Days spent on the beach, swimming in the ocean, taking in beautiful mountainous scenery or lounging in a hammock day-dreaming are therapeutic for the body, mind and the soul. When entrepreneurs leave their natural habitat, the creative recesses of their minds are rekindled by picturesque surroundings, aimless, unstructured days, and the company of loved ones. It is during these idyllic, reflective moments when the entrepreneur arrives at realisations and revelations which otherwise may have been missed. Time spent with family holds great importance (for many more reasons than those highlighted here) as they see you in a different light than business associates – a refreshing experience in itself. Sometimes, close family members can offer the most honest critiques of what you're doing right or wrong - level of honesty that the niceties of work politics simply don't allow for.
Downtime can also help entrepreneurs to contextualise their working lives, making us appreciative of small pleasures and enabling us to see the bigger picture. It is often during these meditative moments of "slowing time down" when entrepreneurs are most inspired. There are numerous famous examples of this. The concept of the Google Doodle was invented back in 1998 when Larry Page visited Nevada’s infamous Burning Man Festival. The Google Doodle sparked the imagination of the public and has been a part of the Google homepage design ever since.
Steve Jobs, sometimes known as the billion dollar hippy, embarked on his now infamous trip to India in search of spiritual enlightenment in the 1970’s. This had a huge influence over the Apple founder’s innovative business philosophies and timeless designs. His travels through the rural pastures of India had a permanent imprint on him as he continued to draw inspiration from his psychedelic and spiritual moments there many decades later.
Entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs are ‘architects of ideas’ and they find ways to unlock their creative potential. They step back from day to day minutia to turn their architected ideas into billion dollar businesses. But most management teams, lacking the enlightenment of entrepreneurs, still restrict thinking time by ‘scheduling themselves to death’, believing it’s what they need to do to be productive. They haven't yet realised the power that lies in idleness and day dreaming, or what I simply call "hammock time".
Holidays, and the renewed sense of freedom they summon, can help instigate the "challenger mindset" in us and can help guide us to the path less travelled by. Showing up to work 365 days a year is the unintelligent road. It may make you feel like you are doing the best you can, but you may just be a "busy fool". To navigate the direction of one's life strategically, one needs an aerial view, and this is only achieved by stepping back and slowing down. The aerial view will show which of the two roads will make all the difference, but you may never know this if your head is always at ground level.
Downtime calms down the nerves and stabilises us emotionally and psychologically. Life (and business) is pitted with triumphs and disaster in equal measure. How fast we can catapult ourselves back up from our disasters and how tactically we can leverage our triumphs depends on our mental well-being. And for that to be at its optimum, we need our "day dreaming on a hammock" time, providing the catharsis that our mind, body, soul (and businesses) need.
Many of the innovations that came from Microsoft throughout the 90’s and early 00’s were manifested during Bill Gates’ “Think Weeks”. During these holidays, he spends a 14 day period in the solitude of a quaint lakeside cottage, reflecting over the future innovations Microsoft can bring to the masses. He often refers to this as the most productive fortnight of the year. There is no documented evidence to suggest Gates was reading Walt Whitman's poetry, but he may as well have been, as the nineties and naughties were decades of astronomical growth for the technology giant as it obeyed little and resisted the conventional rules of business, expanding into just about every digital sector imaginable from game consoles, to travel sites, to IM and mobile phones.
Over the next few weeks, many of us will be on Christmas break. Be sure to make this time one of enjoyment, mindfulness, idleness, inspiration and relaxation. You need to mentally check out to check back in meaningfully in January. My parting words for you are: Check out guiltlessly, spend time doodling, find yourself a hammock, and don't be afraid to day dream. Who knows, you might come back in January with your own version of the Google Doodle.