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taking time off

Business Ownership

Taking Time Off As A Business Owner

I haven’t earned time off yet! 

I can’t step away…everything will fall apart without me! 

I won’t make any money if I take time off! 

Do any of these statements sound familiar? I’ve thought them and I know other business owners have thought them. 

Over the past 18 months, I’ve had the pleasure of coaching a small group of women business owners and hesitation around taking time off is a theme that comes up frequently in our session. There seems to be an overwhelming desire to stay connected to business while on “vacation” or feeling like you need to seek permission to take time off. As a business owner, who will grant you that permission? There’s no paid time off to log in the system. I can’t help but wonder if that’s one of the reasons it’s so difficult to take time off as a business owner? 

We know from research and articles that there are significant benefits to enjoying time off.  According to Forbes “Scientific evidence suggests that you and your employees will be healthier and more productive if you take some real breaks throughout the year.” 

Let’s explore what could be holding you back from taking time off and what you as a business owner can do about it. 

What’s Holding You Back from Taking Time Off

1. Beliefs

Our beliefs guide our attitudes, and our attitudes guide our behaviors. When was the last time you examined your beliefs around time off as a business owner? I am still working on unpacking beliefs that don’t serve me well from my corporate days. The first one in the office and the last one to leave was often glamorized and the people who adhered to this belief were seen as the most dedicated and determined. There was also a belief that the person who kept the most meetings week after week was the most successful. You know what that strategy can lead to? Burnout and resentment. I also heard early on in my career that you can work half days, you just have to pick which 12 hours you work. 

Don’t get me wrong. There is a strong amount of effort and hard work required to launch and grow a business but as my coach taught me, effectiveness and efficiency also play a role. If all we do is lean on hard work, we will likely dread our businesses which is a disservice to our clients, our families and ourselves.  

It’s OK to take a break, recharge and stop working in and on your business – I need to repeat this to myself often! Think about it…when was the last time you truly stepped away? What happened while you were away? Did your business fall apart? (If so…see next section on delegation and planning). 

Did you feel more energized when you came back to work? (If not…see next section on the vacation “hangover”). 

The reality is that more often than not, when I step away from work I return inspired and excited (after a day or two). And I am crazy productive the week leading up to time off in the business. If you are holding onto the belief that you haven’t earned it yet, you should ask yourself why you think that way. Where’s the truth and proof in that belief and does it serve you well?  

It can feel scary to take time off as a business owner because you are the business owner. Often in the early phases of your business, you are responsible for everything from admin to sales to marketing to client service to finance to visioning to coordination, etc. It’s important to consider your goals and your expectations as you plan for time off. I haven’t yet figured out how to grow and run a 7-figure business while vacationing year-round in Fiji (if you have ideas I’d love to hear them). It’s important to consider the stage of your business and what your business needs to grow and evolve as you plan for vacations. Learning to delegate, implement systems and planning are important practices for business owners to master so they can step away. 

2a. Delegation

Do you love control? I know I do. I identify as a perfectionist, and I can get into my own way which hinders my ability to take time fully away from business. 

If you have a team, are you letting your team excel? I recently learned I was holding onto email marketing. I had this limiting belief that I had to control the message because it’s hard work growing an email list and I would feel horrible if something went out with a mistake because I respect the people who are on my list. (Hello perfection!) I specifically partnered with a VA who has a background in digital marketing and for months I held onto email marketing. What was I thinking? 

I was thinking control and perfection. As business owners, we’ve invested our heart and soul into our businesses. Of course, we desire control. I am learning the more I insist on controlling, the more I will stay exactly where I am. If I am going to build an empire that serves thousands of people on their goal achievement journeys, I need to get out of my own way and let the people on my team excel. 

It was an intense week from a scheduling perspective where I had 20 individual coaching meetings, 2 group coaching sessions and facilitated a workshop, all while promoting the Elite Achievement Goal Setting Series. My mantra for the week was one day at a time. Due to my time being dedicated to serving clients (which is exactly where I should be spending my time as a coach), I broke down and delegated some email marketing to my VA. Do you know what happened? Magic! I was blown away with the final product. The emails she created were beautifully designed and so much better than what I would have created. I learned two powerful lessons from this experience:

  1. When we delegate to our team they have more time to invest in the project. 
  2. When we delegate to our team (assuming we have the right people in place which is a topic for a later discussion) we get to leverage their skillset! 

