One of the dangers of small business ownership is that taking holidays or breaks can sometimes seem like more effort than they are worth. It’s that feeling of overwhelm of all the things you’d have to do, the alternatives you’d have to put in place, the work you’d have to get done just to take a holiday. It can seem more exhausting than if you were to just continue working and skip the break altogether.

That’s a mistake I made over first two years of my business – and I recognised it as a true mistake. It’s a recipe for burnout and let’s face it, it doesn’t do myself or my business any favours.

I’ve had “holidays” in that time – and I write that in inverted commas because even though I was away from home and with my family, I was still checking emails, managing social media and working on tasks when I could grab the chance.  I didn’t give myself the proper down time, the total and complete break that is needed to really rest, recharge and come back raring to go. But a complete break from work not only lets you relax, it also gives your brain and creativity space – and that’s often when great ideas emerge.

Of course, whether you work alone or you have a team, there are systems and contingencies you need to put in place before you can up and leave. So here I take a look at a “Holiday Preparation Plan” that can set you free to enjoy your holidays and focus on what’s important.

Holiday Preparation – Two Months Out

  • Take a good look at your 2 – 3 month schedule and determine what needs to be completed, and what contingencies need to be put in place before you go.  Make a solid plan so that, as much as possible, you’re avoiding the last minute panic and sleepless nights in the lead up to your holiday.
  • If you have a team, start making plans about how the time will be managed in the lead up to your break, and while you’re away.
  • If you’re preparing proposals for new clients / customers, pre-warn them of your upcoming availability changes so that their expectations are managed.

Holiday Preparation – One Month Out

  • Let your clients know that you will be taking time off.  Clear communication allows their expectations to be managed, and also gives them the opportunity to discuss any urgent needs or requests with you so that appropriate plans can be put in place.
  • Contact suppliers / referrers / partners and let them know you’re going away, again giving them the opportunity to manage their needs with you.
  • Identify your weekly tasks that will need to be in place for when you’re away (e.g. newsletters, social media activity), and either delegate them or complete them in advance and schedule them  so your communication is consistent.

Holiday Preparation – Two Weeks Out

  • Map out your to-do list and schedule the work in a manageable way, to avoid burning yourself out before you go.
  • Schedule some self-care measures to make sure you’re looking after yourself in that week leading up to your break. Things like preparing your meals in advance so you can grab them on the go or calling in some help around the house. These things can take the pressure off in the lead up to your break so you can focus on getting your business ready for your absence.

Holiday Preparation – One Week Out

  • Recognise that you may not get everything done.  Identify the critical priorities that MUST get done before you leave and schedule time for their completion.
  • Contact clients to remind them that you’re going away.
  • Schedule social media activity (if needed) and ideally delegate someone to monitor your profiles while you’re away.
  • Prepare and schedule your weekly communications in advance.
  • Provide your team with a clear brief of your expectations and requirements while you’re gone, plus provide emergency contact details.

Before You Leave on Holiday

  • Change your voicemail messages and email messages.
  • Make a note on the Contact Form on your website, so that people’s expectations are managed before they get in touch.
  • Consider your priorities for when you return. We all know that feeling of getting back from holidays to hundreds of emails and an insurmountable to-do list.  By identifying your priorities before you go, you can have a handle on where your attentions should lie and make a plan to handle the rest in the right time.
  • Great to do – set up filters on your email provider to weed out non-essential emails.  That way you won’t be quite so overwhelmed and will be able to focus on the most important emails when you return.
  • Pack up, unplug and ENJOY YOUR BREAK.

While it may seem difficult to take holidays, it is really important, and having great plans in place means it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it may seem.

Over to you.  Can you add anything to this list that would make holiday preparation even easier??