Minibar for the Mind


In brief: two years ago, Morgans Hotels Group collaborated with The School of Life to insert Conversation Starter kits and other food-for-thought artifacts and experiences on its premises. Making room for a time out is an excellent idea often waiting to happen.

Wherever I travel, I make it a point to meet with and connect people who are doing interesting work. Conversations are an amazing discovery and engagement tool.

Last week, during one of my frequent trips to New York City, I had the opportunity to discuss the importance of taking time off.

For students, it is useful to have experiences outside of books and tests, and exams. Living, learning, and working in another country is a fairly common break activity in Europe. I ended up taking a six-month break during university to come to and volunteer in the U.S., for example. An experience that changed my whole life.

The very competitive (and expensive) nature of many programs in U.S. colleges make taking a break harder to implement. Some colleges do offer programs abroad as part of the curriculum. This is not what I'm talking about.

The idea of taking time off still has a stigma attached to it. You only need to search for the concept to find it associated with the term “gap”. Words are very powerful and if you look at the definition, a break or hole, an unfilled space or a difference do not instill confidence.

When taking time off work for periods of time, people often call the break a “sabbatical” even though they may be the ones paying themselves to be on leave.

Again, there is a stigma attached to the time spent while off. Never mind that often that time is invested in a project requiring deep experiential learning, or focused on the completion of a project for oneself.

It is just odd that we live in the conceptual age, where most of our work is intellectual in nature, requires creativity, and expects mastery and innovation, and yet we are embedded in a culture that worships busyness as if it were a badge of pride.

Athletes know that optimal exercise includes resistance training, as well as recovery. Yet we force our minds to hyper-drive, including often lack of sleep. Breaks are good for the mind — and to restore our ability to do big picture thinking and work.

When walking late at night on a dark street, I have never once been afraid of turning up a corner and bumping into someone saying something incredibly smart. I am however often on the lookout to stay physically safe — training muscles continues to be more popular than training minds.

Morgans Hotels Group inspired me. Keep the high-calorie snacks, a midnight food-for-thought card or kit sounds terrific.

Breaks are a good idea marketed poorly in mainstream conversation. They are not gaps, unfortunate interruptions, signs of trouble, pure idleness, etc. They are recovery periods for the mind.

Taken properly, time outs can be the most productive and creative forms of work we do in our entire lives. For a business example, time off the normal workstream can be a three-day cross-functional worklab.

Too much of a good thing can indeed be wonderful.


Complete this phrase in the comments: With my time off, I will…

[the Morgans Hotel Group experience]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover
the value of promises and its effects on relationships and
. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.