Well-Being//

Bill Gates Spends Two Weeks Alone In the Forest Each Year. Here’s Why.

The founder and chairman of Microsoft has adopted a “Think Week” to separate from civilization and ponder the future of technology.

Image courtesy of diliananikolova/ Getty Images
Image courtesy of diliananikolova/ Getty Images

Bill Gates recently spent seven days at his hideaway cottage on a cedar forest waterfront, partaking in a twice-yearly ritual he calls his “Think Week.”

Gates, the principal founder and chairman of Microsoft Corporation, came up with the idea for his personal seven-day retreat as a way to ponder the future of technology and think of new ideas for his company. Tucked away in his secret two-story cabin in the Pacific Northwest, Gates spends the week completely secluded from civilization– alone with his own thoughts and a pile of thought proposals. The seven days tend to include a lot of reading, a lot of thinking, and a lot of alone time, as Gates is completely disconnected from family members, friends, and employees (despite one exception: a caretaker who slips him two simple meals a day.)

These weeks function as Gates’ way to think of new ideas, apart from distractions and noise. It’s been said that one Think Week in 1995 inspired his famous, “The Internet Tidal Wave” paper, while another prompted Gates to come up with the plans for Microsoft’s Tablet PC. Some of the core staples of society’s daily tech use have stemmed from these secret weeks of seclusion, and Gates has always been private about the details of his Think Weeks.

On his most recent stay, Gates allowed a Wall Street Journal reporter to take a peek at his hideaway, complete with a wall of bookshelves lined with great books, a portrait of Victor Hugo on the wall, a small refrigerator stocked with diet sodas, and piles of bright orange papers – their pages stamped “Microsoft Confidential.” Gates even showed the reporter a paper titled “Virtual Earth,” a 62-page project proposal for a future mapping service, covered in handwritten notes. “I love the vision here,” Gates said.

While we can’t all take a week away from our lives to hide out in a secluded thinking cabin, the ritual that Gates has adopted tells us a lot about the necessity of slowing down and taking time for ourselves. Whether you’re in need of a few additional vacation days, a weekend without screen time, or just a few moments of mindful meditation before bed, taking time to unplug and recharge is critical for our mental, physical, and psychological well-being. 

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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.

- Marcus Aurelius

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