The Power of Time Off

7 year itch

Typically we spend the first 25 years of our lives learning. The next 40 years we devote to working, leaving the remaining 15 years for retirement. But what if we took five of those retirement years and interspersed them into our working years?

Every seven years Stefan Sagmeister closes his New York design studio for a yearlong sabbatical, enabling himself and his staff to rejuvenate and refresh their creative outlook. They use this time to persue creative interests which they then put back into their work when the office re-opens a year later. And Stefan is not alone. The Spannish restaurant “Il Bulli” closes it’s doors for five months each year so that Chef Ferran Aria and his staff can travel the world looking for inspiration. Staff at Google are also encouraged to dedicate 20% of their time to persue personnal interests. But can taking all this time off really be productive? Surely a company can’t make money unless “bums are on seats”?

Well, shock horror, yes it can. “Il Bulli” is widely regarded as the finest restaurant in the world, with 2.2 million reservation requests for the seven months it’s open. No tech company on the planet is iterating products and services faster than Google. And as for Steffan Sagemeister, four significant things happened; firstly he enjoyed his job again. Secondly he had fun. Thirdly his company became more financially successful in the longterm, and lastly most of the key pieces of work done in the following seven years came out of that single year off.

In his 2009 TED lecture, Stefan talks about the often overlooked value of time off and the innovative projects inspired by his time in Bali. You can watch the inspirational 17 minute talk here but be warned, it may just change your life.

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