Pretty soon I will be laying on the beach, book in hand with the sight of the beautiful Atlantic ocean in front of me. My notebook will be in my bag for impromptu notes and back in my room is my laptop. I constantly have to remind myself that I’m living the dream. I mean here I am, being able to take off for a month every year and go relax in Florida with little more than the power of WiFi. I’m able to transport both myself and my business to the land of sunshine, Cuban coffee and Publix subs.
If you don’t know me or about my back story…I’m American and I live in the UK. You can read more about me here. Every year I go back “home” to Florida to visit my family and friends. I’ve gone for as little as 3 weeks and I’ve gone for as long as 6 before. Not one was easier than the other. Since starting my business and working for myself, I knew that I could have the flexibility to do this. I wanted that time to travel and because my son was not in primary school yet, why shouldn’t I just go??
It didn’t happen overnight though and if I’m honest the first times I did it, it was such a mess and I really struggled to get anything done. However now, I’ve done this trip a few times to perfect my working holiday skills.
This is why I want to share my top tips for balancing out work and play on your next holiday.
For me, because I go for weeks at a time, I take what is called a working vacation. Mega time off with my laptop. Working vacations can be a great thing and it is a an awesome solution for a work at home parent. You can keep up with business, have a much needed change of scenery, and still have time to make plenty of amazing memories with your family. Plus, it feels pretty cool to get paid on vacation…
Be that as it may, let’s not forget that you probably started working from home so that you would have more time for yourself and your family. So by all means take some time off too!
I absolutely give myself permission to take a lot of time off during my time away so I can unplug and just be. The tips I am sharing go for taking a week off, a month, or even going on maternity leave.
As small business owners, we tend to rarely take time off, since paid vacations can be an impossible task for us. Every spare minute you have is poured into building your business and balancing your workload. It can seem like it’s inconceivable to take a day off, let alone log off and take an actual vacation. However, it is so important to recharge your batteries at least once a year. If not, you’re likely on a path that leads to burnout, which is no good for your business. Your projects and clients suffer because you’re suffering. You need to take the time off, and you can do that with a little prep work.
Still not convinced? Think about it this way. If you work for a corporation, you’ve likely got vacation time built into your benefits package. That means it’s expected that you take some time off at least once a year. It needs to be the same for you now, as a work-at-home parent. Don’t forget Renegade, you are the boss. Let’s do this!
SCHEDULE YOUR TIME OFF IN ADVANCE & LET CLIENTS KNOW
I’ve known for the past few years that every February/March I go to Florida. It’s bittersweet since my kid starts proper school in September, that I will be limited to school holiday time after this trip. Yes, I could go in August but I would never force Oscar to travel all that way to just stay inside in the AC. Florida sucks in the summer.
While it is possible to take a last-minute vacation, it’s can be a lot harder to do. Do yourself a solid, and block that time you want to take off, as soon as you can. This will let you know when you need to be wrapping projects up and give you a date to shoot for to get all your stuff planned so that you can actually log out and enjoy it.
If you’ve done some of your yearly planning with my Badass Business Guide, take a look at what you already have scheduled, and figure out where your possible time off could fit in. You don’t have to have flights or hotels booked, or even know where you’re going yet, but blocking time at the beginning of the year ensures that you can carve out some relaxation before things get too busy. These can be tentative dates for now (if you’re like me, you’ll adjust actual dates in order to get a cheap flight) but should be close to when you’ll actually take time off.
Planning dates in advance, also allows you to be able to tell your clients as soon as possible. Those that have been with me awhile, know that this is the time I am away. However, their businesses are still running so by getting everyone on the same page, I can schedule what time I need to put aside to help them with their launches. If you’re going to be out of pocket for a few days, let your recurring clients know at least a couple of weeks in advance. This year, I knew I needed time to get over jet lag and just enjoy the first few days so I have blocked out that time as being offline. This is a major courtesy for my clients and they appreciate the heads up.
