Ahhh… you can feel it now, basking in the warm sunshine, sitting by a beautiful pool or the ocean – your mind drifts off and you are so there… so ready for a holiday!!! Time to shed the suit, let your hair down and chill out!!!! Then, your phone rings. You snap back to reality… Whoa!!! Looking at your computer, you see 35 new emails have appeared in your In-box and you think to yourself, “How will I ever get away?”
Yes, this is the reality we all face when we want to take some time off. May I add, some well-deserved time off? We know it’s in our best interest to do so and we know how great we’ll feel when we ride off into the sunset, but I have always found that it’s the preparing to leave which is most daunting! I really believe it’s the unknown variables that hangs us up, “What if I lose a client because I’m not around?” “What if they go to my competition?” What if, what if, what if! Before we know it, we’re so stressed out thinking about the “what ifs” that we lose sight of the importance and benefits of downtime. The truth is that most people actually expect you to take a holiday! Now, as an entrepreneur, I have found that preparing effectively for a vacation has increased in importance! It used to be that when I left for vacation, working in the corporate world, I’d put an “Out of Office” message on and state very nicely, “and in my absence, please contact Susie Smith at email@susiesmith or I will respond to you upon my return.”
Now, as a business owner, there’s just our small team. So what does the message look like these days? Well, we have learned to be creative and how to better manage the number of emails and phone calls coming in, so that people aren’t waiting for a response. My Out of Office message directs them to our website, where they can check out our upcoming workshops and events, look at some of the work we have done and submit a contact form if they do wish to meet with us for a consultation. This process helps to manage the volume and type of email inquiries, and by providing the inquirer with some high-level information, their questions are usually more specific and they have also spent some time finding out more about our business… it’s a win-win!
These are 7 best practices for managing stress levels as you set out on vacation:
- Prepare for your vacation, starting two weeks before! Yes, it’s critical that you take inventory of what absolutely needs to be complete before you take off for vacation, assess their level of priority, and then book all of those tasks into your schedule. You will be much more relaxed getting through the tasks and more likely to complete them. Examples: file your HST, month-end invoicing/payroll, schedule social media posts or advertising, to name a few. Think about hiring a temp admin person to cover the basics.
- Use your calendar as your to-do list. As stated in step 1, book everything into your schedule, make sure to set automatic reminders and it’ll get done. Give yourself some breathing room; prioritize tasks, schedule meetings according to importance and what makes the most sense for your business. Give each task the stress-test, “Can this wait?” If it cannot, then that task goes to the top. If it can wait –schedule it into your calendar at a later date.
- Drink lots of water, reduce caffeine and eat well. We’ve all heard this before, and it’s absolutely true. Quite often headaches or fatigue are due to being dehydrated and not eating properly. This may lead to anxiety, which contributes to feeling distracted. Be sure to eat 3 meals a day with healthy snacks in between (usually every 2-3 hours). Include fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water and reduce your caffeine in-take. You will have more energy and should be able to stay more focused. Feeling satiated and hydrated, you may find yourself getting into a rhythm, as you begin to work through your list of to-dos. Oh, and remember to take bathroom breaks. It may sound funny to remind yourself to do this but how can anyone concentrate if they need to go?
- Let that call go to voicemail! This is key. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message. If you pick up that phone, you might be in for a lengthy phone call – just let it go. Also, it’s a good idea to have a service level agreement built into your voice mail message that states when you’ll get back to them, for example: I’ll return your call within 24 hours OR I’ll get back to you within two business days.
- Don’t book any unnecessary meetings or networking the week before your vacation. You can network and book meetings during the other 51 weeks of the year. If you try and attend networking and other meetings, all you’ll be thinking about is how much you have to do. You’ll feel and appear distracted and edgy. Schedule meetings and networking events when you can actually be in the moment and enjoy the people you’re with. Think about it, you represent your business every time you’re out, so give yourself a break –don’t cram!
- Set your “out of office” on the morning of the last day you’re at work and change your voice message. You won’t believe the relief you feel when you take yourself off the grid the day before your holiday. You’ll be way more productive and anyone calling or emailing you, will know that you’re not available. You will have that entire day to take care all those last minute tasks before you leave the office!
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth; repeat often. Everything will still be there when you get back – feeling refreshed, recharged and ready to rock!
The best way to give your all, is to look after yourself and remain healthy and well. You, your family and your clients will all benefit when you take time to relax and get away. So go ahead, book that time off, follow these seven steps, stress much less and enjoy your holiday. You are worth it!
Heather Wilson, ATC
Co-Founder & Director Business Development
Cheetah Fusion Creative Agency