Vacation. A word bursting with expectations but sometimes leaving us with a feeling of dread. Taking a vacation, a real one, means leaving work behind. For people in traditional jobs, a vacation is simple: you ask for time off, you take time off, you return to pick up where you left off.
However, for those of use solopreneurs running our own small businesses, vacations can be a bit more complicated and sometimes devastating. Who will take over while we are gone? How will we make sure we don’t lose all the progress we’ve made? And then all that worry makes us wonder what good a vacation will do anyway and so we don’t do it. We stay home, do the same thing, and spend another year forgetting what the rest of the world looks like. Yuck.
The truth is, a vacation is possible and extremely necessary. Vacations create space in our brains for creativity, increased problem-solving ability, and better focus when we return to work. Here are some steps for how to take a vacation, enjoy it, and not miss a beat!
First, you must prepare. Once you’ve picked your destination and the timeframe you will be gone; preparation is essential. Make sure you have a plan in place for each day you will be gone. Make a note of what you foresee your needs being during your absence. If necessary, let your clients know that you will be gone and out of the office. If you want to leave yourself open for emergency situations, that’s fine. Just make sure you have a real plan in place for client emergencies. For example, tell them you will check messages at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm every day. Or tell them to email you with an accurate subject line to grab your attention. (We recommend using a codeword like URGENT or HELP.) Otherwise, all other communications will be dealt with when you return. Don't forget to turn on your email autoresponder as well.
Work ahead. Is there anything you foresee as a need while you are gone or you know will be expected to complete? Do your best to work ahead and take care of it. Know that a certain client likes to get fresh flowers sent to their office every third Tuesday? Schedule it in advance. Know your customers expect a new featured product on your website on Wednesdays? Plan it in advance and set it to update on schedule.
This leads us to our second tip. Automate. Automate. Automate! There are so many resources at your disposal; some you should probably already be using, but that are especially useful for vacations. Consider using Pocket to save lots of fun articles or blogs (like this one, even) and then schedule them to post to your business’ social media pages using Buffer. You can even connect the two with Zapier making this seriously easy. You’ll be soaking in the sun, slathered with sunscreen, but your fans and customers will think you are hard at work being a boss. We use these three systems every single day at CMVA. Seriously.
Set up automatic responses, as well, on social media making sure that they are thoughtful and kind. And, most importantly, think of your clients and customers as the employer and you the employee. Think about what their expectations are and remember their work doesn’t stop when you check out for a week or two. So anticipate their needs and set up automatic ways to meet those needs.
Sometimes planning ahead and automation won’t be enough. In those cases, perhaps it’s time to consider that you aren’t on an island (at least not until vacation starts) and there are other people out there who can help.
A solopreneur may find it helpful to delegate tasks to family, friends, fellows in the field, or other support services, such as a virtual assistant. A vacation may be a very good time to give an assistant a trial run.
Whatever route you choose, there is help available if you know where to look and aren’t afraid to ask.
Finally, commit to being on vacation. Shut down. Don’t try to make it a working vacation, if it's not supposed to be. It is ok to completely unplug from work for a time.
And stick to your guns. If you engage a client or customer (who isn’t in an emergency) while you are supposed to be “out of the office,” then the next time you try to unwind they will think your request for an uninterrupted vacation doesn’t apply to them.
And when you return remember how good it felt. Set a favorite holiday picture as your background on your computer or frame it and put it on your desk. Let it remind you of how good it felt, not just to be gone, but the power with which you returned.
The truth is, the world and your work won’t fall apart. You will probably return greater and stronger and more motivated than ever before. Good for you and your clients. It’s a true win-win!