After one of the most challenging years, taking time off might feel like a luxury or not even an option - but remember that you are your company's most valuable asset - 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.
When running a small business, looking after our own mental health often gets deprioritised, and some clever juggling can be required.
1/ Plan ahead - start to clear out your diary now, and communication with your customers and clients to agree any sort of cover required, or if there’s work you can do ahead to lighten the load over the break. It can help to group tasks or work in to 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 finish the year on a good note, and put the things which can wait to one side, so you’ve a set of tasks for the new year.
2/ 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.
3/ 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.
4/ Buddy up - 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
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, 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.