With summer kicking off, vacation requests are probably starting to pile up. Do you have plans to take time away from your business? Unfortunately, too many small business owners feel that a relaxing, rejuvenating break from the office is just an illusion. These are the deceived entrepreneurs, those who struggle to detach themselves from the “work weeds” for even one day. However, Eagles’ Wing Business Coaching (EWBC) clients know that with a bit of effort and preparation, the fantasy of a dream vacation does become a reality.
Burnout is a real issue for leaders and can be a barrier to creative thinking and productivity, so taking time away is essential to the growth and development of both you AND your business. It also sends the message to your employees that you see the value in self-care and work-life balance. So lead by example and enjoy a relaxing trip this summer with these tips.
Prioritize Time Off
Burnout is a huge issue for many business leaders. What is burnout? It’s the result of prolonged exhaustion and stress, with symptoms including lack of productivity and motivation, chronic negativity, self-doubt, depression, trouble sleeping, and even physical illness. Nothing about burnout is beneficial for a business owner, and it doesn’t just impact the one experiencing it. There is a trickle-down effect on employees and clients, and it bleeds into your home life as well. Committing to your well-being and taking time away to relax and recharge is a great way to combat burnout and should be prioritized just as you would any critical deadline or meeting.
If you are planning on taking time off, block your calendar, mark it in ink, carve it into a tree trunk, anything to make it official and inflexible. And always stick to it, even if plans fall through (Raining on golf day? Recharging at home can be just as relaxing). Make it clear to your staff that you take your days off seriously. The more you commit to your days away, the more your employees will respect your boundaries. It will even encourage staff to focus on their care when vacation days come around, fighting burnout for your whole company.
Emergency Prep Planning
The reality is, when you own a business, you do need to be reachable in case of emergency. But what constitutes an emergency? And who should handle issues that arise until that point?
The first step is to designate someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf during your time away. Identify in advance which decisions you need to delegate and which can wait for your return. You may define some – a very select few – 911 calls. Some leaders even develop a guide for when they leave with a Q&A for common issues that might arise in a given week. The tough part? Upon your arrival home, be accepting of these pre-approved decisions made without your input. If need be, educate for the future, but don’t criticize things not handled in the exact way you would have. If employees are afraid to make decisions independently, you will likely start getting calls again on your next vacation. Clean up any messes, then train your team on how to avoid them in the future. The most effective leaders find ways to celebrate the missteps; after all, only people who do nothing can avoid mistakes.
Though it takes time upfront to prep and plan, you will reap the benefits as you relax, unbothered on a sunny beach.
Alert the Masses
Notify key client contacts or others that might expect to hear from you. Think of those who tend to pop up with urgent needs last-minute; let them know that you will be taking time off several weeks before your trip. Consider giving yourself a day or two of cushioned unavailability before and after your scheduled vacation. The cushion will help reduce those midnight emails the night before you leave and the pressure to respond to everything the day you get back.
It seems obvious, but don’t forget to set your out-of-office email auto-response before you leave, with your designated second-in-command listed as an alternative contact. Failing to do this can confuse employees and clients and may result in an interrupting phone call. Your auto-reply message can even indicate that you will have limited access to phone or email, so there’s no expectation that you will be monitoring these channels.
Practice Work Fasting
Depending on your line of work or your business structure, it may not currently be possible for you to disconnect entirely for several days at a time. But you can practice “intermittent work fasting.” You may commit to times, not more than once every three days, that you will check in via phone. You can get the status on any KPIs or critical measures and approve proposed solutions during these calls.
You can also set an hour or two on each day if needed, preferably in the morning or at night, where you plan to review emails, troubleshoot issues, and commit to your office work while on vacation. Instruct your second-in-command to consolidate updates and send you one summary email with the highlights of the day that are pertinent. Again, you can train this in advance. Set an hour timer, be productive during that time, but when the buzzer goes off, it’s time to shut down until your next designated work hour at night or the following day. Commit to this entirely, and no cheating! Don’t even glance at your email in between these times because I promise, you will get sucked in!
If you’ve read these tips and you still feel as though a vacation seems out of the question, you may need to take a step back and evaluate the present state of your business. A healthy, growing business should still be able to function without its fearless leader for a few days. Otherwise, process and structural adjustments need to occur. Invest in a business coach, ideally one who can perform a business diagnostics evaluation or otherwise guide you as you identify the processes that most need buttressing. You want a partner to give an outside perspective and work for you to ensure your business is better prepared for employees and leadership to take time off.
Eagles’ Wings Business Coaching offers personalized business coaching with a licensed coach for small business owners and entrepreneurs across the United States looking to improve and grow their company. In addition, we can provide you with a complimentary virtual coaching session to get started or see other ways to help your small business.