I just took a month off from work, an entire month where I made the decision to go have fun, travel (to Southeast Asia) and not to focus on growing my business. Okay I will admit, I did still answer some emails and I did make some sales calls, but still I was for the most part MIA (missing in action) from my business.
This is my second year in a row doing this. Giving myself permission to turn off my entrepreneurial drive for two full months per year. Even though the idea scared me to death the first year, I decided to do it as an experiment just to see what would happen. What would happen if I took my foot off the gas and focused my attention elsewhere. To my surprise in 2017 the result was that my business increased by thirty-percent. We will see what happens at the close of 2018.
So why did I decide to do this? Well, like most of you who run your own business or are part of a team that is driven to succeed, I work all the time. I never turn it off. Now I love what I do, so this work is not something I don’t like, in fact it’s just the opposite. It is something I have passion for and, I am driven to do.
However, I kept reading the articles, listening to the gurus about the importance of taking time away from the business. That doing so would actually recharge my battery and increase my productivity. Also, I wanted to travel. Now that my husband has more flexibility in his work, it is the first time in our lives that we have the ability to take those three and four-week vacations.
Being a life-long workaholic, I started small. Three years ago, I took my first two-week vacation half of which put me in a location with no internet access. When my business did not suffer it motivated me to take it a step further. In 2017 the goal was to take one-month off, and I chose May (one of my historically busiest months). When the world did not come crashing down, and I actually realized how much I enjoyed my month away, I decided to take December off too. When my accountant told me at year-end that my business actually went up, I was sold on this idea of giving myself permission to chase this elusive dream of work-life balance.
Now I don’t really believe in balance nor am I striving for it. I think a smarter goal is to know what you want out of life, both professionally and personally, and merge those together in a way that has you feeling excitement whether you are doing either. For me, I had found that in my professional life, but there were goals and things I wanted to do personally that I needed time away from my business to achieve.
Re-Charging My Most Important Muscle – I have always heard that the brain is a muscle and it needs time to rest and to recharge. That just like any other muscle in our bodies we can overuse it and stretch it too much. Working seven-days a week, year in and year out, I am guilty of that. By giving myself the time to walk-away from the day-in, day-out need to produce, I find this important muscle is so much stronger and ready to work once I get back in the professional chair. The month after I return from my extended vacation, I find is my most creative and productive.
Paradigm Shift – walking away from my business for a full-month and shifting my focus to physical exercise and cultural experiences has given me the opportunity to see my business from a different perspective. A true paradigm shift when it comes to problems or challenges in my business. This is probably my most surprising lesson of the four. I had no idea how much taking time off would do for giving me room to breathe new life into my business. In this fast-paced, constantly changing marketplace, businesses need to change and grow. By walking away, and taking my head out of the business space, I always come back with powerful new ideas on how to grow my business.
Getting My Priorities Straight – we all say it,” our family and friends are the most important things in our lives”, but like many entrepreneurs my actions did not really show it. In the last two years, both my husband and I have lost our parents, and that experience has been a huge wake-up call to what really matters. When I look back on my life now, my greatest memories are never of work they are of travel with family, special occasions celebrated and time with friends. Taking this time away from my business has helped me get my priorities straight. Creating memories and experiences that I treasure and will remember for my life-time.
Putting It In Perspective – this is my favorite lesson of all because it has taught me not to take myself too seriously. As an entrepreneur, I have always been defined by my business and what I do. I needed to get a grip and understand that there is more to life and more to me than the services I provide and the work that I do. Taking time away from my business has helped me put that into perspective. Whether my business grows from the experience or suffers a little, it just does not matter. When my career comes to an end, I want to make sure I am not that person who is lost with what to do with their life, but someone who is excited about the possibilities. These mini month-long vacations are ensuring I can put things in perspective.
One of the great benefits of being an entrepreneur is that you set your own schedule. One of the drawbacks is that you set your own schedule. Every self-employed person I know works all the time, never really taking a vacation day and considers weekends time to catch-up. While I know that two-months off per year may be too much for most to consider, I would challenge any of you working for yourself to find the time to chase the elusive dream of work-life balance.
By: Meridith Elliot Powell