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After 18 months of uncertainty and unknown, taking time off might feel like a luxury or not even an option right now, but remembering that you are your company's most valuable asset is essential - and without rest, you risk running out of energy, and reaching a point where you are unable to work. Choosing to take time off is better than being forced into it, and we've seen increased numbers of people struggling with burnout, poorer focus and motivation, and less able to deal with change.
When running a small business, looking after your own mental health can so easily get deprioritised - and even if you are trying to take time off, our research shows that 67% of us find that taking time off creates more stress, and that saying no to client work is possible one of the hardest things to do.
But there are some things you can put in place to make it easier to take time off during the summer.
1/ Remember, many clients are away too - Summer in many ways is easier to take time off, as so many clients will be doing the same. Communicate early and find out when your clients might be away too, find gaps and spaces in the collective calendars where the impact of you being away might be lessened.
2/ Plan ahead - its important to clear out your diary as early as possible - blocking out periods where you've committed to not working, and then both communicating with your customers and clients you won't be around, as much as a promise to yourself to not book any work in those periods. It can help to establish yourself a holiday policy - where you agree the minimum time you'll be taking off each year.
3/ Buddy up and Offload - if work still needs to be done, discuss it with your client and agree any sort of cover required, or plan your time to work ahead of the break to reduce any requirements whilst you're away. It can help to group tasks or work into buckets: things which are critical, things which are valuable, things which can wait. Focus on the things which are critical so they don’t weigh on your mind. Choose one or two valuable tasks so you can go into holidays on a good note, and put the things which can wait to one side, so you have a list you can get stuck into when renewed after your time off. Start to build up a support network with fellow small businesses who can step in to support you, and likewise you can return the favour for moments like holidays, illness and scaling up operations. There are lots of communities which aim to create connections between small business owners, join an online tribe and build your network - have a look at freelancefriendly.network
4/ Popup holidays - consider shorter and more frequent breaks, rather than longer blocks, if you're struggling to take solid time off. Extended weekends, or two or three days here and there, can go a long way to help you feel rested, without placing undue stress on your ability to deliver work. Even try working from another city, if you're able. Book a trip to a place which has all of the infrastructure you need to work from during the day - such as coworking spaces or deskshares, and then make the most of the early mornings and evenings. A change of context and scenery can do wonders too!
5/ Ration yourself - if you absolutely need to work during the holidays, try and give yourself a block of time which you stick to, prioritise the necessary work and then ‘put work away’ for the rest of the day. This can help reduce any anxiety around missing emails or important messages, but also gives you solid time to rest. It can help to keep a notebook or file on your phone where you capture the things you want to do in your rationed time tomorrow, rather than dipping into work throughout the day.
6/ Manage your notifications - consider hiding the phone or laptop, and giving yourself permission to not check-in with things. Deleting work related apps from your phone can help remove the notifications entirely, and make full use of your "out of office” message. Be clear in your out of office message that you aren’t available over the holidays, but be clear when you’ll respond. Be proactive with clients and provide emergency contact details, but only for those who you know will respect it.
5/ Enjoy it - remember the reasons you started your own business, and remind yourself that having more control over how, when and where you work is generally a benefit, and taking time off is part of this. Reflect on the year you’ve had so far, and celebrate all of the small positive things which have happened, as well as learning from the challenges.
Most of all, give yourself a break - you deserve it.
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