After a summer of a little work and virtually no social media, I have come back to work with a renewed sense of purpose and a new attitude to how I manage my schedule, the “life/work balance”. It’s really made me appreciate how important it is for business owners to take a break and find a new perspective.
How we manage our time in life and in business is something that is debated the world over, but especially in the west where, thanks to technology and the way we work, time always seems to be in short supply. So when we all perceive ourselves to be time poor how do we find the time to take a break? And why is it so important?
You won’t be surprised to hear that around 90% of the business owners I work with either haven’t had a proper holiday in several years, or routinely take their work on holiday with them. And what I hear all the time is the same; “I can’t afford to take a holiday”, to which I say, “actually, you can’t afford not to”.
Our working landscape is changing all the time and more people are starting new businesses. According to research from the accounting software company Xero, 20 is the age that young business owners (18-34) decided they would like to set up shop compared to those aged over 45 who had the same lightbulb moment at 35. In fact, almost seven in 10 (69%) new businesses set up in the past five years have been started by those aged between 18-34.
It starts with a plan
When we start a new business, it is easy to be inspired and passionate as you turn a vision in to reality. However, passion will only get you so far, and those businesses with sound plans, good processes and a clear strategy, have a far better chance of survival than those who don’t put these systems in place.
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to work with a group of storytellers on bringing their projects to fruition. We were talking about content strategy and blogging. I told them that one of the things I do is to sit down every quarter (or thereabouts) to plan my blog content and plan my weekly schedule up to six months in advance. I have to tell you, they were horrified! At first… But when I explained how this liberated me mentally, and that the plan gave me a sense of security, and allowed me to factor in downtime, it started to make sense to them.
Let me be clear that I am not suggesting that you plan each day to the last detail, only that you have set days for set tasks. But likewise it is important to plan when you are going to take downtime.
Of course when you start an enterprise, you can expect to be working longer hours as you get everything up and running, but if you don’t have a plan in place to take time off from your business, you may come unstuck further down the line as you get burnt out and exhausted. Not only that, but in order to be inspiring and creative, you need to feel inspired, and it’s hard to generate new ideas when you have nothing left to give. Holidays and downtime are vital to the lifeblood of our businesses, as they allow new ideas to bubble to the surface, and keep us in a creative mindset.
So how can you run a business and still take time off?
Now we have established the importance of taking time out, let’s look at the practicalities
Plan for downtime in your quiet times
If you know Christmas is a busy time for your business, then you will probably not be looking to take time off between September and December. But you could plan to take time off in January.
For my business, I know that January and September are really busy times for me, but August and December, not so much, so that means I nearly always take time off around May and in August as that works for the flow of my business.
Think carefully about this one. I have had some business owners who will swear that they are 100% busy literally all year, but when we have analyzed the figures, we have been able to find much quieter times and look at when would be good to take a break.
To check, or not to check, that is the question….
Let me share some more stats with you; research by the Institute of Leadership and Management shows that over 65% of employees check their emails while they are on holiday. This rises to over 80% for senior managers, so it’s not hard to imagine that for business owners that is nearer to 100%!
We are all so connected nowadays that it can be tempting to keep working through holidays and downtime, which may defeat the purpose, and make you unpopular with family and friends!
Again, you have to do what works for you. Some people need to switch off completely so do not want to check emails and notifications while they are away. For other people, they are happy to have a set day to respond to emails because they find that less stressful than coming home to a full in-tray.
And some people, like me, are somewhere in the middle. So for example during August, I did check my emails from time to time, and I let my clients know that with my handy out of office message:
This message also has the advantage of letting people know about all the other things I do, like my blog and twitter chat, as well as reassuring them that their message has been received, so win-win!
Remember the big vision
When I work with clients who have lost their purpose or are confused about which direction to take with their business I often ask them “What is your higher purpose?” It may sound corny, but remembering what motivated you to start your business in the first place really connects you to what you are trying to achieve.
You might say that you started your business as a vehicle to earn money, but still, you chose this way, this business, when you could have chosen another one, so what was behind your decision?
Part of your responsibility as a business owner is to serve the community you have identified as needing your help. Remembering why you chose this way to help them, reminds you that part of your responsibility to them is to take time out.
“Sustainability” is a word I use a lot to remind business owners that they their business needs to be sustainable not only financially, but also physically and emotionally. If you become burnt out due to overwork, you cannot be there for your clients.
To explain what I mean, I like to use the story Stephen Covey tells in his book, ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’. The story is about a woodcutter whose saw gets more blunt, but he still keeps cutting down trees. If he were to stop sawing, sharpen the blade and go back to his tree cutting with a sharper saw, he would save himself time and effort.
So remember that time out sharpens your saw when it stops being so effective. If you just keep going until you collapse that tree won’t get cut down any quicker and no one will thank you for it.
And finally…. If you need some help figuring out how to take time out get in touch here, and find out exactly how business coaching can benefit you and your business.