The more notice you can give, the more you equip them to handle your absence… and the less likely it’ll be that you’ll have a bunch of fires to put out when you get back or worse, when you are on your trip. It’s also helpful to send a reminder of your out-of-pocket dates when you submit your last bit of work to each client pre-vacation.
Block out the time in your calendar and don’t schedule any work to happen during that time. Push as much back as you can, to do upon your return, and then decide what you need to do before you go. If you decide to schedule projects that overlap with your vacation time, let clients know when you’re doing the scheduling. Everyone understands the need for time off, they just want to know ahead of time. It’s completely okay to let clients know that you’ll be gone in the middle of their project, and that the timeline will fit around this scheduled absence. Unless it makes it impossible to launch when they want to, it shouldn’t be a problem at all.
SORT OUT YOUR WIFI, TIME AND WORKING SPACE
You need to have a plan in place on where exactly you are going to work and when.
Sometimes this means I dedicate as much of the daylight hours as I can to enjoying my family and being outside in that warm Florida sun. Then I dedicate the evening after Oscar is asleep towards working.
This year, I will be doing a combination of this but also dedicating 3 days a week where I will put in hours for my clients. For this, I am counting on my mama to get in her Abuela (grandma) time and entertain the kid. It is a balance for sure, but it allows me to still enjoy my trip and get plenty of time to work each day.
WiFi and a good work space is a super integral part of the working holiday. Get this sorted before you go and you’ve solved 99% of your problems before you have even opened . Some mobile phone providers have sweet deals for the world traveller while others totally suck. If you are staying at a hotel or Airbnb, check to see what they offer as far as internet and where you could set up to work. You can organise a SIM card with included data on arrival or even go so far as getting your own personal sized hotspot. I’ve done all of these options before but the easiest and cheapest is staying somewhere that has internet included into the package.
I don’t need to be reachable 24/7 when I am away so as long as I make it a point to check in somewhere a few times a day, then I welcome the rest of the time being unreachable.
Finding an actual space to work is really important too. I’ve gone to Starbucks before and I hated it. Even with headphones on there was just way too many distractions. Staying at my moms there isn’t really a dedicated work space I can have so aside from my night time catch-ups, this year I will be heading out to another family member’s home as well as checking in to a few remote co-working places for the day. These days there are so many out there and many offer affordable day rates.
Renegade Tip - Once you do find a spot and get to work, be sure to leave clues when you finish working for the day. Whenever you step away from your work, whether it’s for a week or a night, leave yourself notes, to-do lists, and the next steps to take. That way, you won’t lose too much time trying to figure where you left off. This is super helpful if you are going away on vacation. Taking these few seconds as you’re wrapping up will save you so much time when you look back at a project you haven’t thought about in weeks.
PRIORITIZE WHAT YOU NEED TO DO BEFORE YOU GO
Holidays are not about emails. So if you’ve got things that you need to do or make happen while you’re away be super clear on what those are, and do only those things. Here’s to NOT sitting on email all day.
If you don’t want to be running around on that Friday night before your morning flight Saturday, then act like Thursday is your last day. Oscar only has a half day of child care on Fridays so I will just be wrapping up a few things. I packed the weekend before and only need to put my toiletries/phone charger/laptop in. I always try and have at least the day before and the day after I travel as black out days. Unreachable and offline. This leaves me time to sort my own stuff out without having to worry about client’s needs.
Whether you’ve planned your vacation in advance, or it just popped up, you need to decide what you need to do before you go so that you can actually relax during your vacation. A holiday isn’t really a holiday if you’re still glued to your computer screen every day and missing out on that relaxation and family time.
I’ve spent the last several weeks working on some of my mundane admin tasks that need to happen whilst I am away and scheduling and thinking ahead. I don’t want it to be radio silence while I’m gone so I have pre-written some blog posts and scheduled as much social media posts as I can. It’s important to get everything you need to take care of, taken care of, before you go, so your brain can focus on being present, instead of thinking about work.
