setting and participate in hobbies while my work habits are big-picture thinking (or traveling to the future as I call it).

Now, when you come back to your typical workflow, you're refreshed and have new insights gathered from the future which can now be implemented.

Whether you're looking to reignite your passion, figure out how to break through a plateau, or simply unwind from the everyday work rigors--implementing Gates "think week" concept will serve you well. 

Published on: Jul 31, 2019
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