Leadership

How Richard Branson and 5 other CEOs get ahead by scheduling time off

As the work week gets longer and longer for Americans, and fewer and fewer employees use their vacation days, it's refreshing to remember that taking time off can be a great productivity hack.

Whether it's reserving one work day each week for reflection or making sure to book vacations throughout the year in order to rejuvenate in an exotic destination, some celebrity executives succeed in part by prioritizing work-life balance.

Here are six noteworthy executives who make taking time off work for them.

Richard Branson

Self-made billionaire Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, isn't shy about his penchant for taking vacations to decompress from a hectic work schedule. In fact, he was recently adventuring with friend, former U.S. president Barack Obama.

"Maintaining focus on having fun isn't just about rest and recuperation: When you go on vacation, your routine is interrupted; the places you go and the new people you meet can inspire you in unexpected ways," says Branson. "As an entrepreneur or business leader, if you didn't come back from your vacation with some ideas about how to shake things up, it's time to consider making some changes."

"I make sure that I disconnect by leaving my smartphone at home or in the hotel room for as long as possible — days, if I can — and bringing a notepad and pen with me instead," he adds. "Freed from the daily stresses of my working life, I find that I am more likely to have new insights into old problems and other flashes of inspiration."

Jeff Weiner

The LinkedIn CEO is a master at taking time off during the day to simply relax and escape endless meetings. In fact, Weiner maintains 90-minute-to-two-hour blocks during which he is "scheduling nothing" every day in order to do his job more effectively.

"At first, these buffers felt like indulgences. I could have been using the time to catch up on meetings I had pushed out or said 'no' to," he writes in a blog post on LinkedIn. "But over time I realized not only were these breaks important, they were absolutely necessary in order for me to do my job."

"Above all else, the most important reason to schedule buffers is to just catch your breath," he adds.

Mark Zuckerberg

For Mark Zuckerberg, taking time away from Facebook in order to spend time with family has been a priority for years.

According to The New York Times, early in their relationship, Zuckerberg and his now wife Priscilla Chan Zuckerberg allegedly wrote up a "relationship agreement" in which they agreed to spend at least 100 minutes together per week, not at his apartment or at the office.

Neil Blumenthal, co-founder of Warby Parker.
Melody Hahm | CNBC
Neil Blumenthal, co-founder of Warby Parker.

Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa

Warby Parker CEOs Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa also make sure to schedule time off during the work day.

After going in and out of constant meetings, the CEOs found they had less time to actually be productive. "It didn't really leave us time to think or prepare for the meetings and sometimes we were forced to email while we're in the meetings, trying to multi-task," Gilboa tells Business Insider. "It wasn't good for anyone."

"So I went back and grabbed our assistant and said, 'OK, we need to do this,'" Gilboa explains. "I'd say it worked for a while. More and more those 90 minutes tend to get scheduled over as things pop up, but we still try to leave some time in the day where we can think and not get bogged down, kind of the hamster wheel where there are always things that we could be doing, always meetings that we can be in."

Ramit Sethi

Personal finance guru and CEO Ramit Sethi has had lots of success taking off Wednesdays. He spends the time doing big picture thinking, reading and brainstorming.

"Most days, nothing really comes from it," says Sethi. "I would say every quarter I get an interesting idea, and maybe once a year I get a big idea but that big idea can transform the business."