I used to hate vacations. Not the actual vacation itself mind you, but everything before and after them — and sometimes just getting through them. That sounds horrible right? I know it does.
But as a business owner, and more specifically, as a solopreneur or entrepreneur, taking a vacation is extremely difficult. And taking a vacation where you completely detach from your business is even harder. This may be because you don’t have the support you need or the systems you need, or you may just be in a phase of your business that requires constant attention.
I’ve experienced all three. I went through times in my business where I had no support and tried to do everything myself. I started my business and got through several years of it with absolutely ZERO systems in place. And, when actively trying to grow parts of the business or launch something new, I’ve needed to be in my business 24/7.
Thankfully, I’ve taken big steps to make big changes in my business to support the kind of lifestyle I want.
Trust me, it wasn’t easy at first and I did make mistakes. But now we’ve a system for vacations. Yes, a system for vacations. We have specific steps we take to ensure that we can leave and enjoy ourselves, not take work with us, and not freak out about it.
I know you probably struggle with the same things I did, so here are my best 10 tips for taking a vacation detached from business without freaking out:
1. Prepare yourself
Prepare yourself mentally to be away from your business. A lot of the stress I used to have over going on vacation was mental stress I brought on myself. I was worried about not responding to any emails or inquiries that would come in, worried a client may need me, etc. Take some time before your trip to put your mind at ease, let go of the worry, and embrace the time to recharge.
2. Prepare your clients
Part of getting rid of vacation stress is preparing your clients for your absence in advance so they know you will be gone. I sent our VIP clients our vacation schedule for the entire summer in May, and I let all of our clients know when we would be on vacation at least two weeks prior to each trip. I also made sure to let them all know that we would only have sporadic access to email, and that we would not be available to do any work or take any calls.
3. Set reminders
It is important to remind your clients (and yourself) often about your upcoming trip. For yourself, get a countdown clock, or do a daily check-in on projects in the weeks leading up to a trip. For your clients, never assume they will remember your vacation. Brian and I add a big, bold, red reminder with the dates we will be unavailable in our email signature on all client communications.
4. Set deadlines
Give your clients a deadline to ask you for new projects or work to be done before your trip. For example, if leaving for vacation on the 21st, tell your clients you won’t be accepting any new requests after the 14th. This gives you a week to wrap everything up before your trip.
5. Stick to your guns
If you give your clients a deadline, stick to it. You are partners and they need to take responsibility for their side of things. If you tell a client you need materials on the 14th or you won’t be able to finish the project before you leave, you remind them several times, and they still don’t get you what you need by the 14th, it’s their fault not yours.
(This was a really tough one for me to learn, but it has made a huge difference. No more all-nighters the day before I leave, ruining the first few days on me vacation!)
6. Stay on top of workflow
Be careful to stay on top of your workflow and know exactly what projects you need to finish before you go so you can actively manage client requests. This will ensure you don’t promise too many things to too many people in a short period of time and that you can manage your clients expectations effectively.
7. Leverage auto responders and follow up sequences
Follow up sequences are your best friends while you’re on vacation. First, set up an auto responder for your email address, so anyone who emails you while you’re gone, gets a message back letting them know you’re on vacation and will respond as soon as you get back.
Second, update your contact form auto responder, so anyone who fills out your contact form while you’re gone, will receive a message thanking them for contacting you and letting them know you’re on vacation and will be in touch when you get back.
8. Keep track of post-trip workflow
This is where a lot of people get tripped up — managing your workflow when you get back from vacation. For a while, I was good at getting ready to go, but then I’d almost die when I got back. It made coming home from a trip an awful experience!
Keep track of the client projects you’re delaying until you get back, new projects you won’t be starting until you get back, and all of the meetings and phone calls you’re scheduling for when you get back — otherwise you’ll be in for a big mess of too much work, not enough time, and a whole-lot-a-stress when you get back.
9. Give yourself an extra pre-day
Tell everyone, your clients, your team, your family, your friends — everyone, that you leave one day earlier than you really do. Give yourself one day alone to wrap up any loose ends, send any last emails, and clean your office.
This day has become critical for me. I use this time to, especially the time spent cleaning my office to mentally detach from my business and my work. When I put everything away, organize my papers, and clean the space, it is almost as if I am putting my office to sleep until I get back.
10. Give yourself at least two days to get back into the groove
The worst thing ever is to come back from vacation and have to get back to work the next day. With this approach you have no time to catch your breath, prepare to get back to work, or regroup. The next hardest is to only have one day off before you have to get back into the daily grind. With this approach, you have a day to unwind, unpack, and regroup, but not to prepare your mind for work.
I schedule at least two days, if not three, to allow me find my groove and get back into my normal, productive, daily grind.
The first day I spend just regrouping from being gone — I relax, unpack, and just hang around the house. The second day I check my email and get reacquainted with my business, all of our open projects, and what workflow I have coming up — I start mentally preparing myself to get back into it. The third day is a secret workday. I’m technically not back in the office until the next day, so i can have one stress-free day to get a jump on everything. I write responses to any emails that have come in (but I don’t send them until the next day), I organize all my projects, I complete any small requests that have come in from clients, and I find my productive groove so I can hit the ground running the next day.
And there you have it!
If you put these 10 simple tips to use when you take your next vacation, you’ll be able to relax, stress-free, worry-free, and freak out-free, just like we do!