My husband and I just returned from a week long vacation in Mexico. I did not take my laptop. I did not check messages. I did not do any form of work for the entire week. It was glorious, restful and energizing!
As entrepreneurs, we often struggle to take time away from our business or go on a fully unplugged vacation. Yet, one of the greatest benefits of having our own business is the ability to create our own schedule - which includes how and when we take time off. For me, this is also part of my self-care basket.
Is this an underutilized benefit in your own business? If so, I am going to break down some practical steps to help you prepare to take a vacation, the kind where you don’t check your inbox or Slack and leave your laptop at home.
Some of the reasons I often hear from other entrepreneurs (especially newbies) as to why they aren’t taking time off include:
1. I won’t get paid if I’m not working.
2. I am worried my business will fall apart.
3. My clients expect me to be available.
4. I am afraid of experiencing overwhelm when I return.
Let’s take a closer look at the points above and adjust our mindset around time off as an entrepreneur.
I won’t get paid if I’m not working.
This is true if you are an hourly contractor, which is why I advocate for transitioning clients to a retainer/project based pay model. However, what this means for those who bill by the hour is that you will need to set some money aside to cover the pay that you would normally receive that week (or pay yourself that week). I would take some time to look at your finances and determine what that dollar amount is and what you would need to set aside each week for the next 6 months to cover a week off for yourself, essentially creating a PTO bank to draw from. If you are on a retainer, your clients are paying for you and the space you hold for them. There is no need to adjust your retainer for a vacation.
Additionally, I use and love the Profit First model in my business. I pay myself a regular salary each week and set aside enough money so I have at least 6 weeks of pay saved. This allows me to keep getting paid even if I take a week off for vacation. Update: I now keep a minimum of 3 months of savings. This provides me with some security to account for the natural ebbs and flows of business or for any emergencies that may arise.
I am worried my business will fall apart.
#truthbomb If your business unravels while you take one week away you have bigger issues in your business than your inability to take a vacation. I am currently a solopreneur and do not have anyone working inside my business. Therefore, when I go on vacation there is no one to cover me. Yet, I still take worry-free vacations multiple times per year and my business is just fine while I am away. Feel free to skip to the bottom if you want to start grabbing my tips for how to keep your business intact while you are away. Update: At the current moment, I have one team member who is able to provide some support in my absence. If you have the resources to hire a team member, I definitely recommend having at least one person who can support you in an ongoing capacity in your business.
My clients expect me to be available.
If this is the case you either a) need different clients OR b) need to create a new set of expectations for your clients AND c) need to set expectations with all new clients that you bring on.
Before I sign any agreements with my new clients, I shared a document with them outlining how I work. This includes my standard time off each year (all holidays, 3 days at Thanksgiving and a week or two between Christmas and New Year) as well as letting them know they can expect me to take another week or so of additional vacation at some point during the year. So, when I add my vacation to my client’s calendars (usually 1-2 months in advance) it isn’t a surprise to them.
I am afraid of experiencing overwhelm when I return.
This is legit for both employee roles and entrepreneurial roles. For the most part, this just requires some pre-planning to set yourself up for success on the back-end of your trip. Block your calendar so that you don’t have any meetings scheduled on your first day back. Make sure your loose ends are tied up before you leave. When you open your inbox, immediately delete all of the emails that are not relevant and then skip to just reading the ones from your clients (all those emails from the lists you subscribe to can wait). Add the new work that came in to your project management tool or to do list. Allowing for a transition/catch-up day once you get back is super helpful. Oh...and don’t work longer hours to make-up for your week away, there is no greater way to lose the benefits of your time off than jumping back in at double time.
Now that we’ve addressed some common concerns, let’s get to the part about HOW to take that vacation you’ve been dreaming about. I’m going to provide you with a simple checklist for how to make this happen in your business, but THE KEY IS PLANNING. The better you plan the easier it will be to step away.
⃞ Be mindful of when you take your vacations. If you have a vacation planned already when taking on a new client, let them know on the front-end. If its a client you’ve been working with for awhile, avoid planning vacations during their launches or busy times. It will put both of you at greater ease.
⃞ Tell your clients 1-2 months in advance for any vacation you plan that will take you out of their business for one full week or longer. Add these dates to their calendar. 2-4 weeks in advance start reminding them and asking them what they feel they need to have in place while you are away.
⃞ Block the time on your calendar so no calls can be scheduled during the time you are away. Also block the day you return so you can have a transition day.
⃞ Expect to work a few extra hours the week before your vacation. Anything that can be done in advance, take care of it. Anything that can be scheduled (like social posts), schedule it. Update your calendar to cancel any recurring meetings for the week you are away. If there are tasks that MUST be done while you are away, provide your clients or their team members with clear instructions for how and when to do them (and keep them to a minimum). Set everyone up for a successful time away.
⃞ Turn on your autoresponder. Let your autoresponder work for you in your inbox. Let people know how long you will be away, when you will return and when they can expect a response from you.
⃞ Schedule a social media post on the platforms you use. Let your people know you are taking a vacay and that you’ll be back in a week or so. Feel free to schedule another post or two for while you are away if social media is a big part of your business. Or not, most people probably won’t even notice or, if they do, it won’t matter to them. This is really about your peace of mind.
⃞ Turn off your notifications. Hit snooze on all your work apps. Turn on vacation mode. Set yourself as away. I also move my apps to their own folder on my phone and set it a couple swipe screens back so nothing pops up when I grab my phone or something personal.
⃞ Leave your laptop at home. Sure, you may want to watch a move on the plane - bring a different device, book or magazine (I always treat myself to a magazine on vacation). You might have better boundaries than I do, but as long as it's nearby I am tempted to check-in. Remove the temptation.
⃞ Let go. Enjoy your time away. Fully step into and fully trust that the sky will not fall down while you are away.
If you have never taken a vacation since starting your business, ease your way into. Consider starting with an extra long weekend or a 2-3 day trip to see how that goes and build yourself up to a full week or two.
You can do this, in fact, you need to do this.