Last weekend, my wife & I escaped to Newport, RI, to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary.
That – plus the fact that summer is kinda sorta officially here – has me thinking about how to take time off, and step away from our one-person businesses with minimal stress or worry.
What Happens When We Freelancers Don’t Take Time Off
Like many things I write about in Soloist Sundays, this is something I used to be very bad at. Sad-but-true facts: I was independent for several years before I took an entire week off, and I spent a few “vacations” mostly working.
There’s certainly an incentive, as soloists, to work all the time. When our time is so closely linked to our income, it’s easy to tell ourselves that taking a day off is the same as taking money out of our own pockets.
It’s the wrong mindset, of course. As with anything, if we don’t step away regularly, we burn out – often without even knowing that it’s happening.
Our work is less inspired. We start to dread every email. And then one morning we wake up and realize we have nothing left in the tank.
So let’s not let that happen.
Here’s what works for me when it comes to taking time off. I share this in hopes that it will help you too. (And I’d love to know what works for you – I don’t have it all figured out! – so feel free to drop me a note to let me know.)
Prepare the Ground
Most of taking time off is preparing to take time off. I like to:
Schedule it in advance.
As far in advance as possible. Putting it on the calendar makes it more real. Even if it’s tentative, block that time off.
Notify your clients.
Clients don’t like surprises, and rightfully so. And most clients are reasonable humans: If you say you’re taking time off, they’ll respect that. If they don’t, fire them. You’re a partner, not an employee. Someone else can have the pleasure of working with them.
Cover your responsibilities.
If stuff needs doing while you’re away, make sure it’s covered. Sometimes this means doing it in advance. Sometimes this means using scheduling tools. Sometimes this means having a partner, your VA or even your client cover the bases.
But if you’ve committed to do the work, you’ve committed to be responsible for its completion. So make sure everything is taken care of.
Use scheduling tools.
This is not an affiliate link, but Calendly is one of my favorite tools. Among other benefits, it syncs in real-time with my Google Calendar, so nobody can try to book my time while I’m away. (This also comes in handy for daily priorities like exercise or business-building.)
Protect the day before.
Whenever possible, I like to make the day before a vacation a “no commitments” day. I don’t want a chaotic day that results in packing for my 7am flight at 9pm the night before. I find this buffer day gets me into “vacation mode” faster.
Get the Hell Outta Here
You did it! You’re in Monterey or Maui or Madrid. Or you’re in your own backyard for a staycation. Wherever you are, don’t lose your conviction now.
I have two rules when I’m off:
It’s okay to check in.
I usually check my email and social channels once or twice a day. This ensures that I’m not missing anything big, like a legit inquiry from a prospect. It takes maybe 10 minutes, and I only do it at a time that doesn’t interfere with enjoying my time away.
It’s not okay to work.
The flight doesn’t count – I’ve gotten some good work done at 37,000 feet. But once I’m at The Place I’m Going To, I’m not working on anything resembling outputs. Period.
Some of you, I’m told, go completely cold turkey and don’t even check email. I love it! Power to you! But I feel less anxious if I check in.
Welcome Home, Adventurer
I only have one firm rule for my return:
Protect the day after.
As with the day before, I like to set my availability to “unavailable” for the day after a vacation. This allows me to dig out of the email that I didn’t attend to while I was away, and often leaves me some time to get a jump on outputs too.
Spontaneous Days Off
Unannounced changes in life’s itinerary are like dancing lessons from God.”Kurt Vonnegut
Sometimes, life affords you the chance to carpe your diem and blow everything off for an afternoon or a day. Do it! Take advantage of this path you’ve chosen!
Take a long walk in the afternoon when the weather suggests that you should. Grab lunch with a friend and linger over conversation. Watch your favorite English soccer team – that’s Arsenal, if you’re unsure – fail to live up to expectations yet again in a Thursday afternoon match. Spend the morning reading a book.
You have a life, not just a career. And very few things can’t wait for a few hours.
You’ve earned this.
You’ve earned time off.
You’ve earned the right to step away.
You’ll do better work when you return.
You’ll be recharged and you’ll have fresh eyes.
And the “24/7 grind” is unsustainable. (And a bit of a silly idea in the first place.)
So lose the guilt and the unrealistic expectations of yourself. Take time off, my friends, and do it often. Your business and your soul will be better for it.
Your time is valuable, and I hope I’ve rewarded it. If so, your shares are greatly appreciated, as I try to help as many freelancers as possible.
Need help balancing “work time” with “life time”? I have a limited number of slots available for 1-1 coaching. Click here to find out more about how my customized coaching can help you level up.
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