As the warmer weather is coming (so they say, but I also heard snow might hit next week in my area), I’m reminded of vacationing.
Taking time away from the day-to-day to explore new areas of the world, indulge in new surroundings, take advantage of new experiences.
I remember my first year in business. I had just come out of wrapping up a full-time job in the corporate world while simultaneously launching my own business.
I just wanted a break. A sacred time without client deliverables and emails and blog posts and the daily grind.
But I was terrified to put my business on pause for even a week.
How would I do it?
What would my clients think?
Would my clients be upset or let down?
What if they were and decided to leave?
What if my vacation was the very event that triggered the downfall of my newly-minted venture?
Oh, yeah, I was deep into “what if” catastrophizing mode.
What was really happening was that I just didn’t know how to do it.
Taking a vacation as a business owner is a totally different operation than taking a vacation as an employee.
As an employee, you put in a vacation request and as long as you have the time in your vacation bank, your request is typically approved.
You might have to pre-plan for due dates that’ll come up while you’re away, but overall, you aren’t worried that a whole business will crumble because you took one week to explore the Oregon coast or California wine country.
Nope, as a business owner yourself, there’s so much more to think about and think through.
And I decided it was totally worth it the first time I took that vacation. I knew that time away was just as important as the time spent at my desk. (A facepalm moment – why didn’t I do this sooner?)
When I look back, I can see I was afraid to step away. I absolutely thought my business would crumble. It felt that important and fragile.
So I froze.
And I see other business owners doing the same thing.
They tell themselves their business needs them. They can’t step away. What will happen?
It feels too risky.
But isn’t it riskier to not take care of yourself?
You’re the backbone of your business. And when you’re overwhelmed and overworked and on the brink of burnout, everything suffers.
When frozen, we just need to take action and what better way to step into action than with a plan.
Here’s my step-by-step plan to take a vacation in your small business. Yes, even if you’re a solo shop.
Step 1: Decide to take a vacation.
This is the very first step and you cannot complete the other steps without it. You must make the decision that a vacation is in order for you. You need to commit to this fully yourself. Otherwise, the other steps will never happen either (that means no step 7).
Step 2: Select the dates you’ll be gone and block them on your calendar.
Get specific on when you’re going to take time away. Will it be in July while your kids are on summer break? Or perhaps during the Fall when the leaves are changing color, making for the most spectacular scenic drives?
Once you have the dates, block them on all of your calendars. Digital, paper, work, home, and definitely in your appointment scheduler.
Step 3: Book your vacation plans.
Whether that’s lodging only or lodging plus air travel, get those travel plans locked in with your vacation rental, hotel, campsite, train line, airline.
Basically, however you’re going to get to where you’re going and sleeping at night, book the necessary reservations.
Because once you’ve committed this far, your brain is really getting on board and it’s easier to move through the discomfort of stepping away from your business than canceling all those non-refundable reservations.
Step 4: Make a list of what will need to happen in your business while you’re away.
Take 30 minutes and write down everything that will occur in your business while you’re away.
Things like: sending out your weekly newsletter or publishing a new podcast episode or meeting with your business coach.
All of it, get it out of your head and down on paper so you can really see what needs to shift off your plate that week.
Step 5: Prepare your pre-vacation business plan.
Now take the list for the previous step and start to map out the pre-vacation plan.
Will you pre-record three podcast episodes before you leave, so that your listeners don’t miss a beat? Or just take the week off?
Will you cancel your session with your business coach completely? Or try to move it to another week?
How will your team know when to contact you while you’re away? What constitutes an emergency that they definitely need to reach out? What can wait until you’re back?
Will you check email at all or catch up on it all when you’re back? (Note – I said “check” not “respond”.)
If you don’t have an assistant, how will you keep half an eye on your business while you’re away in a way that allows you to enjoy your vacation?
Get clear on all of it in advance. I promise that taking the time upfront to think this through will save you from interruptions (and headaches) when you’re on vacation.
Step 6: Take action on your pre-vacation business plan.
This step is pretty straightforward – you start executing on your pre-vacation plan.
If that includes writing newsletter content for the week of your vacation and the following two weeks all before you leave, then you write the extra newsletters. (Yes, I’m recommending you give yourself a buffer for reentry into your business routine.)
If that means rescheduling a regular client to a week when you aren’t away, send the email and get her session moved.
If that means putting an auto-reply message on your email address, alerting people that you’re out of the office and to contact your assistant for all inquiries, set it up.
This is the unsexy part of it. Where you’re putting your head down and getting it done.
Step 7: Head out on your vacation.
Have fun. Rejuvenate your mind. Rest up. Indulge your senses. Soothe your soul.
Pretty simple don’t you think?
So, when is your next vacation happening?
Declare it in the comments below so I can celebrate with you.
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash