When was the last time you felt comfortable enough to take a vacation? A real one, that is.
By “real,” I mean work-free. Not being stuck on your laptop in a hotel room. Not checking emails on your phone between Thanksgiving dinner and dessert. Not worrying about the ever-mounting workload that’s awaiting you when you return.
Most business owners are anxious about taking time off, because they’re terrified of what could go wrong when they’re away!
But you deserve (and I’d argue, you need!) a break from running your business. Not only have you earned a timeout to deeply relax, unplug, and get in that you-time you’ve been craving, you also need it to recharge your batteries and boost your creativity and problem-solving skills so you can perform at your best.
If you know it’s time to take a break without your laptop, there are five things you should have squared away before you go, so your business can run without you.
Let’s dive into them right now.
1. Refine Your Systems
There are two categories of systems you should have in place before you leave for your vacation.
Situational systems: These dictate how certain common issues and events in your business are handled. Examples of this include addressing customer service concerns and new client acceptance processes.
You know a system works well when you feel assured everything that needs to be done will be done effectively, efficiently, consistently, and on-time every time. Refine, implement, and test your systems before you go on vacation.
Systems make your assistant’s job easier, too. She won’t have to guess, reinvent the wheel, or worry about making a mistake in your absence. Which brings us to the next “gotta have” before you take off…
2. Train a Trustworthy Team
You’re going to need someone to respond to emails, address customer concerns, and keep the day-to-day operations running. A virtual assistant (VA) is often the perfect person to do this for you.
If you don’t have an assistant, hire one well in advance of taking your vacation. It takes awhile for even the best VA to learn the ins and outs of your business and how you like things to run.
If you already have an assistant, you may only need to train her on a few new tasks so she can truly cover for you while you’re gone.
Depending on the size and scope of the products and services you offer, you may also want a tech or web person on call. Ideally, your assistant and this tech person have a pre-established working relationship so they can team up, if needed, during your absence.
3. Prep Your Social Media Presence, Blog, and Newsletter
If you run an online business, social media and blogging are a big part of your daily and weekly activities. To keep the ship running while you’re gone, populate your social media accounts by scheduling tweets and Facebook posts. (You can grab a Steal This! guide on this topic right here.)
Sure, you won’t be able to reply to comments on your unplugged vacation, but at least it won’t look like you dropped off the face of the earth.
You will also want to populate your blog with posts to stick to your regular schedule. Same holds true for your newsletter.
In fact, preparing a month’s worth of posts before I leave for vacation tends to boost my excitement, because I know I’ll have one less thing to think about while I’m away.
Stuck thinking of that many blogging ideas at once? Here are some tips on how to have endless blogging ideas.
4. Notify Your Clients and Create an Out-of-Office Auto-Reply
If you serve one-on-one clients, you will want to email them a few days before you leave to let them know you’ll be unavailable for the duration — especially if you offer email support to your clients.
I want you to enjoy your vacation and unplugging completely is the easiest way to make that happen. Your clients will understand!
Also, set up an email auto-reply so that anyone who emails while you’re away will immediately know that they won’t hear back from you until you return. Specify the date you will reply by (I usually use three days after I’m back home) so people know when to expect to hear from you.
5. Release Some Control
You’ve got your team, and your systems are running flawlessly. Social media and your blog are ready to go. Now it’s time to let your business do what it’s been prepared to do: run without you.
Are you ready for that? Are you going to be able to stop checking your email every two hours, taking those quick peeks at Twitter, and responding to every issue yourself?
Trust that if your team has been trained and your systems have been tested and optimized, your business will be able to run itself while you’re gone. Sure, new problems occasionally occur, but if you’ve checked off all the items on this list, you’ve set yourself up for your well-deserved, distraction-free vacation time.
Even if your team can’t do everything in your absence, they can interact with customers and let them know concerns and issues will be addressed once you return home.
When my assistant faces a unique situation that requires my input, she simply replies with, “Jenny is on vacation and away from her computer until next Monday. I’ll be sure she sees this as soon as she’s back. Thanks so much for your patience, and let me know if I can do anything for you in the meantime.”
Most people are pretty reasonable when you’re unreachable. And besides, most businesses don’t have life-threatening emergencies (we just act like they do).
If you’re worried all hell will break loose in your absence, you can always leave your assistant with a direct line to reach you in case of an emergency.
Can you release control, and let things move along without you?
Take That Vacation!
It’s hard for entrepreneurs to loosen up the reins, even if it means foregoing getting a tan or hitting the slopes. We like being in control. We like knowing what’s going on. But this also means we’re hyper-aware that one mistake could cause an avalanche of problems.
When you have your team prepped in the right way, you seriously decrease your chances of a meltdown happening when you’re not around.
Now I want to hear from you!
Have you been able to take a work-free, stress-free vacation? What did you do to make that happen?
If you haven’t been able to indulge in a work-free respite, what steps are you going to take starting this week to prepare your business for your absence?
I can’t wait to read your thoughts in the comments below!