As the holiday season fast approaches will you, like millions of others, tell your people that they can contact you if they need to and that you will periodically check your emails?
And whilst on holiday do you tell your family that you just need 10 minutes to check your emails or call in to check everything is alright?
If this describes you then you need to read this.
You may think it’s OK to allocate 10 minutes a day, but you are in fact allocating far more than those 10 minutes. Even if, best case, you open and scan your emails and find all is well, your head is now in work mode, your thoughts are with work and your body language is such that instead of breakfast by a beach you could just as well be having it in the kitchen before setting off for the office.
And these “10 minutes” don’t just affect you, they affect your family too. It’s not the fact that it only took 10 minutes, it’s the fact that your head is now somewhere else and this somewhere else is more important than being with them.
Even if you are sitting with them around the table and engaged in exciting conversation about what you’re going to do for the day, your family will feel that you’re not 100% with them.
And let’s hope there isn’t a problem that you feel needs your attention. If there is then 10 minutes will stretch to 30 minutes, an hour, and you will feel the stress that’s been flowing out of you flood straight back in, and your family will feel alienated and second best.
It’s so important for your family that you are there with them in mind as well as body and that you’re properly enjoying this time that you’re all together.
But it’s also vital for you. You need to switch off. You need to relax. You need your brain to be thinking about other things that have nothing to do with work and more to do with planning the fun you’re going to have that day with your family and what you’re going to have for breakfast.
This is your holiday, your time to relax. This is your family’s holiday and they want you with them. I have known so many people reflect years later on how much quality family time they missed because they struggled to get their head out of work mode.
You also need this holiday for the sake of your health and hence for the health of your business, so here are my 7 tips on how to have the holiday you and your business needs.
1. Prepare yourself and others for your absence
Your aim is to relax and not worry about what needs to be done. So, what do you need to get done before you go on holiday until say a week after your return?
Contact anyone connected with your business who may need to know that you’re not available. Is there anything they need that you can sort out now before your holiday? Can it wait until you’re back? Can you provide another contact for them?
Plan any important meetings and visits and set aside enough time to complete any actions and to meet any deadlines.
People don’t always appreciate your need for time off. Some people think that they should be able to contact you if they need you, regardless. Help them understand that you need to switch off and relax and that your family need quality time with you – you’re not being selfish.
Create a new voicemail message saying you’re on holiday having important quality time with your family and ask that you’re only contacted if it’s urgent. (Or give the number of another who can take the call in your absence if possible.)
Make it clear to everyone that once you’re out of the door then that’s it…no contact unless it’s urgent.
2. Fill your shoes
Assign one of your managers to be you in your absence. Make sure everyone knows that this is the person to speak to whilst you’re away. Everything goes through that person.
Give permission for this person only to call you if it’s an emergency or something that only you can make the final decision on.
Give this person clear instructions, rules and guidelines as to what they can and can’t make decisions on without needing to check with you first. Knowing where their boundaries are will help to know what decisions they can make in your absence. Don’t set them up to fail by not doing this.
If someone who knows you’re away does call you, ask him or her first if it is urgent or if it can possibly wait. As far as possible, don’t react to your phone ringing but let it go to voicemail. (See point 5.) Your holiday time is important and needs to be protected.
3. Do not take your work with you
Leave your laptop at home. If you have a separate work mobile keep it switched off. If your personal phone is also your work phone then switch off all your work emails and only switch on at set times or if you get a call from your assigned manager.
Do not take any reports or other work-related material with you that is geared to you having to take action. Basically, any material that could spark reactive feelings and actions will increase stress, so avoid them.
4. Take a journal and some good books and feed your mind
Take material that will spark some creativity such as a book on strategy like ‘Good Strategy. Bad Strategy’ by Richard Rumelt or on how to strengthen your business, such as ‘Your Business Foundation’ by yours truly :0).
As your brain relaxes, it starts to become creative. This is a perfect time to think about your business from a big picture, strategic perspective and reading a good book on a relevant business subject can really help you get those juices flowing.
Thinking about your business whilst on holiday in a positive, strategic way is a good thing. (Provided your family don’t lose you for hours on end of course.)
Make sure you have a journal with you to write all your new and inspiring ideas.
5. Plan any work you intend to do
If you do intend to do some work then control what you intend to do, how much time you will allocate to it and when you will do it.
You may decide that you will check your email first thing in the morning and that you will check your voicemail first thing in the morning on every 3rd day. A different time might make more sense so that you can speak to others who are in a different time zone if necessary.
Control how much time you allocate to this and if necessary, set the timer on your phone to count down the 20 or 30 minutes you’ve allocated. And then stop when reached. Only if there’s a real emergency and you need to do more should you.
Having done what you planned to do, switch off from work mode and switch back into holiday mode. If you don’t make a deliberate effort to do this then, even though you’ve ‘walked away’ from your work, your mind may not have.
It’s so easy to mull over an email you’ve read or to simply find yourself wondering what’s happening back at work and how things are.
If necessary, say out loud to yourself something like, “Work over. Time to get back to my family.”
6. Tell your family what you intend to do
If you do need to plan some work time as I described in point 5 then tell your family. Tell them what you intend to do and why you need to do this.
Explain that by doing this you will be far more relaxed because you won’t be worrying about what’s going on back home and that you’ll be on holiday with them mentally, emotionally as well as physically.
Once they know you are going to have these planned short periods of work and how they will help you enjoy the holiday with them, they’ll probably be ok and be relaxed during those times.
7. Plan your return
I said in point 1 to identify what needs to be done and try and do it up to a week after your return. This way you’ll gain some breathing space during that first week that you’re back from your holiday.
What are your top priorities when you return? Have them planned in your diary so that when you get back, you know what you need to do and can focus on them.
Do these two things and you won’t spend the next couple of weeks of your return running from pillar to post, catching up and reacting to the demands of others. That way, your transition back into work is controlled, your stress levels remain low and your holiday memories don’t fade as quickly as they might.
Your holiday is so important for you and for your family and so it’s vital that you make the most of it and come back relaxed, refreshed and full of creative ideas and energy.
But, getting this right takes proper planning and real discipline and – it won’t just happen. You must plan for your business to work in your absence and for you to be left alone as much as possible.
And you must be disciplined so that your work time comprises short planned intervals after which you will switch off and enjoy your holiday with your family.