Are you looking forward to your holiday? Of course you are. You are aren’t you?
Or as your family are getting excited are you stressing about how you’re going to keep on top of your business from some sandy beach or beside a pool whilst your family are wishing you’d put your phone or laptop away and join them?
I remember many years ago having my phone confiscated because my email inbox had my undivided attention. I remember my partner telling me that I needed to switch off and relax, which I promised to do but didn’t really manage.
It’s so important for your family that you’re there with them in mind as well as body and that you’re properly enjoying this time that you’re all together.
But it’s also vital for you. You need to switch off. You need to relax. You need your brain to be thinking about other things that have nothing to do with work and more to do with planning the fun you’re going to have that day with your family and what you’re going to have for breakfast.
This is your holiday, your time to relax. This is your family’s holiday and they want you with them. I have known so many people reflect years later on how much QUALITY family time they missed because they struggled to get their head out of work mode.
You also need this for the sake of your health and hence for the health of your business. Here are my 7 tips on how to have the holiday you and your business needs.
1. Prepare yourself and others for your absence
Your aim is to relax and not worry about what needs to be done. So, what do you need to get done before you go on holiday until say a week after your return?
Contact your customers or clients, suppliers, strategic partners and anyone else connected with your business that may need to know that you’re not available. Is there anything they need that you can sort out now before your holiday? Can it wait until you’re back? Or, if you have the resource, can you delegate to another?
Plan any important meetings and visits and set aside enough time to complete any actions and to meet any deadlines.
People don’t always appreciate your need for time off. Some customers think that they should be able to contact you if they need you, regardless. Help them understand that you need to switch off and relax and that your family need quality time with you – you’re not being selfish.
Create a new voicemail message saying you’re on holiday having important quality time with your family and ask that you’re only contacted if it’s urgent. (Or give the number of another who can take the call in your absence if possible.)
Make it clear to everyone that once you’re out of the door then that’s it…no contact unless it’s urgent.
2. Find a caretaker for your business
Of course, telling people that you cannot be contacted is all well and good but chances are some will contact you. Having told people to contact only if it’s urgent you could emphasise that by setting up and giving them a temporary email to use such as urgent@… This will help remind them that it better be really important.
If someone who knows you’re away calls you, ask him or her first if it is urgent or if it can possibly wait. As far as possible, don’t react to your phone ringing but let it go to voicemail. (See point 5.) Your holiday time is important and needs to be protected.
If you’re concerned about missing calls from new prospects then you can outsource the monitoring of your work telephone number or your enquiries@ email address. There are organisations that offer this service or find a freelancer who can do this for you. Is there a relative who would be willing to do this for you?
Give simple instructions to take details and email you (urgent@…) only if the prospects can’t wait until your return. You could also help them handle standard requests such as providing product information, with guidance on what to do.
3. Do not take your work with you
Leave your laptop at home. If you have a separate work mobile, leave that too. Take away as much temptation as possible. If your personal phone is also your work phone and then switch off all your work emails except urgent@…
Do not take any reports or other work-related material with you that is geared to you having to take action. Basically, any material that could spark reactive feelings and actions will increase stress, so avoid them.
4. Take a journal and feed your mind
Take material that will spark some creativity such as a book on strategy like ‘Good Strategy. Bad Strategy’ by Richard Rumelt or on how to strengthen your business, such as ‘Your Business Foundation by yours truly :0).
As your brain relaxes, it starts to become creative. This is a perfect time to think about your business from a big picture, strategic perspective and reading a good book on a relevant business subject can really help you get those juices flowing. Thinking about your business whilst on holiday in a positive, strategic way is a good thing. (Provided your family don’t lose you for hours on end of course.)
Make sure you have a journal with you to write all your new and inspiring ideas.
5. Plan any work you intend to do
If you do intend to do some work then control what you intend to do, how much time you will allocate to it and when you will do it.
You may decide that you will check your (urgent@) email first thing in the morning and that you will check your voicemail first thing in the morning on every 3rd day. A different time might make more sense so that you can speak to others who are in a different time zone if necessary.
Control how much time you allocate to this and if necessary set the timer on your phone to count down the 20 or 30 minutes you’ve allocated. And then stop when reached. Only if there’s a real emergency and you need to do more should you.
Having done what you planned to do, switch off from work mode and switch back into holiday mode. If you don’t make a deliberate effort to do this then, even though you’ve ‘walked away’ from your work, your mind may not have.
It’s so easy to mull over an email you’ve read or to simply find yourself wondering what’s happening back at work and how things are.
If necessary, say out loud to yourself something like, “Work over. Time to get back to my family.”
6. Tell your family what you intend to do
If you do need to plan some work time as I described in point 5 then tell your family. Tell them what you intend to do and why you need to do this.
Explain that by doing this you will be far more relaxed because you won’t be worrying about what’s going on back home and that you’ll be on holiday with them mentally, emotionally as well as physically.
Once they know you are going to have these planned short periods of work and how they will help you enjoy the holiday with them, they’ll probably be ok and be relaxed during those times.
7. Plan your return
I said in point 1 to identify what needs to be done and try and do it up to a week after your return. This way you’ll gain some breathing space during that first week that you’re back from your holiday.
What are your top priorities when you return? Have them planned in your diary so that when you get back you know what you need to do and can focus on them.
Do these two things and you won’t spend the next couple of weeks of your return running from pillar to post, catching up and reacting to the demands of others.
That way, your transition back into work is controlled, your stress levels remain low and your holiday memories don’t fade as quickly as they might.
Your holiday is so important for you and for your family and so it’s vital that you make the most of it and come back relaxed, refreshed and full of creative ideas and energy.
But, getting this right takes proper planning and real discipline and– it won’t just happen. You must plan for your business to work in your absence and for you to be left alone as much as possible.
And you must be disciplined so that your work time comprises short planned intervals after which you will switch off and enjoy your holiday with your family.
Photo credit: Henry Burrows @ Flickr