Taking time away from a business isn’t a norm for entrepreneurs, especially taking a full leave or maternity leave. Call me crazy, but literally the day I found out I was pregnant with baby number 2, I made a giant, detailed document to help start preparing for maternity leave and wrap my head around what taking 3 months off would require.
For me, when something feels slightly out of control, my brain leans on organizing what I can and making a list helps me celebrate the potential future without letting all the logistical worries take over.
Whether this baby comes sooner or later, I am SO grateful we’ve been diligently working ahead these past few months to get as much as we can ready for when I’m off. For the past several months, we’ve all been heads-down in prep mode so that I can take this time away and feel relatively untethered from the business, so I can just get some quality family time as a new unit of four — well, six if you count the dogs.
I know not every business owner is the same when expecting a baby or trying to plan for an extended leave from the business — but whether you’re planning to take two weeks off or two months off for whatever reason, I’m going to share 5 steps of my process for planning ahead so that I feel confident in stepping away and knowing the business will continue to run just as smoothly and seamlessly as when I’m here full force.
I looped my team in early
Soon after seeing that positive pregnancy test it was important to me to loop my team in early on the pregnancy and what was to come for the business. Basically, after my immediate family knew, my team was next.
I know some people prefer not to share their pregnancy with anyone other than their partner or family while in the first trimester, but given our past experience with loss AND knowing how sick I was in the first trimester when I was pregnant with Coco, it just made sense to share with my team. They also were aware of my hopes around pregnancy, so it was a joy to let them in on the news early.
Plus, on the actual business side of things, the earlier everyone knew, the sooner we could all get on the same page, reverse engineer from my due date, and begin creating a plan to slowly chip away at and work ahead for the time I would be taking off toward the end of the year.
It’s important for me to create a workplace that feels fluid and non-urgent for everyone, not just myself, and so even though we’re planning for me to take these 12 weeks off, I didn’t want anyone on my team to feel overwhelmed or frantic working that far ahead. The best part is, my team is highly organized and systemized, we tend to work a bit ahead anyway in order to support that whole non-urgent work culture, and so getting them on board for prepping just a bit more ahead was no real biggie at all.
I mapped things out by month
Generally speaking, I approach the year quarter by quarter, but with a baby coming, I broke things down month by month. Remember that doc I mentioned earlier that I created as soon as I found out I was pregnant? That became our guideline for any and all things maternity leave prep and roadmap for how we tackled the work up until my leave.
I mapped out literally EVERYTHING month by month leading up to and past my due date, so that my whole team knew the big pushes, launches, and content needs for every single month.
Since I have a super consistent content flow, it’s pretty easy to map out what we’d need week by week and month by month. Knowing exactly what, how much, and when content is needed ahead of time is half the battle in my opinion, and then I work with my team to give them each ownership over different responsibilities so that we each have a few pieces we’re chugging away on.
And the other intentional piece is that we aim for my content to be pretty evergreen, meaning we can work on a lot of the November, December and January content early and likely only have to make minor tweaks, if any, come the publication date.
By working ahead SO early, we aren’t adding a ton of extra work to anyone’s plate now or later on. For example, instead of recording 3 podcast episodes in a sitting, I might do 4 or 5 or even 6 some days so that we can slowly begin building up our library for when I’m off.
I created a loose plan for launches
On top of our content needs being mapped out and a few big brainstorms to outline the content in advance, we looked at each month in terms of launching.
Generally speaking we do one big launch of my own courses once per quarter and plan in that way because it allows for more flexibility if we need to make any changes as we go. But for the purpose of preparing for maternity leave at the end of this year, I did want to create a loose plan for any launches for the rest of the year, just to make sure we were getting each program out before the end of the year.
So since our usual quarterly plans were scrapped, I dropped in course and affiliate launches to my month-by-month planning doc solely based on what we were hoping to launch before end of year, and while launches typically ARE heavier lifts, I also intentionally left wiggle room to incorporate space and rest between each one, or each month we kind of re-evaluated where we are at and how we are feeling which allowed us to skip some of the opportunities to focus on what would move the needle the most for us prior to my leave.
While the launches are an important piece of the business, my biggest goal was to have everything else updated, optimized, scheduled, and current before going on leave.
We optimized and updated our automations
One major focus has been on something that isn’t so outward facing, working on getting our automated content and evergreen courses totally optimized, updated, and ready to rock has been a behind the scenes focus for us. Honestly, this is probably the heaviest lift but also the most important and biggest part of prepping my maternity leave.
Essentially we’re streamlining and optimizing so that the business will still be running smoothly and bringing in consistent income while I’m taking care of my babies. These are all the things that keep running while I’m away and so that my team can continue showing up in their best capacity and taking care of the day-to-day stuff without worrying about the little things or things that don’t need daily maintenance.
This means making sure my courses are all set up to run silky smooth on evergreen or through automation and that my email funnels are fully up-to-date and set up to consistently serve and offer an experience for those on my email list.
In preparation for this leave, we revisited that funnel along with a lot of micro funnels that serve our email subscribers. Things we look at are: open rates, subject lines, call to actions, timely stories, and ensuring each email, each word is intentional and provides value and support for subscribers to my email list.
It’s not all of the shiny stuff, it’s about making sure your business is set up and ready to run smoothly and still serve your new and existing audience while you’re offline and my email list is my top priority, so I hope you’re on it, there’s a lot of goodness coming your way!
I worked on mentally preparing
Beyond just the physical actions and work it takes to prepare a business to step away for 3 months, there’s also this mental shift that needs to take place to allow myself to unplug and be fully focused on my family.
The last time around it was honestly a lot harder — I worked up until Coco’s due date and since she was ten days later, I was already twiddling my thumbs before she was born. It’s easy to be nervous about taking such a long time away and also not totally knowing when the leave will begin.
Before, I’d never taken such an extended break from work and as someone with some workaholic tendencies, it’s really easy to tie my identity and worth to the output and productivity within my business, especially since leading up to leaving is more of a hustle.
This time around I’ve attempted to extend myself a lot of grace to feel all the feelings that come with the final stages of pregnancy, my final time with Coco as my only baby, and of course prepping for that postpartum period. I’ve really tried to keep boundaries, even in the busy-ness, focusing my energy elsewhere than work all the time, which is honestly the best thing I think you and I can both do when preparing for time away from our businesses.
You don’t want to slam on the breaks when you’re flying 80 miles per hour down the highway, so adjust your speed to prepare for the slowdown so it’s not a shock to the system.
The Big Picture
I’m honestly so excited and feeling so thankful to even have the opportunity to take time to be with my family. I know that we’re going to have to rediscover a new normal and find a whole new groove and routine as a family of four, and that things might look different both within our home and within my business as a result of this new change.
But I think that by setting up systems and automations that allow my business to run without me there for bit, along with having a team that I absolutely trust with my whole heart to handle anything that comes up, and preparing as much content as we can ahead of time… we’ll be more than alright as I take the time to soak up precious newborn cuddles and new memories as we get to know the newest member of the Kutcher crew.