Renegade tip - Make a list of everything you need to do before you log off your computer. From big to small. Look at your list and decide what is actually a priority. For me, it’s going to be taking care of my clients. You don’t have to write the blog posts or the newsletters (unless you want to schedule ahead) but it definitely is not the end of the world business wise. Most of your followers will not even notice you are gone, but your clients will!
The important thing to remember is if you can move stuff around in your calendar, then do it. Hit the ground running when you return. My clients need to be taken care of. They are relying on me and paying me, so if they don’t hear from me, they might panic. If you’ve planned in advance, you can definitely take care of blog posts, newsletters, and whatever else you want before you go as well, but your clients are the top priority whether you’ve been planning for months or decided today that you’re taking next week off. Take care of your clients first, then worry about everything else. Want to work with me? Send me a message.
SCHEDULE AND AUTOMATE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
I am a big fan of automating in your business. This isn’t something you should do just as vacation prep, but as a general rule for running your own business. Read my blog post here on it. When you schedule things like blog posts and newsletters in advance, it’s much easier to “disappear” for a while without anyone noticing.
Work ahead as much as you can. As mentioned before, I started prepping for this trip almost 5 weeks out. I’ve been working on writing blog posts and newsletters to scheduled in my absence (as well as my clients). This not only makes going on my trip easier but also takes off the pressure of having to produce content all the time. You can schedule all of these to go out so that you’re not having to log in and publish anything, it’s all being done for you.
Automate what you can, so your business basically runs itself. There are so many tools out there for this these days. Whether it’s automatically sending an intro packet to new clients or scheduling calls for your return. Try to take yourself out of the equation as much as possible, so you can log out and know that you’re still bringing in new clients while reading a book on the beach.
I know you can’t automate everything. Your business might require you to create custom quotes or tweak contracts but simplifying the amount of work in these processes means that you can either have a VA handle this for you, or get it all done in a 10-minute check-in each day.
Don’t forget you can schedule and automate social media too! I do this most of the time in my business anyways, I’m just scheduling it more far in advance for my holiday trip. PS. I love Later since it automatically publishes my IG posts. Check out my refer link here
Renegade Tip - get help if you need it. If your business really can’t survive without you being there everyday (and you might want to reevaluate some life stuff then) you can always hire a VA, or another helper depending on your needs. One year I hired someone to help keep the PMUK shop open when I was gone. You can even swap with another friend –they cover for you, and you cover for them.
Be prepared for something to go wrong. Your WiFi will fail, you will leave your laptop plug somewhere, Skype connection will be crap, emails will fail to send, etc etc etc. Take it as a sign that you should step away from the online world and go and enjoy this amazing place you’ve brought yourself to. After a long walk, a bit of ice cream and a thousand pics, try again.
LOG OFF & ENJOY!
A vacation isn’t a vacation if you’re still tied to your inbox or working on client projects when you’re supposed to be relaxing. Please log off frequently!
I know that it can be hard to stop worrying about what’s going on in your business while you’re away, especially if you are really the only one running things. Oh but Renegade, it’s really important that you let yourself relax and be present in the moment. Time off does wonders and I promise you will return refreshed and full of new ideas
It’s hard to get away, many of us never take a break. When you’re working and balancing the parenting gig, getting time for ourselves is probably really high on the wish list. It can seem impossible to take a shower alone most days let alone, take off for a week. However, this is why we go into business for ourselves in the first place - so we can make the decisions!
Renegade Tip - If you can, plan something fun to jump into on your first day back after your trip. Maybe it’s a new networking event or conference you’ve been looking forward to. An amazing collaboration you’ve been looking forward to. Maybe you’re going to learn a new program or start working on a new website. Just having that one thing to look forward to on your return will make it a little easier to click back into work mode after a much-needed break.
Unplugging and getting away for a vacation might seem intimidating, especially if you’ve got a full workload. However by letting systems, automation, and planning take over for you, this dream can become a reality. Just a little bit of smart preparation will make it much more attainable for you to get away and come back ready to kick some ass.
Bon voyage Renegade!
PS. Want to follow my travel adventures? Come and follow my personal Instagram account.