Ahhh… summer is here. And with summer comes a slower, more relaxing schedule—or not!
If you're a small business owner with only a few employees or the owner and ONLY employee, you know that it's basically impossible to ever completely take time off.
Yes, you can work ahead or hire temporary help, but usually only for a day or so, and then you're needed again. Plus, if there are any major issues or problems during your time off, you're forced to head back to the office ASAP.
So how can you find some sort of balance between work and family life? Especially during the summer months when you want to be able to drop everything and head out to the cottage, up to the cabin, or even just out of the office for a couple days?
Here are a few tips that have helped me achieve that balance over the years:
1. Come Up With a Plan
The first step in taking any sort of break from your business is to create a plan well in advance. Figure out when you'd like to take a vacation, where you'll be going and whether those dates will conflict with any major business requirements, etc.
Start thinking ahead to any conflicts that could arise, any work you could do ahead of time to lighten your load, and anyone else you could potentially bring on board to assist you while you're out of the office.
2. Communicate that Plan
Once you have a tentative plan, it's critical that you communicate it with as many people involved in your work and personal life as possible. Make sure your family is on board with your vacation plans and that any other employees or colleagues are available to "cover" for you while you're gone.
If your business is a one-person operation, it might not be a bad idea to share your vacation plans with a trusted business-minded friend who might be able to check in on things while you're gone or alert you to possible problems.
3. Work Ahead
I realize it might not alway be possible to work ahead, but if it is, I'd HIGHLY recommend it! I've saved myself loads of stress by working ahead when a vacation or maternity leave is lurking the following month.
Get invoices sent out early (or at least drafted and ready to go). Pay bills ahead of time (or set them up on an auto-payment). Schedule social media posts in advance. Schedule meetings before and after the vacation. Plan for shipments to arrive after vacation so you aren't worrying about holding on to too much inventory while you're away. Set up auto responses for your email and voice mail, and designate an emergency contact number (or email) just in case.
ANYTHING you can possibly do ahead of time will most certainly benefit you while you're gone. And that means a little more time to unwind and relax!
4. Set Boundaries
In my experience, it is nearly impossible to fully shut down the work part of my brain for more than half a day—and I'm guessing if you're a small business owner, you feel the same way. Even though you want to fully enjoy your time away, you still need to check in every now and then.
I've found that the best way to do this is by setting CLEAR boundaries as to when and where I will be in 'work mode' during my vacation. I also make sure to communicate these times with my family (or whomever I'm with on vacation) so they know I'm unavailable for that time period. Then make sure to get back into "vacation mode" ASAP!
Maybe you get up earlier than everyone else to check and respond to emails. Or maybe you stay up later at night to fit this in. You might also want to check in once or twice during the day; if so, schedule specified times to do this. Get back into work mode for 15-20 minutes and then SHUT DOWN.
Unless you're quickly checking in during one of your specified times, try to be as unplugged as possible. I've found that it's really hard for me to relax if I'm constantly checking my email, voice messages, social media, etc., so it's better for me to take a few minutes to check everything, then put it away.
When I'm only in "work mode" for a few minutes throughout the day, I FEEL like I'm taking more time off than when I'm constantly checking in, and honestly, what's the worst that could happen in just a few hours?
5. Realize It's Still YOUR Business
No matter how much you plan ahead, communicate, work ahead, and set boundaries, if there's a huge problem, a miscommunication, a website crash, or an unhappy client, YOU will most likely be the person who needs to deal with it—whether you're on vacation or not.
In my experience, I can do a really good job of being "unplugged" to an extent. However, I'll always have some sort of "life line" or emergency contact number just in case.
If you don't want to leave your phone on, have someone else in your group leave their phone on and give out that number in case of emergencies. This way, you can keep your phone off (which is especially nice if you get a lot of business calls throughout the day), and only be available if it's a true emergency.
The way I look at it, it was MY choice to start a business and it was MY choice to leave that business for a vacation, so I need to deal with a problem if it occurs. I try not to get discouraged about one bad "too much work on vacation" day, because often times, there's just nothing I could have done to prevent the problem.
Whenever I go on vacation or leave my work for more than half a day, I always try to do as many of these things as possible. And because of them, I've enjoyed many relaxing days away from the office.
I'd love to know if you have any other tips for finding that work-life balance when you're on vacation.
Do you have specific things you do or don't do to prepare or plan ahead? What works best for you?