My limiting belief about holding onto this work due to potential mistakes was actually more likely to happen with me in charge. Isn’t that the crazy thing about limiting beliefs? They hold us back. But when we stop to ask ourselves “Why am I believing this?” we actually realize we are being quite ridiculous. 

When it comes to taking time off, are you holding onto projects and tasks that can be delegated to someone on your team? A great way to assess what you should delegate is to complete an exercise where you plot your tasks, meetings and projects over the course of a couple of weeks. 

I recommend assessing all of the projects and tasks you take on in your business. Draw a giant plus on a piece of paper:

  • Top Right – Things you love to do and things that are important for goal achievement (prioritize).
  • Top Left – Things you love to do but aren’t important for goal achievement (minimize).
  • Bottom Right – Things you don’t love to do and are important for goal achievement (delegate or systematize).
  • Bottom Left – Things you don’t love to do and aren’t important for goal achievement (why are you still doing these things?). 

I’ve found when delegating it can be challenging to get what’s outside of your head clearly articulated in a way someone else can understand to complete the tasks. Be as clear as possible with your expectations. Brene Brown describes this as “Paint what done mean.” 

2b. Systematize

How often are you recreating emails, formats for posts, coordination for repeat meetings, etc.? Start documenting the steps you take to complete your most frequent tasks and then you can share these steps when delegating. 

Systems are beneficial whether you have a team or not. As you plan to take time off, ask yourself what you can automate. There are some great resources available to help you systematize some of your marketing initiatives such as social media posts (Later) and emails (Flodesk). You can continue to communicate with your audience and clients while you are away from the office. I know some business owners who plan their blogs and schedule them to post in advance of their vacations. 

3. Planning

As a business owner, especially if you don’t have a team yet, there’s no one else available to complete the work. Planning to take time off is essential. 

I recommend you look at the calendar and plan around key dates. Is there a slower season in your business? When are you wrapping up a big project? I often take time off around the holidays at the end of the year because many of my clients are also enjoying time off. 

How do you communicate with clients before your vacation? I’ve learned that clients are people too who also have friends, family and lives outside of work. They also take vacations (hopefully) and will understand as long as you continue to deliver on what was promised. I try to take this approach when working with my team. I know that my team often relies on me to provide insight and guidance and if I fail to communicate when I am going to be out of the office, it’s my fault projects are delayed. 

What are you including in your out of office email? I used to include the typical “I’m out of office and look forward to responding when I am back next week.” I learned from Jenna Kutcher that you can include answers to frequently asked questions and important links in your out of office email to keep your correspondents engaged and informed even while you are away. 

I know first-hand how tempting it can be to check email each day to stay engaged and informed, but then you don’t truly disconnect and step away. I brainstormed with a client a solution that would give her the information she desired and allowed her to step away. Each day she asked her team member to send her an email detailing the projects completed, questions needing answers, updates on clients and tracking towards key goals. That way my client could search her email for her team member’s update emails, read the highlights and manage the rest of her inbox later when not in vacation mode.

4. Return to Work – the Vacation “Hangover”

The planning doesn’t stop with preparing to be out of office, it’s important to plan your return to work. I don’t know about you, but I seem to have a vacation “hangover” when I get back in town. Meaning I need a vacation from my vacation! There’s so much excitement and anticipation leading up to the trip, packing and preparing and rushing to complete projects and then finally at some point (usually when my flight lands), is when I realize I can relax. I find the day after vacation (or even a great weekend) to be so challenging. I struggle to be motivated and don’t feel super inspired. What I’ve learned is that this is normal for me. By the next day, I’m back and usually with a ton of inspiration and fire for my work. 

I prefer to leave blank space in my calendar on my day back in the office to catch up on emails and ease back into work, but then have a full calendar the next day. Each person is different. What works for you? Do you get energy jumping back into a full day where there is little room to think, or do you prefer to leisurely make your return? Either way, I recommend booking some meetings the week you return that energize you. Coffee with your favorite client, an A+ prospect you’ve been pumped to connect with, a coaching call. It’s important to have meetings on your calendar that fire you up and remind you why you do the work you do. 

If you are feeling burnt out, overwhelmed or have the desire to travel what is holding you back? Examine your limiting beliefs and then delegate, systematize and plan to enjoy some time out of your business.