How to take a (proper) Holiday
Most schools break up this week and holiday season is upon us! So it seems like just the right time for me to share this annual reminder of the importance of taking a proper holiday – and even some tips on how to do that – as busy business owners it can be too easy to not give ourselves the chance to switch off fully.
Over the years I’ve learned that taking a “proper” holiday twice a year is absolutely essential for giving me the energy, clarity and focus that I need to run my business for the rest of the year. Yet each year I’m amazed at the number of people who tell me they don’t take holidays because they don’t have the time – some business owners have confided that it has been years since they took more than a weekend off.
But here’s the thing – working consistently with no breaks is no way to run a business – and no way to treat your most important business asset (that’s you). So here are my tips on how to take a “proper” holiday.
And by “proper” holiday I mean one where you switch off from your business completely and give your mind, body, and spirit a chance to rest and recharge. (As opposed to a “working holiday” which I also love to take, which is where I go somewhere beautiful with the intention of working from a fresh location, or on a new project).
Photos are of my 2022 summer holiday – Elsie (the campervan) and I went wandering on the Sussex and Dorset coast, enjoying beach walks, cold swims and lazy days
What is a “Proper” Holiday?
For me a “proper” holiday is not so much about where I go or what activities I do when I get there. It’s more about taking time to rest and fully recoup my energy – and most importantly giving my brain a chance to slow down from juggling all the different strands involved in running a busy business.
The success of my business ultimately depends on my having the energy to do my work, and the sharpness and clarity of thought to help my clients and members with their business challenges. For that reason taking time to rest is as important to me as any other business activity like marketing or sales.
But I didn’t always do this. There have been many many times when I have felt I was too busy to take a holiday – but if I could go back in time to earlier in my business I would definitely take more holidays as I used to spend far too much of my time feeling tired and not operating at my best.
So in case you are anything like I used to be here’s my “recipe” for a “proper” holiday
1. Block it out in advance
One of the hardest parts of taking a holiday used to be that I didn’t have the space in my diary to take one without cancelling launches, programmes or clients, or reneging on commitments. I’ve learned that it’s essential to block the time out in advance – and then book in your client sessions and meetings around it. And of course this also means being disciplined about saying “No” to anything that falls into that period. (That said I once delayed the start of a holiday by 2 days because I was invited to speak at a conference alongside some of my business heroes – so do be pragmatic – you don’t want to say no to the big opportunity you’ve just worked for 3 years to make happen!).
Oh, and when the time comes – actually go! This is easier when you are holidaying with family or friends as you won’t want to let them down. It also helps if you’ve booked a flight. When the time comes if you feel you are too busy to go (yup, this has definitely been me) just shut down the computer and stick to your commitment. All those things that seem so important I can’t afford to take a break from just don’t seem such a big deal two weeks later once I’m refreshed and clearer thinking with a healthier perspective.
2. Have an email embargo
Want a holiday where you actually feel recharged and rested and where you come home with a renewed clarity and energy for your business, and in tune with your intuition?
Then you need to SWITCH OFF. And I mean REALLYswitch off.
The best way to have a complete mental break from work is to put your “out of office” on your inbox and walk away. Or if that makes you nervous, then leave someone keeping an eye on your emails.
I can’t stress how important this is. If you check your emails you will inevitably see something that you think needs to be dealt with, or tell yourself “Oh, I’ll reply to this, it only takes a few minutes” and the next thing you know you are sucked back into the work vortex.
One reason people find it hard to avoid checking emails (or social media messages) is the fear that there might be something urgent waiting that you can’t afford to miss. Here are a few suggestions:
- First take a step back and challenge yourself to list all the situations that would genuinely be so urgent that it can’t wait for you to get back. You’ll find that there are very few things that really can’t wait.
- Have a VA (or even a friend if you don’t yet have an assistant) check your emails for you, with instructions to contact you if something genuinely urgent does come up (from that list you just made).
- Add a note to your “out of office” saying “I will be away from the office until [insert date]. If your enquiry is urgent or you prefer to speak to me today please contact me via [insert mobile number]. This way you don’t need to worry about missing anything urgent. When I used to do this nobody ever contacted me – most people will respect the fact you are on holiday.
- Be accepting that things probably won’t go as smoothly if you are not around – maybe there will be a grumpy customer or a missed sale. But you’re a human being and you can’t be “fully on” all the time and it’s really important to give yourself time to just “be” without worrying about the business. An occasional hiccup or missed opportunity is a small price to pay for the energy to keep going all year round.
3. Have a Social Media holiday
Now you might actually relish your holiday because it gives you more time to really indulge in being on social media. If that’s you and social media is part of the “fun” of being away then go for it.
However what if you see it the way I do:
Social media makes my mind so busy it could explode
Whether I see a question from a Business from the Heart member that I really want to help with, or a piece of strategy advice from a programme I’m in that I want to capture for future reference, or a comment from another business owner that gives me an idea for something new I could do, or a post by a friend that I know I should reply to, or an advert for a webinar that looks interesting…. and BOOM! My brain is busy. And that’s just from one platform!
