As I am about to embark on my two weeks+ holiday in Europe, I am reminded that one of the biggest challenges as small business owners and solopreneurs is taking time off! There are things to do, clients to take care of, new clients to be found and prospected and someone has to pay the bills!
I believe that most of the resistance and panic over “I can’t possible take this much time off” centers around guilt. We let thoughts take over like, "I need to work hard / I need to be available whenever clients want to get hold of me / I must put in at least X huge number of hours every day and week to succeed / or I’ll miss a great deal or contract". How much of that is really true for every week, in 52 weeks of the year? And how much good does a stressed and overworked You really do your clients, yourself and your family?
Avoid burning out! Multitasking and worrying about every aspect of your business can take a toll on your mental, emotional and physical well-being. An article by Forbes emphasises that simply working harder isn’t the solution. It suggests, if you are rewards-obsessed (instead of having a harmonious passion), are bored, trying to do it all, or refusing to slow down when life sends you speed bumps, you’re greatly increasing the chances you’ll experience burnout.
Do not let that happen. I know from a similar personal experience that it is MUCH harder to recover long-term and completely from burnout or an illness than it is to avoid it in the first place. Try these steps to enable yourself to take that holiday without (or with far less) guilt:
Delegate: Before you even start planning your holiday destination, explore who can cover some of your main tasks during your absence. Could a Virtual Assistant (VA) or Virtual Business Manager (VBM or OBM), social media manager, fellow web designer or bookkeeper (or whatever your industry or niche) help you out for a while? Maybe you can do a quid pro quo – they act as your backup and you do the same for them.
As long as your clients have another go-to specialist, they can manage without you for a couple of weeks. Ask around in your business network. Very important: Have a Scope Of Work document (aka step-by-step guide or instructions) on how you want your delegate to do your tasks. This has worked very well for the support my team and I provide for my clients.
Work Smarter, Not Harder: Using some of my recommended online tools can save you time and improve how you track and retrieve tasks and documents (look up my last two newsletters). Implement set work hours and enforce them with yourself and your family, e.g. make yourself unavailable at certain times, so you can stay focused and increase productivity and output and do your most important work at a time of day when you feel most energetic. I tell my clients I am available 9am to 4pm and that's my general workday (often shorter, only occasionally longer). Create short priority lists for your days that you can actually complete. I like the "Urgent-Important-Matrix" or officially called the Eisenhower Matrix (because General Eisenhower apparently invented it) to help me prioritise or delegate!
Tell Clients in Advance: I notify my clients well in advance (several months) of any longer vacation I am planning. They appreciate being informed ahead of time, and in the weeks coming up to my break I emphasise us working on tasks or projects that need starting or completing before I leave. I have always found that my clients are understanding of my need to take time off, the same way they benefit from and take their breaks. You may find that your fear of leaving clients ‘unattended’ for a couple of weeks is completely unfounded!
Thankfully, I have a very capable and reliable VA subcontractor working with me and handling my holiday coverage, and as such my level of guilt over going incommunicado for one or two weeks at a time is very low. If you didn’t take a good long break this summer yet, plan yours and go for it. If you need more encouragement, The Entrepreneur.com has a good article on How Entrepreneurs Can Avoid Burnout.
And now I’m going offline – I have a holiday to pack for!