First popularized by Bill Gates, a Think Week is time set aside for personal and professional development.
Gates secluded himself twice a year for a week, “taking a helicopter or seaplane to the two-story clapboard cottage on a quiet waterfront” where he barred most outside visitors, disconnected from the Internet and spent up to 18 hours a day reading and pondering the future of technology, according to the Wall Street Journal. Some of Gate’s most innovative ideas came to him during his Think Week.
But you don’t need a personal helicopter ride to a private cabin or even seven full days to experience a successful Think Week! Daily reading time and journaling on a family vacation or a new lunch-hour habit of walking while listening to podcasts will expose you to new ideas and inspire your own innovation.
You’ll return to work and “real life” with a different perspective, fresh ideas and boosted enthusiasm. Read on for tips on how to plan your Think Week, plus a list of suggested Think Week reading and listening material.
The Burnout Cure: Planning Your Think Week
Skillshare’s Michael Karnjanaprakorn is another proponent of the Think Week. Like Gates, he gets out of the office and breaks from his normal routine twice a year.
“By actively disconnecting and looking at everything from 50,000 feet, I am able to effectively reflect, reset and clearly rethink my goals and aspirations,” Karnjanaprakorn writes in a Fast Company article.
He has three general Think Week rules:
1. Do nothing work-related.
Clear your head of the emails and worries. Take a digital detox. By shutting out everyday work responsibilities, you “get into a different mindset that makes way for new creative ideas.”
2. Focus on personal development.
For clearer decisions, Karnjanaprakorn makes a “life to-do list” and gives himself time for research and deep thinking.
3. Seek out a change of scenery.
Spending time in a new environment sparks creativity. If you’re not doing your Think Week on vacation, find a new neighborhood or park, or rent a desk at a local co-working space.
After your Think Week is over, keep the ball rolling! Develop a morning routine for reflection, block out time for uninterrupted work and regularly check in to see if you’re meeting your goals.
Think Week Resources on Employee Engagement and RecognitionNow’s the time to finally read those interesting articles you bookmarked months ago but were too distracted to actually read, or to listen to that podcast your mentor is always recommending.
Here are a few resources and suggestions for an HR-focused Think Week:
1. Pick some titles from Office Vibe’s essential list of “10 Books Every Leader Should Read.” (We especially love Jim Collins’ “Good to Great”!) For more book suggestions, check out our blog post from last year, “9 Great Beach Reads on Building Employee Happiness.”
2. Explore new or unconventional methods of employee engagement, like Second City improv classes. Intrigued? Start with the Wall Street Journal’s “The New Face of Second City” and this New York Post article on the Second City corporate training that teaches workplace skills.
3. You probably spend a lot of time thinking about workplace happiness in terms of what happens in the office, but what about virtual workplace happiness? Read the TINYpulse white paper, “What Leaders Need to Know About Remote Workers.”
4. O. C. Tanner is always a fun and inspiring resource for research on workplace culture. Start with these O.C. Tanner case studies in building culture and recognizing employees.
5. The McKinsey Podcast features conversations with experts on the workplace issues that matter most in business and management. Recent podcasts have included “The art and science of well-being at work,” “Going from fragile to agile” and “The essentials of innovation.”
6. Harvard Business Review bundles its best articles and research into convenient collections. HBR Collections cover topics from authentic leadership to people management. (Through July 15, HBR is offering a 25 percent discount with the promo code SUMMER25 on purchases of $40 or more.)
7. Our blog post “10 Best TED Talks on Building Workplace Gratitude” is a great resource for inspiring ideas on the science of gratitude, happiness, communication, stress and meaningful work.
8. Is your workplace ready for the youngest people now entering the workplace? Read up on Generation Z, the generation to follow Millennials. Here are three articles to get you started:
- “A Workplace for Generation Z” (Boston Globe)
- “Move Over, Millennials, Here Comes Generation Z” (New York Times)
- “Why Today’s Teens Are More Entrepreneurial Than Their Parents” (HBR)
9. Short on reading time? Podcasts allow you to learn new ideas while you walk, cook, drive, exercise or do chores. Capterra Talent Management Blog has a great list of 13 must-listen HR podcasts. And here’s another: the Live Happy Now podcast, curated by the editors of Live Happy magazine, explores the science and experience of living a happier and more meaningful life through interviews with positive psychology and well-being thought leaders.
10. Polling giant Gallup has a whole section on its website dedicated to employee engagement research. Gallup updates the section regularly and releases its quarterly engagement results here. Check in to take the pulse of U.S. worker engagement and read the latest analyses of poll results, such as “Employee Recognition: Lost Cost, High Impact.”
11. Listen to Matt Cutt’s TED Talk “Try Something New for 30 Days” — a short, lighthearted talk on what really sparks personal change and how to set and achieve goals.
12. Finally, the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley is a wealth of expert information on workplace happiness, gratitude, mindfulness, productivity and generosity.
Looking for more Think Week resources?
Download our free guide to “The Top 20 Employee Engagement Blogs You Should Be Reading.” Subscribe, follow and connect with engagement experts!
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