As entrepreneurs time off can be tricky, fluid or damn near impossible to achieve depending on the stage of business you find yourself in. And yet, it’s one of the most powerful ways I know to rejuvenate your creative spirit, avoid overwhelm and prevent total breakdown leading to weeks or months of inactivity.
See, when you start a business and hang up that shingle you’re signaling to the world that you’re open for work. None of this “every other Tuesday and some Friday nights and the Sundays that fall on a full moon” crap. When you proudly say “I’m here for business” then shutting down your business on a moment’s notice is a bad idea.
ordering-1000-business-cards-before-registering-that-website bad idea
but still bad.
Taking time off is tricky and, depending on the stage of business you’re in, you need a strategy before you stop answering emails and peace out to Peru.
The development stage – ideas and excitement abound
If you’re still developing your business idea then it’s likely two things are true: 1) you have so much energy you’re vibrating from the excitement of it all and 2) there’s, like, no money coming in the door.
In fact, during this stage most of your time and attention and money is probably flowing out but the thrill of what you’re creating is so worth it.
The risk: you’re so caught up in excitement that you lose perspective, friends, sleep and normalcy.
The time off solution: take a road trip or go visit friends who have nothing to do with your new business venture. Soon you’re going to be way too busy for this thing called “leisure travel” and talking with everyday people who are not living and breathing SEO and ad strategies will help you stay grounded.
Eat food that doesn’t end up on Instagram. Buy some clothes that are not for an upcoming video shoot. Talk to people without thinking how it’ll turn into a blog post.
The building stage – too many moving parts to think about
Ever watch those HGTV home shows where a family is making over their home in 3 weeks and in the middle of the kitchen/bath/whole house remodel they just pick up and go on vacation?
It drives me crazy because I can only imagine the contractors who are waiting on decisions and approvals and this is the first week without horrible weather in months and you’re just… gone.
That can be how it feels when you’re building up a business but, frustratingly, this stage can last anywhere from a couple months to a decade.
Imagine the home renovation that never ends. It’s okay to cry a little.
Now imagine that you have to stay in that house 24/7 until every. single. detail is complete, nevermind your cousin’s wedding or that timeshare you bought. You’re never leaving.
The risk: You’re waiting to go on vacation until your business is self-sufficient. Making $100k. $500k. At least a million a year. Before expenses. After expenses. And the moving target gets a little further away because this whole “building” phase is never really complete.
The time off solution: Start with a staycation that physically removes you from your office and computer. Refocus on your health, family, physical environment and life goals – not just the business ones. Graduate to trips that assure you full wifi connection (even in the pool) and bring along your laptop like it’s a security blanket. Eventually you’ll have practice leaving your company in capable hands and the systems you need to run things automagically and you can go off grid for longer periods of time.
You know, climb a mountain, go on safari, sleep in an overwater bungalow, visit your grandparents house that’s stuck in 1927, attend a silent retreat, have a baby, or embark on your own house remodel.
Taking time off does not equal giving up on business
When done right, it doesn’t even mean sacrificing income, growth or opportunities.
When you don’t take time off you are risking your physical and mental well-being as well as the overall health of your business.
Let me be clear: when you’re an entrepreneur and feel like you can’t take time off, you’re working for a crazy person who will never fire you.
When to take time off:
The first is obvious: holidays and weekends are most common, though if you’re like me and skip most holidays plan to take some time off at other times.
You should also take vacation time, 1-2 weeks minimum but more if you can. Again, if your business can’t survive without you for a week you have a systems problem. Fix the systems, take vacation.
Randomly as needed. I don’t mean when you wake up and you’re sick or tired and need some downtime, I mean take some time off just to enjoy life.
Maybe that’s the day off for your kid’s fieldtrip or to prepare for an upcoming family party. Maybe it’s your birthday (week) or for your anniversary. Perhaps you just take off Mondays to volunteer or to take someone you care about to their doctor’s appointments. Take time off for your upcoming marathon (running or tv, your choice!), to meet with contractors, buy a car or sit in the park and read a book.
Time off is good for your soul, don’t starve it.