Holiday! It would be, it would be so nice!
In August, I’ll be taking a break from this blog, as well as from client work, while I enjoy spending more time with my family. My husband and I have had to spend a few weeks apart — since mid-June. This is the longest time apart since the first year we met. It’s been horrible, and it’s not something we want to repeat any time soon! So I’ll definitely be enjoying having a holiday with him in August. :)
As well as a holiday for part of August, I’ll also take some time to focus on long-term business planning. It’s hard to do deep, long-term planning while in the thick of day-to-day operations.
The hustle and grind can become a fixed way of life.
It’s notoriously hard for many people to take holidays, or even short breaks. I suspect this is especially true for entrepreneurs and business owners who tend to be go-getting people who are highly motivated to build their businesses. But there’s evidence that taking short breaks and longer holidays is good for your health and your work in the long run.
First, burnout is bad. People who are physically or mentally exhausted are neither enjoying life, nor are they able to do their best work for their business. And, second, even if you’re not burning out, holidays appear to have some positive effects that are relevant to business owners. For example, they appear to increase cognitive flexibility once you return to work.
Cognitive flexibility is a key ingredient for creativity. If someone is cognitively flexible, they are more able to break their usual patterns of thinking, and to avoid relying on conventional ideas or solutions. To use a useful cliché, they are more able to think outside the box.
Even if you don’t think of yourself as a creative professional (such as a writer, designer, artist, musician, architect, etc) every business owner and entrepreneur benefits from being creative. Creative thinking is handy when solving business problems, or deciding how to improve or grow your business.
The paper, “Vacation from work: A ‘ticket to creativity’?: The effects of recreational travel on cognitive flexibility and originality” had some intriguing results. (It had a small sample size though, so it's far from the last word on this topic.)
“We found that workers displayed higher levels of cognitive flexibility after returning home from a long summer holiday compared to pre-holiday levels. The ideas that employees generated after returning to work were more diverse than before vacation, i.e. they covered a wider range of concepts.”
“The fact that workers demonstrate higher levels of cognitive flexibility after summer vacations implies that recreational travel can stimulate creative thinking. A regular time out from work, especially in times that workers have the impression that they are stuck in an insurmountable problem, may engender a shift in thinking which may help to solve the problem at hand.”
I asked a bunch of successful business owners and entrepreneurs why they think it’s important for us to take holidays, and if they had any tips for unplugging and winding down. Some find it more difficult than others.
Here’s what they said:
Taughnee (sounds like "Tawny") Stone Golubovic, Brand Strategist & Designer, Endeavor Creative:
Speaking for myself as a creative professional, having new adventures is essential for me to do my best work.
New experiences inspire me more than anything else and that directly impacts the quality of my work. For example, getting lost in a new city and marvelling at the architecture, street art, and even fashion worn by people on the street -- all of these things are fuel for my imagination and help me solve problems in new ways.
When I'm on holiday, I really try to be present and experience it with my senses and not feel compelled to check email or capture everything for social media. I always let my clients and colleagues know I'll be "off the grid" and people are always really supportive of that -- I think everyone "gets" how important that is to live your best life.
And if you can believe it, I've been to some of the most amazing places on earth without sharing any it on Instagram. I do indulge in that sometimes, but I always go into it with the intention of creating a memory that's just for me and the people I'm travelling with. It makes it more valuable somehow, more precious. And it definitely helps me to disconnect from the technology I'm attached to every day.
When I return back to work I feel refreshed, sharp, creative, and enthusiastic having escaped my normal routine for a spell.
The most important holiday to take is at least one full day completely offline each week. Longer holiday trips only come rarely, and it’s important to recharge every week!
That’s right — turn off the smartphone. Don’t watch YouTube videos. Don’t think about your business or plan things for your next work day. Don’t make lists. Don’t watch TV. Don’t turn on your computer. Pick a day of the week that’s going to be your day off, and then stick with it.
I’ve been doing this for many years, and believe it’s the reason I’ve been able to work sustainably and build my business to where it is now, with 1,500 paying community members and a staff of 8, without ever burning out and having to take time off. I’ve never met anyone who tried it and went back to being online 24/7. In online biz, there’s an expectation that we have to be ‘always on’ — but I’ve proven that’s not true.
I just took a week’s vacation without my laptop as well. Work ahead, set your email bouncers, and go! You need the break.
Roy McClean, Founder and Managing Partner, Custom Fit Online:
Here is a quote that I love even if I don't follow its wisdom as often as I should.
"We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw." -Dr. Stephen R. Covey
To me, this quote means that if you don't take the time to recover and be still you can't be at your best when you work. It's just that simple.
When on vacations, staying away from any "device" is important to me. When I am away from work my golden rule is to leave the phone off or at least tucked away out-of-sight. I turn notifications off most of the time while at work and always when on vacation. I'll sometimes check my phone on vacation but I put a time limit on how long I use my phone each day.
I also go for what I call 1-hour mini-vacations most days. I love to walk and run. I live in Pemberton BC and it's such a beautiful place I feel like when I'm out on the local country roads and trails I'm in "vacation mode". I often tell my wife "I'm back from vacation" upon return.
Johanna Faccini, Owner, Queen B Kettle Korn:
I’ve been on holiday in Colombia for the last couple of weeks. Being away helped with looking at the business from afar. Some problems or issues became more relevant than others. It’s like having an aerial view instead of being immersed. Some things look different and I get ideas to think about.
It’s also nice to be relaxed and have time to ponder on projects without the hassle of the everyday operation. I’m always thinking about the business, even during the holidays. It’s difficult to wind down and separate the business from my mind while on holidays.
I have tried to leave my phone offline and engage in other activities — but I have to check once or twice a day to see if I have any orders or emails from the staff, etc. During the weekends I spent in Colombia, I didn't look at my phone for business related stuff. But I can't do that during weekdays.
Laura Norup-Boyer, Owner and Creative Director, blackbean creative marketing:
I do think it's very important for business owners and entrepreneurs to be able to fully unplug and get the same level of relaxation that a usual employee would have. We’re completely consumed with running our business that it permeates our lives fully. I can never switch off, even after I leave the office. I was on the phone at 5 am with a client in Denmark, the other day.
I actually tried it for the first time this weekend, by going to a cabin in an area with no cell service whatsoever. It was a weird feeling and some mistakes were made due to my absence (even in just one day, yes) but I feel wonderful and rested. I will never fully be "off" because the business is my baby, my reputation, my hard work but I am working towards taking a step back from time to time for my own mental health and the benefit of my family.
That being said, in our "constantly-connected" world, I also think it's on the clients to respect everyone's time. I have clients emailing me, calling me and texting me on Sunday afternoons, for instance! At first, I used to answer and deal with it but now I'm making a conscious choice of putting my foot down and not answering until normal business hours resume.
And I respect other people's times but not contacting them for work-related matters on a weekend/holiday either. There's a saying in French: "Charité bien ordonnée commence par soi-même". That means you have to look after yourself (and your flaws) before looking at others. So before getting annoyed at clients for not respecting my off-time, I start by not encroaching on others' personal time.
Mike Straus, Freelance Writer and Business Coach, Brand Gesture:
Why is it important for business owners and entrepreneurs to take holidays?
Because we are now entering an economic era where your monetary value is not in your ability to work hard, but rather, your ability to work creatively. And not taking vacations is a really good way to wreck your creativity.
Because you probably started your business so that you could have freedom and independence - and chaining yourself to your desk defeats that purpose.
Because vacations are an opportunity to get out and have new experiences that can later stimulate new business ideas.
And because I don't think we were put on this earth so that we could work 7 days a week until we die.
If you keep waiting for the "right time" to take a holiday, it'll never come. (Trust me, I know.) If you want to take time off, you need to put that holiday in your schedule and then make your business activities work around it. Otherwise there will always be a reason to delay or reschedule, and pretty soon a year will go by & you'll realize you never took a vacation at any point during the last 52 weeks.
