I have completely underestimated the power of taking time out.
In the six and a half years that I’ve had my business, I have never, EVER, actually put on my automatic “out of office” email response while on vacation and actually meant it. Never.
For so many years I’ve been so passionate and so invested in my business that any time I have attempted to take time “off,” I’ve never truly allowed myself to unplug. I’m sure I’m not alone in this and that many entrepreneurs (and workaholics) can relate, but I’ve definitely been guilty of working away precious holiday time by making last minute calls in airports, writing emails on the beach and handling conference calls from hotel rooms. I once even wrote a business proposal from a sailboat! I’ll admit it – I’ve been kind of a psychopath when it comes to work and my business. I’ve also always prided myself in working so hard, being constantly available and staying so connected. To me, all the hard work seemed like a badge of honour of sorts, or some kind of right of passage to successful entrepreneurship.
That all changed a couple of weeks ago when I went to the East Coast with my fiancé to spend a little time with family and do some wedding planning in Prince Edward Island. Unexpectedly, I managed to actually unplug for almost the entire week.
The reason I say that it was unexpected is because there were a few factors outside of my own sheer will power that kept me away from work (let’s face it, I don’t really have any will power in that department). For starters, the wifi was a little spotty and our cell reception was somewhat poor at my in-laws cottage, which made trying to stay consistently connected more of a pain than anything else. Plus, being on the East Coast meant that there was a 4-hour time difference between where I was and my office in Vancouver. Also, because I really did turn my vacation reminder on this time around, I actually received far fewer emails from my office or from clients who knew I was away. And even though I was relatively disconnect from my Vancouver office, no one in PEI seemed to be really that interested in my work either… at least not on the psychotic level that I would typically like to talk about it. So even if I wanted to, I just didn’t have many reasons or opportunities to talk, think, or engage in my work whatsoever.
I’ll tell ya, it was a blessing! Having had a week to really unplug was amazing on a level that I had never experienced before: It was soul-filling. It was cleansing. It was energizing and it was inspiring. It was so needed.
After that one week away, and having had a chance to plug into other IMPORTANT life things like family and my upcoming wedding, I came back to work feeling so much more alive, refreshed, clear, and grounded. I came back to work with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for my business and for interior design, and I felt clear-headed and calm in a way that I haven’t felt for a very, very long time.
Since coming home I’ve been listening to Grace Bonney’s Podcast series “After the Jump.” In one Podcast she discusses productivity in general and focuses on the healthy habits of successful business owners, stating that:
“Taking time out is not a luxury, it is a necessity.”
Well, as a result of my recent and unexpected life-changing and profound week away, I am now proud to share that I am changing my own work/life philosophy and embracing what taking time out has to offer. Looking back, I almost feel a little sheepish that I have spent such little time fuelling other areas of my life. Lets face it, no one can do one thing all the time. That doesn’t mean that I regret all the hard work I’ve put in to my business so far. Far from it. It’s just that now, six and a half years after launching my company, I can personally attest to the importance of taking time out, and that I know without a shadow of a doubt that productivity and creativity are actually better when you get a chance to have a break.
So if you’re like me and the type of person who also struggles with taking time out, keep reading. I’ve got some great tips for you on how to set yourself up for successfully taking time out.
Thanks for stopping by and make sure to give yourself that break!
TIPS FOR TAKING TIME OUT
1. SCHEDULE IT IN
I’ve come to realize that taking time out requires strategic scheduling. It has to be planned and in the calendar well in advance it order for it to be successful.
It also has to be long enough. If you haven’t had a break for a while, make sure you plan enough time for yourself so that you’ll actually get a chance to unwind. If you’ve been on the cusp of burn-out, a long weekend probably won’t cut it and you may need a good week or two (or more) to give yourself a chance to breathe and regroup before returning back to work.
Whatever length of time you need, make sure you’ve got it locked in the calendar, and get in the habit of scheduling the next one right away too!
2. GREAT GAME REQUIRES A GREAT PRE-GAME
If you are planning on taking a longer break, don’t forget to give yourself time to prep for your break.
You don’t want to start your holiday time by packing, doing laundry, cleaning or anything else that may need to get done because it’s been neglected during your busy work days. Make sure that you’ve built time into your schedule to take care of these things so that you can transition into your time off with a clear mind and clean to-do list.
Taking care of these things in advance also helps with getting back into the groove of things once you’ve had your time off. Nothing kills a vacation buzz like heaps of laundry to do or stacks of bills to pay. Try to make time to take care of all those things before you go.
3. SAY IT LOUD
Creating space for yourself to unwind means letting the people who depend on you know that you’re not going to be available for a short period of time. Now if you’re just taking an extra day out of the office then that may not be cause for a big announcement, but if you are going to be gone for any substantial length of time, letting people know well in advance also gives them a chance to plan around you.
It’s a good idea to turn your automatic email vacation notice on, or have an updated voicemail message so that people not only understand that you’re unavailable, but that they also know when they can expect to be back in contact with you. This helps to set clear boundaries around your “time off” time because no one’s going to value that time if you don’t. Protect the fact that you need to take time off, let yourself disconnect, and make sure that people are not in the dark about it.
4. HAVE BACK UP
I have a busy office now, so when I do go away there are very capable people that I can rely on. Projects can move forward with or without me, and with or without each one of them. That’s the benefit of having a team.
But, if you don’t have an office full of staff, there are always people that you can rely on to keep a project moving forward while you’re away. Make sure you’ve passed along the contact info of these people in case your clients or contractors need to get a hold of them. Include this relevant information in your automatic email response, that way progress can happen without you having to be there.
5. ENJOY IT
My last tip is to make sure you really enjoy the time that you have off! See the people you want to see. Explore the areas that you’ve traveled to. Read that book that you’ve been dying to start. Whatever it is, make sure you really take advantage of that time off.
Try not to sneak a peek at your emails and resist the urge to check your voicemail. Doing this might only just stress you out and rob you of the ability to relax and recharge the way you really need to.
Unplug. That’s the whole point of getting away. And when you return, you’ll be thankful that you did.