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An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Taking Time Off

Taking time off. Those three words just might be the most confusing words in the entrepreneurial lingo. How do you actually do it? How do you turn your brain off? How do you rest when your business isn’t actually stopping? How do you explain it all to family and friends?

I’ve had so many conversations about this topic with my private clients and those in my Integrity Virtual Community that I know you must be struggling with it too.

I remember when I first started my company, seven short years ago, I would take my computer home over the holidays with a huge list of work things to catch up on. It all seemed so logical. There was so much free time! I could work in the mornings, the evenings, in between social engagements. Of course, I’d take the day before Christmas, Christmas and the day after Christmas off, but then there was so much time to catch up between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

But it never worked out that way. The minute I got home, I would go into relaxation mode. I would sleep in or stay up late talking or watching movies. Then I would wake up in a panic and try to do some work, feeling guilty the whole time because I wasn’t getting enough done.

My family wasn’t very understanding about me doing work. I remember one particular morning when my husband walked over to me while I was cleaning out my in-box on the living room floor, and literally shouted an entire lecture about how work was not going to make me happy.

I was guilt-ridden mess. Relaxation seemed like some sort of dream scenario.

Can you relate? The constant feeling of needing to spend time with family combined with the feeling of being behind on your work can make you downright exhausted! By the time January rolls around, you’re ready for another vacation.

Since those days, I’ve become very wise about how to separate vacation time and work time. I’ve created 6 rules that make it SO much easier. I use these rules on every vacation, whether during the holidays or in the middle of the summer. My clients love them, and I think you will too.

1. Decide and Set an Intention. You must get really clear before you leave on your trip, will this be a working vacation, a pure vacation or a hybrid?

A working vacation means you’ll be working most days with more time off during the day than normal, perhaps checking e-mail and catching up at night.

A pure vacation means you put the away message on your e-mail and don’t do any work at all.

A hybrid is when you put the away message on for some days of your vacation and work on other days.

2. Be Realistic. When you are deciding what type of vacation you are having and what hours you will be working, be real. Don’t be a slave driver. Don’t make yourself get up at 6 AM or cut off socializing. Your body and mind need rest. It may be easier to just take a full day and work while your family has other plans. Or you may just need a pure vacation. Also, focus on tasks that really need to get done. Don’t just try to work down your to-do list.

3. Communicate. Once you’ve made the decision on what kind of trip you will be having, you should communicate with your family and your clients. Let your clients know when you will be checking e-mail and when you won’t. Do your best to let them know two or three weeks ahead of time so that they can plan it into their schedules.

For your family, let them know what hours you will be working and on what days. That sets expectations. I find that most fights occur when a family member was hoping to spend time with you and then that didn’t happen. Yes, this might require some explanation, but I find explaining ahead of time much easier than fighting in the moment.

4. Find the Right Environment. Now that you know your hours of working, don’t try to work in the middle of your living room. I know it can be tempting because you want to be a part of the buzz. But not only is this distracting for you, it also doesn’t help your family. They are being constantly reminded of how you aren’t paying attention to them! Find a quiet room in the house to set up a shop. Or go to your local Starbuck’s.

5. Focus and Get the Job Done. Ok, now that you are actually set up to work, it’s time to really focus. I find that using a timer is helpful to make sure you don’t get distracted. Also, focus on getting one thing done. Don’t flip between lots of different tasks. Trust me, if you just get one thing done, you’ll feel so much better when you are back with your family. And always work on the one thing that needs to get done the soonest so that you can take a little pressure off yourself when you are done with your vacation.

6. Stay Present. This part is the hardest. It takes constant vigilance. Once you’ve set up your work plan and you know what you are going to get done, you have to turn your wandering mind off and stay in the present moment. Be with your family or friends when you are there. Be with your work when you are working.

For me, it helps to start the trip off with a yoga class, a long walk or a massage. It’s a way of alerting my body to go from working to vacation.

Staying present is the biggest gift you can give yourself. These times will never come back. The more you fully live them, the happier you will be.

Good luck to you, my lovely tribe of entrepreneurs. May your vacations always be full of relaxation and awareness.

Leave me a comment below to let me know you set boundaries around taking time off.


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