Personal Space: How the CEO of Breather Takes a Breather

A conversation with Julien Smith of Breather about the benefits of alone time, good sleep, and other restorative tips.

We all need to relax more during the day. Studies have shown that taking time for “deliberate rest” can actually improve our work quality — not to mention our quality of life and mental health. But when caught up in the hubbub of our daily work schedules, with constant fire drills and demand on our attention, it can be seem impossible to get that desperately needed respite.

That’s why Zeel chatted with a fellow expert about taking time to relax and unwind — Julien Smith, CEO of Breather.

Breather is an on-demand network of private spaces that can be rented by the hour. Available in 10 cities (to date), Breather’s mission is to help people find a quiet place that you can book and auto-unlock with your phone.

We chatted with Julien Smith about his advice for taking some time out — a breather, if you will — for recuperation and relaxation.

The inspiration for Breather came from Zen monasteries.

“My theory was that privacy and silence are valuable,” says Julien. “I wanted a quiet, private space that wasn’t my home. I’d spent time in Zen monasteries in Japan, and I couldn’t find anything like this near me.”

Both groups and individuals use Breathers.

Everyone needs a time out. At Breathers, “you see meetings, but also church groups. You see individual workers, You see people doing yoga or meditation, either alone or in groups.”

Design leads to serenity.

The quality of your private space is key, says Julien. “Design requires lots of consistent work, and consistent attention to details, to materials, to art, and to spacing.”

This attention to detail is worth it. “When space is excellent, it allows you to become your ideal self.”

For maximum rest and focus, leave your phone behind.

If you’re planning to rest and refocus, says Julien, leave your phone behind. “It’s great to just go [somewhere private] and think to yourself, “What is important for me to work on?” I’ll sometimes bring a notepad with me. Or I’ll bring nothing, and just sit.”

Eight hours of sleep is crucial for health.

Julien was spurred to develop healthy sleep habits by a physical condition. “I’ve got epilepsy. I don’t have seizures any more, but I make sure to get eight hours of sleep every night, because it’s what my doctor told me to do, and I’ve never stopped.” Of course, eight hours of sleep is useful for everyone; Julien speculates that it “probably makes your life a lot worse” to skip a good night’s rest.

For those kept awake by whirling thoughts, Julien suggests resorting to the pen. “Instead of lying awake thinking about your problems, write something down. It’s very helpful.”

Adapted from a @Breatherinc interview originally published on Zeel on April 28, 2017