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The Think Day

Bill Gates takes off a whole week every year to think. You should too - but let's start with a day first.

Dominik Nitsch
4 min read
The Think Day
Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

Sometimes, the right content finds you at the right time.

Last Wednesday, Sahil Bloom sent out an as usual outstanding newsletter about a “Think Day”. A great coincidence, as:

  1. The day after was a bank holiday in Germany
  2. I needed to minimize screen time anyway as I was still recovering from a concussion

The perfect storm. I vowed to do this Think Day right there, the next day.

But before I tell you about how it went, let’s first discuss what a Think Day actually is.

What’s a “Think Day”?

Bill Gates | Source

It all starts with Bill Gates. Every year, the Microsoft founder retreats for a whole week for this “Think Week”, where the following rules apply:

  1. No phone / laptop / TV.
  2. Reading, writing, walking and thinking are the main activities.
  3. Location is somewhere remote.

Then, he spends 7 days at a cabin just reading, walking and thinking, which helps him ponder the future of Microsoft.

In these weeks, he generates new ideas and visions for his company (and probably his foundation, which is equally powerful).

Surely, you and I are not Bill Gates (unless, of course, you actually are Bill Gates - then I’d be interested to learn how you found this article). Why do something so eccentric?

In a world where every day is busy, phone notifications pop up by the minute, and technology evolves faster and faster, we’re running just to keep up.

As the speed of development increases, we need to run faster and faster.

But - how?

The answer is: slow down to speed up.

Our minds have incredible processing power if we give them a chance.

Usually, we don’t: I rarely have time slots in which I can work on just one thing for a span that exceeds 15 minutes. I constantly get distracted.

Day after day passes by, and I can’t even tell you what I did.

So to break that cycle, we need to slow down in order to speed up.

That’s exactly what a Think Day does for you.

Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.

How does a Think Day work?

Let’s be honest: chances are you can’t just take a whole week off, disconnect, and disappear in a cabin.

So let’s start with one day. Just one.

Pick a date, and block it in your calendar. If it’s not a holiday, request PTO.

Done? Great.

Now, find a location where you can be alone. This could be a cabin in the woods, your home, or cafés in a different part of town where the chances of running into someone that you know are low.

Next, grab a few books and articles that you want to read. Pack a journal, a good pen, and - if you’re in the woods - water, caffeine and food.

And then, off you go!

Read. Write. Walk. Think. Contemplate.

It’ll be exhausting.

It’ll also yield a fountain of ideas and a deep-sitting peace of mind.

Here’s how I did it:

My Think Day

I woke up at 07:15 am (as every day). 52% recovery score. Not ideal, but no bad either.

After a few minutes in bed, I got up, did a 20 minute walk around my area to get some exercise and sunlight (Dr. Huberman loves this trick).

Once I returned, I journaled for approximately 45 minutes, just letting my thoughts flow and put everything on paper that was on my mind. This helped me clear my head for the rest of the day. After this, I also looked at my phone for the first time to text my girlfriend.

Then, I sat down on my balcony with an Americano and started reading.

I’m currently working through a book called “Designing Your Life”, where you apply a designer’s mindset to how you want to live your life. I can strongly recommend it and might share my learnings in a future post.

For almost three hours, I read and did the exercises in the book (including mind-mapping out stuff on a whiteboard). No phone, no laptop. Focus on creativity were on steroids.

Around lunchtime, I engaged in discussions with my flatmate, refilling my social batteries (as an extrovert, I’m finding it draining to not have any human interaction for a whole day).

In the afternoon, I started re-working my website and almost finished it. This was on my laptop, but without distractions open, and I managed to get in a deep state of flow, something I haven’t had in quite a while.

At 16:30, I wrapped up, met a few friends in the park to enjoy the weather.

Once back home, I cooked dinner, spent some more time reading and went to bed early, thoroughly exhausted from the day.

It wasn’t the perfect Think Day, but it was wonderful.

I got so much done, unleashed creativity, and felt replenished after.

I’ve already scheduled my next one for June.

A few learnings

Having done this once, I would adjust the following:

  • Get out to nature, and go somewhere without other people around you. For a day, this should be bearable, and would increase the zen-like feeling even more.
  • Besides the Designing Your Life book, I hadn’t prepared anything else to read. Next time, I’ll put more books on deck.
  • Acquiring and making food is actually kind of a distraction. Preparing meals the day before might be smart.

The Think Day is a great concept, and I’m incredibly grateful to have found it at the right time.

If you decide to do one as well, please email me and let me know how it went. I’d love to hear how you did it, and what you’ve learned.

Since I’ve taken a lot of this inspiration from Sahil, I encourage you again to check out his newsletter. It’s one of the best I read.

Looking forward to my next Think Day.

Action Item Recap:

  1. Schedule your Think Day.
  2. Do it.
  3. Email me how it goes!
  4. Check out Sahil’s newsletter.

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this, please ask yourself: which one person that you know would most benefit from reading this newsletter? The number one way to support me is to share this with others aspiring to become more effective in their personal and professional lives.


Dominik Nitsch

Proud generalist: Entrepreneur, Athlete, & Writer.

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