7 Ways to Set Your Business or Career Up so you can Take Your Annual Vacation With Confidence

It’s that time of year again. That time of year when people start looking to summer vacation and wondering if they “dare” to actually take their earned days off, or time away from their business.

Many people don’t actually take their holidays. In recent research polling American businesses, 27% of Americans didn’t take a single day off in the previous year. Canadians aren’t far off with one recent article stating that “Canadians get fewer vacation days than almost any country and we are officially workaholics.”

Now, if you were to look a little further afield, you would find the average days of annual leave are more prolific elsewhere in the world:

  • The United Kingdom gets 37 days minimum paid leave a year
  • France and Spain get 36
  • Germany gets 33, and 
  • Chile and South Korea take a minimum of 30 days off a year.

Before you decide to move halfway around the globe to take advantage of these wonderful perks, let’s start by helping you get the most out of your earned days off here in North America.

It’s one thing to say you’re on vacation and another one entirely to actually take it FULLY.

Just today I was speaking to a colleague who was on “holiday.” She had a beautiful view of a lake from a lovely cottage in the woods and was “just” working 3-4 hours a day while holidaying.

I get it. It’s amazing to be able to work from anywhere, and I can…and perhaps you can too, but working from anywhere also means you can WORK FROM ANYWHERE, and the temptation can be too great to put a pin in it and actually take your well-earned vacation.

Here are a few “tips” and ideas that I have for you around ensuring you are taking your holidays so you can refresh, recharge and reenergize your year to be more productive, even when you take time off:

How to take a holiday, so you can return to work recharged and refreshed: 

  1. Know your boundaries and stick to them
    I will be the first to admit that this “rule” has taken many years of practice. Early in my business, I would work whenever my clients needed me. I had been “told” in no uncertain terms by one colleague that I should not tell my clients when I’m going on vacation. My clients always came first. This is true. So of course, I ensure my clients are well-served and if need be, sub-contract the responsibilities so they are covered in my absence.  Another is to be sure you know your client’s priorities and plan your holiday around that. Either way, Ensuring your client is best served is paramount. Many clients are more than happy to work around your schedule as well. This involves trust of course – more on that in a later blog post.
  2. Tell your clients, employer and colleagues in advance that you’ll be off
    Advance warning is key! A recent coaching client shared with me that one of her colleagues took a holiday, shared his “out of office” message and didn’t tell the person he was directing his responsibilities to! Don’t be like that guy. Give everyone a heads up (ideally two weeks) that you’ll be away.
  3. Set your clients and responsibilities up so you know they are well-served in your absence
    I have worked for myself for 20 years. Sounds freeing, right? Well, turns out I have multiple bosses – not just one. So I have to be sure I am serving their needs or else I have no clients, right? I have done this many different ways over the years. While a communications consultant, generally I would let my clients know I was away for 2-3 weeks in the summer and ensure their deliverables were covered in advance. As a coach – especially in the early days – I would serve my clients no matter what. But guess what? Here’s a crazy secret, your clients want to take holidays too! A number of years ago I started offering them the opportunity to take a month off coaching or extend their contract with me. I would serve those who wanted to continue and take a break with those who were fine with it. WIN-WIN! Now I work it into long-term contracts that I take August off. There are no complaints. It’s in writing, right at the beginning.
  4. Create systems and processes in your business and work so things continue to move while you are not there in-person
    I was introduced to a term called SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) as I was building out a large volunteer organization and had many people coming in and out of these roles more fluidly than a paid employee might. These SOPs have become GOLD in both our volunteer-run organization and in my business. It took me a number of years to reach a point where I could hire someone to create and manage these for me inside my business, and she – Jackie Appleby – says: “SOPs are your support system to be able to step completely away from your business and leave it in the hands of your capable team!”There have been two times this year alone where I have been on a holiday with my family while my team launched one of my programs without me being here. People signed up, the website got launched, and bills got paid – all because we had a system in place and I had a team in place to support me while I was not there. And can I just say that was AMAZING?! It’s all about scaling. You’ll never grow your business beyond what you can earn yourself, hour-for-hour, without a trusted team in place. AND, you’ll never be that CEO or Senior Leader without trusting your team to execute with confidence when you’re not there in person.
  5. Set an example for your contractors, colleagues and employees so they can live by your example
    One of my favourite examples of this does not just involve taking a holiday, it also involves what happens at the end of a workday. One of my favorite clients that I worked for in my days as a Corporate Communications Consultant practiced what she preached. There was no better example, truly. She told us she didn’t want to hear from us on holidays, didn’t want us to answer our emails after the workday and didn’t answer them herself. What example are you setting for your clients, your employees and your colleagues when you set brave boundaries for yourself and for your team?
  6. For business owners: Create your program year so that there are natural breaks in your program offers
    As I mentioned above, a few years ago I started offering my program year with a built-in break for August. Now, when clients sign up with me for a six-month term, and it overlaps with August, I share that their investment covers seven months, instead of six, with a break for August. Most of my clients are slowing down in August as well. We set it up from the start. I haven’t had a single complaint yet. And, I get a stress-free vacation so I can return in September recharged, re-energized and ON for my clients, which is what they pay me for.
  7. For career builders: Learn how to “go with the flow” and anticipate natural ebbs and flows in work demands so you can take your vacation with ease.
    In corporate and government careers (which I’ve done as well, and always taken vacation), you can often anticipate corporate-wide slowdowns, when many people take time off or you know there are certain regular responsibilities that naturally slow down. It’s best to take your holidays during these times. (Think the tax accountant who takes a holiday during tax season, don’t you think that would be a “career-limiting” move?) Don’t be that guy, and make sure you are on vacation when it works for the broader organization or team.

What have you learned today? Looking for more? Check out this interview I did with my colleague Lindsay White,  last year, all about strategies to build into your planning so you can take a real holiday

 What is ONE thing you will put in place to ensure you can take a more relaxed or stress-free holiday? I’d love to hear! Comment below or send me a note to susan@susanelford.com. I love to hear stories from my readers about how they are implementing strategies I share in my monthly blog posts.

Better yet, what will you be thankful for if you actually take a break this summer?

To your success, in business and in life,

Susan Elford

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PR Launchpad Guidebook ABOUT SUSAN ELFORD

Susan Elford is a Leadership Coach and PR Strategist who especially loves to work with women who want it all: a fulfilling career or business while living a full and satisfying life. Susan helps her clients get real about their strengths and celebrate and promote them so they get more of what they want: success at work; success in business & success in life.

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