How many business owners do YOU know who currently take a full month of vacation each and every year? Or maybe the question should be: how many business owners do you know who currently know how to take a full month of vacation a year?
How in the world can you actually make that happen, without things crumbling while you’re sippin’ on pina coladas on the beach or at home working on yard projects?
Let’s talk about how to strategically take time off in a way that preserves your wellbeing AND your business—and just as major—why it’s important and what it can mean for you and your business.
Why You Need to Unplug
When I take time away from my business to recharge, it’s often unintentionally when I come up with my BEST ideas. But it’s not just me who experiences this creative and energetic boost! In fact, I know of several entrepreneurs and business owners who plan a week away every three months or so, to hit that four week vacation marker each year, and actually use it as a strategic pause in their business TO dream, evaluate, and revisit their vision.
That doesn’t mean you need to spend your entire vacation time head down with a notebook and planner in brainstorm sessions… but often the freedom to do what you want with your days when you want—to rest, journal, NAP, lounge around, read and just be—gives your brain the space and break it needs to think outside of the nitty-gritty daily responsibility of running a business, and allows it to visualize bigger and longer term ahead.
Beyond the mental boosts of resting, the physical act of rest is so different than the pace and structure so many entrepreneurs are used to running at. Entrepreneurs generally have high cortisol — that stress hormone, due to lack of shutting down and always striving for more.
There’s not enough credit given for simply pausing. One of the greatest lessons I learned in 2020 is that rest is an action. As someone who tends to always be in motion, who loves efficiency, I struggled to see rest as an option but it’s an action and something you can choose and be proud of. As a society we often commend the hustlers and the go getters, but stopping and stepping back and resting often, as a practice, allows for even MORE growth and brilliant ideas and even just better overall health, which is amazing for your business in the long run, too.
Strategically plan dates in advance
Literally black out dates on the calendar, zero wiggle room, don’t let anything sneak into them, whether it’s a week or four, set that boundary early so that you are fully freed up without the burden of obligations during the time you set aside to rest.
If once every three months just doesn’t work for you personally or you’re concerned about your business slowing down four times a year, look at your schedule where natural breaks happen or when business tends to be less hectic and plan time away around THAT so you can coast and so that you aren’t missing a peak time for your offer.
We also like to look at the annual calendar at a glance so that we protect the time we want to take off. You can plan big promotions, projects or launches right before or after your time away to ease your worries around the financial ramifications of time away. I generally like to do a bigger launch right before extended time away because it sends me off feeling like I just accomplished something important, AND I won’t be thinking about an upcoming launch the whole time I’m away if I were to save it ‘til afterward.
Create Content in Advance
If you create any sort of content on a consistent basis whether it’s for your email list, a blog, social media, a podcast or youtube, you can likely plan what would be required to create in advance before you log off to stay consistent even while you’re away. Take the time to map out your weekly workflow if you never have and jot down your content publishing schedule and see if there’s a way for you to prep in advance.
We are so consistent with our content schedule and our creation process, it’s become a natural part of our team culture. In general, we live by the motto: stressed work isn’t our best work. We LOVE to be as ahead as possible on all of our content where it makes sense, aka things that can be evergreen content and don’t have a super timely element.
If you’re planning time off, take a look at what your needs are in terms of keeping up with your content flow if that’s something you want to have running while you rest. There have been many times where I’ve taken a few weeks off and my audience didn’t even know it because my content schedule remained the same.
On the other hand, if you’re wanting to pause all things, you totally can, but if at all possible, I’d recommend keeping to your regular schedule and prepping in advance if you can. There is so much to be said about consistently showing up and so many platforms can automate that for you.
Automate anything and everything
Automate as much as you possibly can, whether it’s social media posts, blog publishing, podcast episodes… anything that you can set and forget while you’re away will be a godsend, trust me. Nowadays, you can preschedule practically all of your content and it is literally the best thing ever… honestly, vacation or not! Automation just makes life less complicated, plain and simple.
Make sure too that you set up an autoresponder for your email to answer your most frequently asked questions so you’re not feeling pulled to your inbox constantly while you’re away. This is key whether you’re gone for a few days or a month or longer, because there’s nothing like getting a zillion email pings with questions and inquiries that pull you away from the presence of, well, being present while away.
Be sure it lets people know when you will be back and if you feel the need to, include a person or a way to get in touch in case of an emergency. Although spoiler: in my decade of entrepreneurship there are rarely true emergencies!
Lean on OR bring on support
I never want my clients to feel like I’ve just up and left them, client experience is so, so important. Having a support person to just skim my inbox and make sure nothing is needing my attention helps me to relax and not feel like I still need to check in while ensuring my customers and clients are getting responses and are still being served well while I’m away.
Even if you’re a solopreneur, bringing in someone temporarily while you’re out is likely better than having no one there and feeling like you still need to be kept in the loop and responding to every this-and-that message that comes through.
Think about it like this, too: rather than FULLY taking time off and pausing your income, having a support person that you pay, let’s say $20 an hour, will allow some parts of your business to continue operating and bringing in money. So even though you’re paying someone, you’d be making more than if you would be by completely closing up shop for a week or two or a month.
Protect your time off
Do everything in your power to preserve this time off and that begins with clear communication. If you need to communicate with your clients, with your team, with your family, or whomever you need to tell, give them a good heads up about your time away and then a gentle reminder prior to your time off. When you can communicate and set those expectations in advance, people tend to respect your time away and generally don’t try to interrupt it because they had their chance prior to your vacation to get what they need.
Another way to protect this time is by creating accountability with what you want your time off to look like and setting boundaries. Is it totally Type 3 Enneagram to discuss BOUNDARIES around REST? Yes. Yes it is. But let’s be real, entrepreneurs need this kind of boundary! And they need people to help them stick to it, or else we’d all be married to our iPhones and Slack inboxes.
I always tell Drew my intentions around vacations or even shorter time away. Even if it’s a weekend where I want to fully leave work behind, I’ll tell him something like: “I want to leave my computer in the other room and or I want to have my phone live in the drawer for the next 24 hours,” so that if I’m not following my own intentions, he can gently remind me. It’s important to really think about what you want that time off to look like and ask for the help and support to make that happen.
The Big Picture
Remember, rest takes a lot of work. If you’re used to going full speed ahead, then taking time to rest might feel so unnatural and even wrong in some ways. Give yourself a little time and grace to adjust to life away from your business, and allow yourself to feel all the feelings. Trust me, you’ll want to believe you’re a superhuman who doesn’t need a break, until about day 3 when you realize how nice it is to have a breather and a little time away. Rest takes intention but it yields absolutely unbelievable and worthwhile results… just you wait and see.