Why Bill Gates Changed His Mind About Taking Time Off

“I didn’t believe in weekends; I didn’t believe in vacations.”

Courtesy of Scott Olson / Getty Images
Courtesy of Scott Olson / Getty Images

There was a time when Bill Gates “didn’t believe in vacation.” In a recent conversation with Eventbrite CEO Julia Hartz, Gates revealed that during Microsoft’s early days, he rarely took time off — even on the weekends. However, Gates’ view has evolved, and he now recognizes the importance of rest and relaxation. “Once I got into my 30s, I could hardly even imagine how I had done that,” he told Hartz.

He partially credits his then-girlfriend, now-wife Melinda’s love of vacations for this shift, and he also chalks it up to “natural behavior” changing with age. Although Gates admits that “[his] 20-year-old self is so disgusted with [his] current self,” it’s clear that his new lifestyle is much healthier, and more conducive to focus and productivity.

Everyone can benefit from better work-life integration, and you don’t have to put yourself through years of tireless, punishing grinding in order to achieve success. Here are some Microsteps to help you better conserve your energy:

Declare an end to the day, even if you haven’t completed everything.

Truly prioritizing means being comfortable with incompletions. When you take time to recharge, you’ll return ready to seize opportunities. 

Eat lunch away from your desk.

Instead of eating quickly while working, step away at lunch, even for just a short time. You’ll be more effective the rest of the day. 

Take a daily “tech time out” to improve your focus and reduce stress. 

Set aside time to step away from social media and email so you can truly connect with yourself and your loved ones. 

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


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