Make the holiday non-negotiable the same way you'd make hitting a deadline non-negotiable. Set up an out-of-office email autoresponder before you leave so people know they shouldn't expect you to reply to emails while you're on vacation.
If you can, go on vacation somewhere that has no internet access and limited cell service. I used to go camping in the middle of nowhere every summer and it was very freeing knowing that I didn't have cell service and couldn't be reached. It was an amazing experience to be able to "turn off". But I knew that it was the only way I'd be able to take time off because if I have a cell signal or Internet connection, you can bet I'll find something to work on.
Nabeel Keblawi, CEO of Provectus Digital, a premium Copywriting and Content Creation Agency:
Business owners and entrepreneurs are in a different situation than the 9-5 employee. Without them on the helm, their businesses don’t operate (unless of course, they have excellent managers running things). For this reason, they rarely take vacations or take the time to mentally unplug, and that can lead to burnout, or worse, feelings of resentment towards their own businesses.
This is why I am a huge believer in personal downtime, traveling, and quality time with family and friends. To do that, business owners, particularly entrepreneurs, need to learn how to draw strict boundaries between their work and personal time.
Louise Desmarais, Writer and Owner, Mud Creative:
Sorry for the delay, I was “unplugged” for a few days while attending my future daughter-in-law’s bachelorette in Radium B.C. That’s how you do it – hang out with a group of good women, yoga, spa, hot springs and the mountains. It doesn’t get any better than that. 😉
I am not the best person at completely unplugging while I’m away. And it’s very stressful preparing to leave – and then catching up when I return. I would guess that most entrepreneurs and solopreneurs have the same issue.
It’s important to let your clients know in advance that you’re going away and will be unavailable, and that you make use of the email ”out of office” autoresponder to inform everyone that the office is closed.
If possible, have a back-up person to direct them to if it’s an absolute emergency, which it never is.
Accept that you may lose out on opportunities while you’re away – and that’s okay. When one door closes – another one opens. This has been my experience over the years. But recognizing that this is simple a fact of a business owner’s life is really important in helping you relax and enjoy your holiday.
While eating and drinking is part of a holiday – do as much as you can to be as active as possible. It keeps your mind clear, and makes it easier to get your grey matter in gear when you return.
If possible, give yourself an extra day off when you return to ease yourself back into the swing of things. There is always unpacking and laundry to do, and if you work from a home office, these distractions can make you feel unorganized, and be counter-productive. Additionally, you will need to go through your email that collected in your absence, which can take some time. Having a quiet couple of hours to do this is golden, and helps you begin your next work day in a better, organized state.
Clean your home office before you leave so you can come back to a fresh slate. Also, have a neat To-Do list on your desk/computer so you know exactly where you need to pick up.
I think it’s important to remember that we’re lucky if we’re able to take a day off, or a holiday — and not to take that for granted. If you own a small farm like my friend Dave, the farm doesn’t stop making work for you until the winter. And then you’ve got other work to do…
Dave C, Owner, Starvation Flats Farm:
This is pretty well representative of how I unwind and take time away from work: I don’t.
I haven’t had a day off since April, and holidays like birthdays, events like visiting relatives, only add to the length of my work day. On the farm, I can’t really take a break because everything is growing and changing all the time, and anytime I “finish” a task there is another one popping up.
The closest thing to a break or holiday that I am able to get is an hour away from the farm to take the kids to swim lessons or to pick up my daughter in Kelowna… For me I suppose the trade-off is that I live and work in paradise every day. I just don’t get to sit in the shade and enjoy it.
I do worry about burnout for myself and the whole crew. I try to encourage everyone to get into the river everyday to cool off and take at least one day per week to relax.
We do get a break from farming in the winter, from January through mid March... but I always spend that time doing renovations and construction and clean up and laundry and everything I have neglected all summer.
What about you? Do you take at least one day off a week? How often do you take a longer holiday? Do you find it easy to unplug and relax? Do you have any tips for others who might find it difficult? Scroll down and leave your thoughts in the comments.
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