I know what you’re thinking. Just reading the words ‘time off’ was probably enough to send your head spinning to all the tasks you have to do. There’s inventory, marketing, a new trainee. There’s no possible way that you can work the free time into your schedule and not have your business go under.
I know you’re thinking this because that’s what I thought too. You see, I’m a small business owner and I made the same mistake that so many of us make. In my drive and determination to see my business succeed, I forgot to take the time I needed for myself. I spent 2017, and the first half of 2018 leading new initiatives, meeting with my clients and organizing new product launches, but I never took time away from it to recharge my own batteries.
I didn’t realize that in my quest to meet my goals, my business had moved from a large focus of my life to nearly my only focus.
My family tried to be supportive, but their frustration with the situation slipped through in minor ways; they tried to convince me to sleep in a little later on the weekends or take an afternoon lunch with them. I wanted to go, but I felt that I had too much work to do. Even my dog began giving me guilt stares as I typed on my laptop.
To put it simply, I burnt out. I worked too hard and took on too much, until one day I found myself exhausted and not any closer to clearing the to-do list than I was before. On that day, I decided I need a vacation.
With some planning, my spouse and I were on our way to enjoy an entire two-week vacation in Spain. I was relieved, but honestly, I was also scared. I feared that something would happen while I was gone that would destroy all of my hard work. I worried that my clients would leave if I weren’t available for them whenever they needed me.
It took some work, and maybe a little secretive checking in with my cell phone, but I made an effort to put my concerns away and enjoy my vacation. By day two, it became a little easier to lose myself in sightseeing. We toured the Barri Gotic, roamed the Museo Nacional Del Prado. We sipped sangrias and ate our weight in paella. Somewhere, in the middle of this, I stopped worrying. I stopped furtive check-ins, and I left my phone in our vacation home.
I found myself doing something I hadn’t done in a really long time: breathing.
Just experiencing life around me, appreciating the cities, taking my time to savor a meal and laughing with my spouse and our new friends in Spain.
When it was time to come home, I had concerns over how my business would be, but they didn’t seem as pressing. The next morning I found myself awake early and ready to tackle whatever problem was waiting for me. Only, there wasn’t any. My business had avoided catastrophic failure. My clients didn’t leave. Instead, it was the same familiar to-do list I had been wrestling before my vacation. Except now, it didn’t seem so intimidating. My vacation had renewed my spirit and focus and given me a new perspective on my workload. I picked up the paperwork, still feeling determined, but also feeling the same excitement I recognized from when I first began my business.
I’m not the only small business owner who struggles with this. Lauren Milligan, a career advancement coach, based out of Chicago, sees this often enough that she’s devised advice to small business owners on how to get away.
“Three things are needed,” she says,” Fair notice to current clients, a continuity plan, and an emergency plan.¹”
If you’re struggling with the same type of burn-out, it’s the best thing for you and your business if you manage to take some time off. Business owners are natural problem-solvers, so apply those skills to figure out a way to make it happen. Perhaps instead of building your revenue plan around a 52-week schedule, you can plan for 48 weeks.
Find a way that works for you, but make sure that you schedule time for yourself. If you can’t swing an entire vacation, book a spa appointment, book time for a long weekend in the mountains or at the beach, go out club hopping with friends, or just read a book in the park. What you do is far less important than actually doing it.
If you start to take time off, you might be surprised to see your business flourish instead of flounder. This was the lesson I learned while in Spain: My business was only as healthy as I was. When I was frazzled and tired, I was incapable of running it as efficiently as I do now.
By taking time off, I gained a new perspective and resolve, and my business since my return has benefited from the resurgence of my creativity and enthusiasm. If you’re struggling with burn-out, you must take the time you need.
As for me, I’m already planning my next vacation.
About the Author: Michele Thompson Rosario, CEO of Bright Effects, helping entrepreneurs get clients, get traffic, and get results.