Why This Entrepreneur Has Email-Free Saturdays

Pencils of PromiseNick OnkenAdam Braun

Some time after Adam Braun launched Pencils of Promise, the education nonprofit that’s now built 200 schools around the world, he made a practice of not going on email from Friday night to Sunday morning.

Braun got the idea from his days playing point guard for Brown University. The basketball team lifted weights five days a week and took two days off.

He learned then that “the act of weightlifting is not actually when you increase your strength. The act of weightlifting is creating micro tears in your muscles, and it’s actually during your period of recovery that the muscles heal themselves, and in doing so, increase in size and strength,” he says.

Similarly, disconnecting from email every Saturday gives Braun a chance to recover from the week. “I love my work more because I long for it a little bit when I’m away from it,” he says.

Braun’s practice is supported by organizational psychology. Bowling Green State University researcher Young Ah Park has found that people need to make strong distinctions between their working time and their personal time in order to stay productive. Smartphones, of course, muddy that line — you could spend your Saturday at the beach but never leave your work if you’re thumbing through your inbox all day.

Research shows that if you never step away from work, you become more and more likely to burn yourself out.

Braun says there’s another benefit of stepping away from work: It makes him more present.

“It allows me to build far deeper relationships with the person in front of me, and so that might be family, that might be friends, that might be someone that I know through a business opportunity or a supporter of the organisation,” he says. “There’s no doubt in my mind that, by taking short but very clear breaks from email or technology, you’re able to foster far deeper relationships with the people that are right in front of you.”

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