For me what makes a holiday a holiday is that I get to:
Slow…. My…. Brain…. Right…. Down.
It’s important to me to spend a certain amount of time every year not being bombarded by information that I need to process at a million miles per hour.
So even if you love your social media (heck, even if you teach social media) I would love to challenge you to take at least 1 full week 100% off social media and see the difference it make to your mental energy, clarity of thinking and creativity.
(If you want some inspiration to help with this then some recommended holiday reading is Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport).
And if you decide to check in to your paid FB groups do it mindfully e.g. I checked in during my holiday to share some photos and check in with my members – but I limited it to just two visits of 30 mins.
4. Don’t create that next programme
Yes, I’ve done this myself, and yes, I LOVED sitting in a Greek taverna overlooking a beautiful bay mapping out the content of an online course, and I wrote my best ever blog post from a pretty table outside a café in Cape Town. But here’s the thing – although I loved it, when I got home I hadn’t had the complete break from work that I really needed.
There is nothing wrong with “working holidays” – I take those regularly too and love the inspiration that comes from working from different locations around the world. But do be clear on the difference between a working holiday and a “rest and recharge holiday” and make sure you have at least one of the latter every year – honestly, your business and clients need you to.
5. Take a break from books and podcasts related to your business
When I’m on a “proper” holiday I don’t read business books or listen to business podcasts – even though I can’t get enough of these the rest of the time. To give space for creativity it’s actually really healthy for us to explore things unrelated to our work. In my case I like to read lightweight fiction as a way of switching off, but you might have other non-business passions or interests that you like to absorb yourself in. Giving your brain time off from thinking about your business and a chance to focus on other topics allows it to make new subconscious neural connections – and this is where inspiration, creativity, and new ideas come from.
(And trust me, you’ll find that the more you switch off from thinking about business, the more you’ll have inspired ideas that just pop into your mind while you are doing something entirely unrelated – so definitely take a notebook or use your phone to capture them ready for when you come home).
6. Build in a buffer day (or two) when you get back
If you have managed to switch off completely then it can be really hard to step up a gear or several when you get back. Don’t beat yourself up about this – it’s completely normal. I recommend you build in a “buffer day” where you are still “officially” away (more if you’ve travelled long-haul) to gently get back in the swing of work by picking up the threads and planning the week ahead, but without any sense of pressure because you are not officially back yet.
Also, go easy on yourself for that first week back. We are humans not machines and we don’t go in an instant from “fully off” to “fully on” so I don’t put myself under pressure to be motivated or massively productive straight after a holiday. I just work through what I need to do and take as many breaks as I need – and by the second week, I’m fully back in the swing of things (I actually wrote this post in my second week back, from a holiday, which is when I was feeling most inspired to write it!)
7. Banish the Guilt
A lot of people feel guilty taking a proper holiday because they feel they “should” be around to respond to all enquiries and emails, but here’s the thing: Your clients and customers understand that you need holidays too – as long as you are not going off the day your 6 week programme starts (yes, I’ve seen people do that), or disappearing without any warning right before an important deadline!. In fact the thing you should really feel guilty about is not giving yourself enough breaks and time off – because you simply can’t serve your clients to the level they deserve if you are burned out, or be fully present with your friends and family if you are overwhelmed and exhausted by the demands of your business. You serve and take care of those around you best when you take good care of yourself.
8. Don’t let finances be a reason
If you are in the early days of your business you might feel that money is too tight to take a holiday. So how about a Staycation? Simply tell your clients you are on holiday, pop an out of office on the emails, and if you have an actual office stick a “Do Not Enter” sign on it – for your benefit! And then take a holiday without leaving home by following all the steps above and then doing only what you feel like every day – long lie-ins, reading, walking in the park, day trips to beautiful places. Or make a holiday out of visiting friends, or do a house swap or house sit. You spend money on food, utilities and other household expenses when you’re at home anyway – so just take that same budget and spend it somewhere else.
9. Be Disciplined
The most important thing in all this is that you find ways of switching off from work entirely and spending time in that loose, in flow state where your mind feels clear and spacious and your body is free of stress or pressure. It’s really worth being disciplined about this – if you are someone who doesn’t take a lot of holidays you’ll discover what a huge difference it makes to your energy levels, clarity and performance and you’ll come to see your holidays as a crucial element for success in your business just like I do.
If that’s you then I challenge you to go right now and schedule your next holiday into your calendar – just go over there now and block it out completely – and make sure you don’t allow any appointments to sneak in there! (unless they are genuinely too good to say No to of course). And if you don’t trust yourself to actually take the holiday when the time comes then while you are at it book a flight, AirBnB, hotel or retreat as well – that’s one way of making sure you actually go!
How to Get Clients when Marketing is making you Miserable
Have you signed up for my brand new free training yet? It’s on how you can approach your marketing so you can love it (almost) as much as your client work. And get inspired for what to do if you want to stop using social media for marketing altogether.
I’d love to know how this blog has landed for you. Has it inspired you to take more holidays? Or are you already pretty good at taking them but recognise that your business would benefit if you were to switch off even more fully?
Let me know in the comments below – I always love to hear from you!