It’s easy to imagine hugely successful high-flyers unwinding by flying off to retreats in exotic locations devoted to calming the senses, because they do – the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates periodically go on ‘Think Weeks’ to focus the mind – but like any busy business traveller, that’s untenable on a day to day basis. Allowing yourself regular downtime needs more practical solutions.
And we’re not talking about the first ones that might spring to mind. Common methods we’ve adopted include heading for the bar, turning on the entertainment channel, or getting lost in social media. While these do help stop the mind thinking about work and are integral to downtime, they serve more as distractions rather than relaxation.
The truly successful people know how to balance routine and rest in harmony, ensuring they go to work feeling refreshed and focused, and ending the day ready to recharge. Here are some of the ways they get it right.
Famous practitioners: Padmasree Warrior (CEO of NIO US), Jennifer Aniston, Steven Spielberg
What is it? As digital guru Randi Zuckerberg (pictured), the former Marketing Chief of Facebook, tells HuffPost, “We are constantly distracted, bombarded with so many different forms of communication. We have to do so much multi-tasking because you are reachable on so many different platforms, and that can really have some consequences on your happiness and well-being.” Her simple solution: ‘Unplug’.
Difficulty level: Hard. When you’re away on business, your phone and laptop are your links to your home life, social circle, work updates and entertainment hub. At the end of the day, check in with your closest people and give them the hotel room number for emergencies, then switch off and do one of the following.
Famous practitioners: Oprah Winfrey, David Lynch, Rupert Murdoch
What is it? Introduced to the wider world by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi through the likes of The Beatles (pictured), it involves silently playing with a personalised mantra (rather than repeating it parrot-fashion), to allow it to lead the mind into its natural resting place.
Difficulty level: Trademarked as ‘effortless’, but always bearing the recommendation for the exact technique to be taught by qualified instructors, with courses famously offered at high-flying prices. If you feel the free online tutorials aren’t helping, you can learn and pay according to your income at The Meditation Trust.
Famous practitioners: Michelle Obama, Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google), Marc Benioff (CEO of Salesforce)
What is it? Of all the many forms of yoga, Kundalini is favoured by the famous (many us heard of it first through Russell Brand, pictured) for its promise to bring a higher level of self-awareness. Repetitive physical exercise combined with controlled breath work, chanting, singing and meditation all serve to release the untapped energy locked inside.
Difficulty level: At your own pace. You can, of course, adopt the Kundalini lifestyle to go vegetarian and wear the signature white headscarf, but the actual practice is set to your own level, the goal being to respond to how your body and mind responds and attunes with the exercises. Read more about Kundalini.
Read and Learn
Famous practitioners: Bill Gates (pictured), Arianna Huffington, Mark Zuckerberg
What is it? Ariana Huffington recommends banning all forms of electronic reading material and only go for real books, Bill Gates religiously reads ‘deeply informative and beautifully written’ books for an hour every night, regardless of how long the day’s been, while Elon Musk readily credits his greatest achievements to reading books.
Difficulty level: Medium, because it’s about focusing the mind, not escaping it. According to Tom Corley, author of Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, successful people tend to choose educational books and publications over novels, tabloids, and magazines. Top of the reading list are biographies of other successful people, proving it’s possible to unwind and be inspired at the same time.
Famous practitioners: Jack Dorsey (CEO of Twitter), Richard Branson (pictured), Jonah Peretti (CEO of BuzzFeed)
What is it? The habit of thinking deep into the small hours is one that the business-minded find impossible to shake off, backed up by the science that asserts night owls have a cognitive edge over early risers. Doctors don’t recommend it, of course, but those who practice it swear the silence and solitude are integral to the creative process. The trick is to ensure you don’t stay up due to stress or do so at the expense of losing out on the requisite rest time. Before fatherhood, Mark Zuckerberg famously kept ‘hacker hours’, basing his wake up time on when he fell asleep the night before.
Difficulty level: Only if it comes naturally. And it’s imperative that you guarantee yourself a good night’s rest on a comfortable bed.