How to actually enjoy time off as an entrepreneur
Two years ago, I took a trip with a good friend of mine for 4 or 5 days.
I spent 2-3 hours each morning answering emails and doing work that I felt I couldn’t put off, even for a few days.
Then we would go out and do our activities for the day, and when we came back in the evening I would do another hour or two of work.
Was this a relaxing vacation? Not really.
Was it fun for my friend (who is not an entrepreneur) to wait for me to finish my work? Definitely not!
Could I have set up systems and procedures so that I could have fully unplugged for this trip without my business falling apart without me? YESSSSS
Let me show you how:
Listen to the audio:
Navigating holidays and time off as an entrepreneur
Okay, we're going to have a little bit of tough love today.
Do you struggle to take time off?
Do you struggle to step away from your business and actually unplug and enjoy your downtime and relax?
Me too! But it's so important for you to actually do it.
As an entrepreneur, navigating the holiday season can be challenging, because we don't necessarily get the same structured time off as everyone else.
Scheduling time off from our businesses (or better yet, an actual vacation!) can also be stressful, because we worry about what might happen when we’re not there overseeing everything on a daily basis.
But here’s the truth: you deserve a break just as much as anyone else!
So let me ask you something. When you first decided to go into business for yourself, did you want more time, more freedom, more flexibility with your schedule? These are very common things that entrepreneurs are looking for when they strike out on their own.
However, building a business is hard. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of hours. And we don't necessarily see that flexibility or that control over our time right away.
Either our business and our lives continue to be so busy that it is hard for us to achieve that freedom or we get so used to that busy-ness that we don't build that time and flexibility in.
There will always be a reason not to take time off from your business. You have to prioritize it and actively work to make it happen.
Do you take “entrepreneur time off”?
It is so important that you take down time, you take time off, and you take time away from your business regularly. If you were working in any other job you would have vacation time, right? So if you are not taking vacation time away from your business, you are hurting yourself and you're hurting your business.
A good friend of mine and I like to talk about what we call "entrepreneur time off". This is time off like in the trip with my friend that I mentioned above - technically you are out of the office, but you are still checking emails, still responding to people, and still doing work. Maybe you are even on vacation somewhere, but you're still doing a few hours of work in the morning, maybe doing an hour or two of work in the evening, or even bringing your laptop to the beach!
Is this real time off? In my opinion, it’s not.
It might be a bit of a break, but it is not a full, relaxing vacation. Even if you don’t leave your house for your time off, you should still be unplugging from your business and actually getting restorative downtime.
Part of the problem I see with a lot of the business owners that I talk to (I’ve been one of them!) is that they don't know how to relax. They don't know how to have downtime. Even just enjoying regular evenings and weekends away from work is hard.
It is so difficult to turn off that computer, turn off those notifications, and actually step away from your business and fully be in the moment with something else. You're so worried about things going wrong, or making sure to answer leads right away. Keeping everyone happy, keeping everything going, keeping money coming in.
This makes it really difficult to enjoy your off hours, because you don't know how to not be on the go like that all the time.
But recharging and resting is so important. We as business owners seem to have this mentality that if we are resting and taking time off we are being lazy. We are avoiding the things that we should be doing and we're not being productive. But I am here to argue that taking time off - actual restorative time off - is being productive. And let me tell you why.
A lack of time off hurts your business
First of all, you are avoiding burnout. It is so easy, especially when running a business, to get burnt out. Maybe you've gone through a busy season. Or maybe every day in your business is a busy season and you're rushing around putting out fires all the time and trying to keep up with everything. Trying to keep everything moving and everyone happy.
This is either going to impact your mental health, your physical health, or both.
If you reach a period of burnout, you are not going to be able to have the same capacity for work that you do now. You're not going to be able to do as much, and that means you're not going to be able to have as many clients or as many projects, and you're not going to have as much revenue coming in. It’s not just going to hurt you, it's going to hurt your business.
A lack of time off impacts your productivity
Another reason why resting and taking time off is productive is that it can help you regain momentum and motivation.
If you have reached a rut in your business, a point where it's kind of monotonous and routine, and you feel like you're just going through the motions or you're just keeping up with every day, it’s time for a break.
This gives you that little bit of a reset so you can come back rejuvenated and get into things with more energy and excitement.
A lack of time off reduces your creativity
Another thing that downtime allows you to do is to reconnect with your creativity.
Again, if you're spending most days just keeping up with everything, you don't have that mental capacity and space from your business to start thinking about new ideas. New things you want to do. New ways of doing things.
Having that little bit of space for creativity and idea generation is going to make you more excited and motivated. It might take your business in other directions.
Are you reaching your goals?
This little bit of space from your business also allows you to evaluate how your business is doing.
When we're just keeping up with the day-to-day, we're not necessarily looking at the big picture of our business as a whole and thinking about how well and efficiently it's functioning. Thinking about how well we are progressing towards our goals and the direction we want to move in with our business and our growth.
Taking this little step back and this time off allows you to assess what's working and what isn't. Are you actually moving towards your goals and reaching them? Are those the goals you want to be pursuing anymore? Are you moving in the right direction with your business?
This is a time to either reaffirm and reconnect with those things or to re-evaluate and set new intentions.
As you can see, there is so much that you can do with this downtime, even without actually physically doing a lot of work. Creating that time and mental space for yourself to look at your business in a new way, to get inspired, or to completely unplug from your business is so important.
Sometimes completely disconnecting from your business altogether can inspire you. You can come back to it with a fresher perspective.
Your work isn’t life or death
Listen - real talk: it is highly unlikely that you are a brain surgeon or a firefighter.
If you take time away from your business, nobody is going to die because you didn't answer an email.
Really think about it. Is there actually a life or death scenario preventing you from unplugging from your business even for 24 hours? Or is that just an unrealistic expectation that you are putting on yourself?
If your business completely falls apart without you if you step away for even a short period of time - and I’m considering a week to be a short period of time here - if your business structure does not allow you to step away for any period of time, then you need to re-evaluate your business structure. It's probably not effective or sustainable.
You're going to burn out. Your business is not going to be able to continue.
You need to be setting up processes and structures so that your business is not entirely dependent on you for its day-to-day operations (click here to learn how!).
I would also like to point out that even a firefighter or a brain surgeon also gets regular vacation time. They are not on call 24/7, 365 days of the year. So you shouldn't be either!
I hope that this has helped you to think about time off differently. If you're creating purposeful, intentional time off, it can really help you and your business growth.
I hope that you are able to take some downtime over this holiday season. Or if that's not something that works for the cycle of your business, I encourage you to think about other points in the year where you can take some time away to actually fully unplug and not take "entrepreneur time off".
If you have any questions about how to set up your business so that it does allow you to take this time away, please let me know down in the comments or feel free to reach out.