There’s a joke claiming that the phrase ‘family holiday’ is an oxymoron. Parents with very young kids often agree with this while also loving the precious memories they’re building together. This love-hate relationship with vacations is one that a business owner can relate to as well.
The logical mind agrees that every engine needs downtime to stay in peak running condition. The nervous entrepreneurial mind, however, has a panic attack at the thought of stepping away from the wheel for any amount of time. So what’s the happy balance that would satisfy both? Let’s begin with why taking a break is essential – not a luxury.
We usually break our normal routine when we travel, which means we can’t be on autopilot, thus increasing mindfulness and stimulating well-being. Taking time off improves the capacity to learn. When your brain is completely relaxed, it is better able to integrate knowledge and brainpower. According to a study released by the American Psychological Association, time off helps reduce stress by removing people from the activities and environments they associate with anxiety.
Taking regular vacations could help reduce the risk for metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health issues including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess belly fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Sounds good, but still have those niggling doubts? Here are five tips to help you enjoy your summer vacation with a stress-free mind while keeping your business in check.
1. Goal Check:
Check your goals for the year and assess where you are right now. Prioritise by order of what needs immediate attention in order to stay on track for timely completion. Identify the specific areas that absolutely need to be worked on during the summer break.
Once you have a bird’s eye view of the areas that will require attention during your vacation, identify the people best suited to handle them and delegate. If you are a solopreneur, check on outsourcing tasks that fit your budget and plan, so that they can be completed while you’re away. Consider trying out a Virtual Assistant for a while before you travel, so you can assess their efficiency. That would make delegating tasks to them during your absence a smooth transition.
3. Plan Ahead:
Since you are realistically not going to be able to completely switch off work mode, taking care of the following can ensure you get the most out of your time away:
- Map out all the main activities and events in your holiday schedule and any critical work-related meetings/calls that you absolutely have to attend. Once you know what you are committed to and when, you can plan accordingly, ensuring no overlaps or unexpected surprise calendar events pop up. This will manage everyone’s expectations as well as ensure boundaries are maintained.
- Give your clients and suppliers a heads-up on your travel dates, so they are informed and prepared well in advance. Anticipate things that might pop up during that time and ensure they are either addressed ahead of time or delegated to someone to take care of. Keeping them in the loop keeps them calm and confident that you have a handle on things. It also ensures they have enough time to raise any relevant concerns and allow you to sort them out.
4. Watertight Compartments:
When you are on vacation, be fully in vacation mode, and when you are stepping into your planned work time slots, focus only on that. As I said earlier, maintaining distinct modes ensures healthy boundaries, which honestly are the secret to peace of mind in these situations! How do you keep work and play separate?
- Unplug: When in vacation mode, make a conscious attempt to unplug from devices that keep you tethered to work – no sneaky peeks at email notifications. I realised just how huge the impact of not being mentally connected to work was, only when I had no internet on a holiday and couldn’t even ‘just glance’ at emails. Whether we respond or not, once we’ve plugged in to what’s happening at work through email or chat, we’re mentally and emotionally invested in the subject and how it’s being handled. The solution, therefore, is abstinence! Only check mail at the allocated time at the end of the day, unless of course there is something critical that requires you to monitor and stay in touch. Otherwise, your holiday will become like working from home with some sightseeing and shopping thrown into the mix!
- Identify triggers and prepare responses: Mentally review the thoughts that lead you to panic about work and not be present with your loved ones. It could be recurring worries about something you have already delegated to someone or that is under control, it could be seeing someone working away at their laptop or on a work call, or someone asking if your business can manage without you being there. We all have different triggers and once you’ve identified what yours are, they can’t blindside you anymore.
Now plan a suitable response to each one, that will neutralise its impact and allow you to continue to get the most out of your holiday. For instance, when you see someone else hard at work, you could say to yourself, ‘Wow, they look stressed and tired, and that’s what I’ve looked like for the first half of this year! Thank God I took a break. It will recharge my batteries and let me return to work relaxed and with a full tank!’ Again, find the responses that make sense to you. You can test them out by visualising your trigger, bringing up the response, and noticing how different your response is now. If it’s still triggering you, find a stronger response.
5. Agree on Outcomes with Your Family/Friends Pre-Travel:
This is so that you can track your success in sticking to the plan. If you are travelling solo, set your own expectation markers. You only know something worked if you have criteria to confirm it was successful, so just as you have KPIs and ROI criteria at work, you need clear indicators that have been agreed on prior to the vacation, which factor in all your stakeholders.
So, what exactly do your family/friends expect from you prior to and while you’re on vacation? Having this clarity will prevent regrets and finger-pointing later! Manage your client and supplier expectations as well, with a clear understanding of your availability with specific timings set for catch-up calls/meetings, frequency of expected updates from them, your response time while away, emergency call protocols etc. The more clarity everyone has on details, the fewer misunderstandings and the risk of things falling between the cracks. Now that you have everything under control, get ready for a well-deserved break, secure in the knowledge that you and your business will be fine. Bon voyage!