When I ask entrepreneurs what they like most about owning their own business I inevitably get the response, “I like being in business for myself and making the decisions”. The other question I ask them is what they like least about being in business for themselves and the usual answer I get is, “so much of what goes on in my business rests squarely on my shoulders”. That it does! On any given day, we can be the company president, head of sales and marketing, HR director, accountant and other days we can even be the janitor so the responsibility of running the business really does fall on our shoulders. If you are fortunate to have a few team members then you can manage to keep things going while you are on vacation but not without a plan in place before you head out.
Now that the kids are finally out of school and in the coming days we will celebrate both Canada Day and Independence Day in the U.S., summer vacation is on just about everyone’s mind. Therefore, how do you keep the business fires burning when you decide to take time off for a much-needed break?
Here are eight tips that can help you prepare to go on vacation, keep things running smoothly while you are away and even help to retain your ‘vacation glow’ once your back in the office until at least the end of the first day.
- Plan your time away
If your business requires you stay somewhat connected because you are one person operation, then decide what days you are going to work while you are away and stick to them the way you would your office hours (you do have office hours, don’t you?). When you say you are off the clock, be off the clock!
- Meet with your team before you leave to prioritize what you will deal with first upon your return.
Involve your team in determining how they will prioritize what you will deal with upon your return to the office. If you have an assistant, that person can set up a series of folders to handle such as urgent matters, handle later, reading, etc. Do not try to tackle it all the first morning back.
- Use technology to your advantage
Put out of office notifications on your phone/email and inform people how and most importantly when they can expect to hear from you. Here are some suggestions: if you are a one-person shop, let people know when you will be able to get back to them and unless you are in a life and death business please do not make the turnaround time 24 hours. If you have a team member you can delegate to leave their contact information on your phone/email or better yet forward your phone directly to them, let them field the calls and decide if you need to be contacted.
- Consider adding an extra day or two to the amount of time you are going to be away from the office.
However, come back early and use that extra time to get home and ease yourself back into the swing of things. There is nothing worse than arriving home late the night before you have to be in the office especially if you encounter travel hassles. Use one day to get your personal house in order and the other day to get back into the office and begin to get caught up.
- Make contact with your team.
Prearrange a meeting with your team before you leave for the first morning you are back in the office. I suggest a little later in the morning so you have a chance to get settled in and breathe before being updated on everything that has gone on in your absence. Share a bit about your vacation, invite them to ask questions and inform you about anything that happened while you were gone. Talk about upcoming deadlines, projects, and anything of note and be sure to praise them for a job well done while you were gone!
6. Keep your out-of-office messages on.
You should have created out-of-office messages for your phone and inbox (remember tip three) before you left for vacation so keep it on for an extra workday. Yes, the people in your office know you are there and so do you, but there is no need for the world to figure that out. An extra day gives you space to get things sorted out without new expectations piling on.
- Plan to start a new project within your first week back.
If you pre-plan a new project to start shortly after your return and have already calendared and mapped out the work that needs to be done, you will be able to hit the ground running. Sometimes we are so focused on clearing our plates prior to vacation and winding down everything that we neglect to plan for the time after vacation. If you do not make that mistake, you will be able to jump right back into work with the list of items you need to accomplish already scheduled and your team will know what they have on their plates upon your return and better yet might have been able to get a head start.
8. Finally, acknowledge that coming back from vacation can be difficult.
Plan a couple of networking functions out of your office with friends after your return to give yourself an extended feeling of fun and laughter. It can be very isolating going back to work, especially if you work from a home office, so scheduling networking events can be very therapeutic and will help you to reconnect with your environment and friends once the vacation is over.
Most importantly for those who might not have noticed it, a real vacation means not checking your emails and all of your social media accounts every ten minutes. It is about disconnecting and actually paying attention to the people you are on vacation with and the beautiful surroundings you have paid good money to relax in.
I trust this will have helped you to realize and more importantly trust that you too can take some critically required downtime away from your daily business and the sky will not fall in. Does it require a plan and a strategy? You bet it does! Here is to getting back into the groove upon your return and maintaining your sanity while doing it!
If you have additional sanity saving tips to share, I would love to hear from you in the comments section below!