As a small business owner, there will be many occasions, I’m sure, when you’ve thought about going back and getting a proper job – working for someone else. You’ve probably imagined offloading the burdens of the business, ditching ‘the buck stops here’ and losing the weight of responsibility for other people’s jobs. Then there are the personal benefits: knocking off at 5pm, leaving work at the office, weekends without giving work a second thought and paid holidays.
Hmmm, just imagine…
When you’re the boss, everything just seems that little bit more stressful, personal and weighty. Be honest with yourself for a moment – when was the last time you went on holiday? I don’t just mean that you took a long weekend off or even that you went away with the family for a week – I mean you actually left work behind. For most (to be fair, not all) business owners the concept of totally switching off simply does not exist. That is not to say that an all-encompassing, heart-consuming and sleep-stealing lifestyle was part of the original dream you set out to pursue, it is simply that most business owners end up trudging that path anyway.
Proper time out is time well spent!
Do you remember the old story of the two brothers who set off to cut down trees one day, with different approaches and very different outcomes? The elder lad got straight to the task at hand, took his axe to the base of the first tree at 6am and hacked away tirelessly (even missing lunch) until the sun went down that evening. Meanwhile, his younger, wiser sibling spent the first 90 minutes sharpening his blade, having a good breakfast and planning which trees to cut down. By the time he had stopped for a refreshing lunch he had just about caught up with the elder’s two-hour head start and after sharpening his blade again he spent the afternoon cutting down two trees for each one felled by his weary brother.
Taking time out and having a proper holiday, away from the day-to-day doing of the office, fits beautifully into this analogy. Time spent refreshing your body, sharpening your mind, truly relaxing and having a rest will repay you in abundance once you return to the real world.
You’ve booked your holiday – now plan a proper holiday!
Here are a few of my top tips for ensuring that this year’s summer holiday is a true energizer:
Add a PS. to every email you send, a week or two before you go away, pre-warning your customers, suppliers and staff that you will be away. That way your ‘out of office’ reply will not come as a surprise and you can start to manage their expectations a little earlier.
Instruct your PA not to let anyone give you work during your break, or if you use a booking calendar make sure it is clear that your holiday dates are out of bounds.
Make it impossible to work! If you were trying to give up chocolate you wouldn’t spend hours wandering around a sweet shop, would you? So, don’t even take your laptop or any paperwork with you – out of sight means out of mind.
Relax and be in the moment. Whether it is a solo retreat or time with the family, make sure that you are always present. Savour the time, enjoy the moment, have your mind focussed 100% on what you are doing, don’t give in to distraction, a wandering thought or even a fleeting mind’s eye of the office.
Take a notebook with you and get ready for inspiration…
Here is the really amazing thing, and why the woodcutter’s story is so relevant. If you do this properly something magical and massively beneficial to your business will happen. While it is critical that you don’t do any work, or engage in any deliberate thought about your business, while you are away, you will find that switching off, switches on your entrepreneurial inspiration. A clear, relaxed, family and fun focussed mind is one that can recapture the dream you set off to pursue in the first place.
Write those thoughts down as soon as they arrive. Don’t dwell on them and don’t run with them yet; just make a few notes then return to the moment. When you get back to the office, refreshed, energised and with a sharper mind than you’ve had in years you can open your book of inspirations and get ready to bring them to life.