entrepreneur self-care solopreneur Uncategorized

How to Take a Vacation As a Business Owner

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.

business development entrepreneur personal growth self-care

Why Self-Care Needs to be Part of Your Business Plan

“Self-care is defined as the daily process of attending to your basic physical and emotional needs, which include the shaping of your daily routine, relationships, and environment, as needed to promote self-care.”-Evelyn Tribole, The Intuitive Eating Workbook

Are you reaching a point of burn-out and utter exhaustion as you strive to run your business with excellence?

Not sure, let’s take a quick assessment…

1. Are you tired all the time?

2. Do you experience insomnia?

3. Have you started experiencing physical symptoms (reflux, headaches, gut pain)?

4. Do you have anxious feelings?

5. Have you been sick more frequently?

6. Are you experiencing increased feelings of anger and resentment?

If you answered yes to three or more of these then you may have some of the tell-tale signs of burn-out.

I’m sure that most of you make some sort of plan for your business. Personally, I make an annual plan that I then review quarterly and have projects and tasks that I work through weekly and monthly that align with my goals and vision. This is relatively common. Yet, how often do you include self-care in your business plan? Do you incorporate self-care into the flow of your day, week or month?

I’ve been slowly working my way through the Intuitive Eating Workbook in an effort to shift my mindset as I seek to make peace with both food and my body. Yet, as I go through each exercise in the workbook I realize more and more that intuitive eating is not just about the food. It’s actually about wholeness.

My relationship with food is part of the larger picture of my life. My physical, relationship, emotional, psychological, and spiritual health all inform and influence the role food plays in my life. Intuitive eating is led by principles (I like to consider them as guides). The foundation of these principles are rooted in mindset and self-care.

I am discovering that the more I nourish myself through acts of self-care, the more space I create to honor my hunger and my needs. Yet, I’m realizing that self-care doesn’t just create space for me to practice intuitive eating, it creates space for me to show up and be present in the ways I want to in every area of my life – which includes my business. 

Self-care is not a luxury. It is not selfish. It is simply the pursuit and integration of those things that nourish our minds, bodies, souls and hearts. In fact, the American Psychological Association has stated that it is an ethical imperative essential for psychologists in order to prevent burn-out and maintain wellness. While specific to the demands of mental health professionals, I would venture to say that it would be equally essential for all small business owners to find and maintain a self-care routine and flow.

Like anything else in our business, self-care doesn’t just happen on it’s own. Sometimes the most challenging step is shifting our mindset to acknowledge that our practice of self-care is imperative to the sustainability and growth of our business. Just like the reminder on every flight of the importance of putting our own oxygen mask on before we can help others with theirs. If we are perpetually operating from a place of depletion and exhaustion, then we become limited in what we can share with others. The quality and level of our work can become stunted because we begin to function primarily in survival mode.

When I am not nourishing myself and neglect self-care, I find that I become easily overwhelmed, my clients’ requests can feel like a burden, I’m short-tempered with my husband and it becomes exceedingly difficult to make even minor adjustments when plans need to change. I become unbending and focused only on the end result of what I believe needs to be accomplished.

Sometimes, we reach such a deep place of exhaustion that we need to take a long break in order to rest and recover. But, most of the time, I have found that through awareness and a few small changes we can often recover what has been lost and begin to move from surviving to thriving.

If you are ready to nourish yourself so that you can become a better business owner, here are four paths to help you to get started:

1. Awareness – Acknowledge that you have not been caring for yourself and set aside some time to do a check-in. Personally, I like to check-in first with my body through doing a body scan and then with my emotions to identify the prominent feelings I have been experiencing. Stress often shows up in our emotions and our bodies which is why I like to start here.

As you go through this check-in, simply acknowledge any pains you have and the feelings you’ve identified without judgment. They are neutral and just there to provide insight to you.

2. Preparation – Self-care is personal and looks totally different for everyone. It can also be hugely dependent upon your season of life. However, what I have found is that having a list of self-care activities to choose from, I can easily pick what I need without having to spend a lot of time thinking about it.

In this season of life, I work-at-home with my preschool co-worker and our newborn. A few self-care for me in this season looks a lot like sleeping in on the weekends, ordering from Daily Harvest quick, healthful meals, naps, going out and getting a coffee alone, practicing acceptance, deep breathing, and simplifying almost all of my daily routines to less than 15 minutes. For the working mamas out there, I have found Whitnee at The Savvy Working mom to be full of practical tips and for encouraging me to stop “shoulding” all over myself.

3. Margin – It has never resonated well with me to have a rigid schedule and routine. There are just too many things out of my control that arise and I don’t want to feel locked into anything. So, I create a plan for each week but I make sure to include plenty of margin so that I can be flexible when needed. This also means that I say no quite a lot. Keeping our calendars from being booked every minute of every day allows us to check and adjust when we needed to and to accommodate for unexpected changes.

4. Balance – This goes hand-in-hand with #3. As I said before, I need there to be some flexibility in my schedule. So, I tend to aim for a rhythm in my life that can ebb and flow as needed. We all need space for work, play, and rest. Those don’t always need to be in equal proportions at all times, but they do all need time and attention. I build all three of these into my schedule and routines, but when I notice that one is out of balance, I aim to give it a bit more attention. For example, I can often neglect play, and, as a result causes me to become a bit too serious. When I see this happening, I go play outside with my daughter or play a board and have a beer with my husband in the evening. These simple activities can usually recenter me and bring me back into balance.

In conclusion, in order to show up and be present in our businesses we need to acknowledge our need for self-care and begin to incorporate it into our lives in a way that aligned with who we are and that can be done realistically and consistently within our current season of life.

I’d love to hear in the comments below what your season of life includes right now and what you incorporate into your self-care “basket”.