There is nothing worse than feeling like you have a to-do list that is a zillion miles long and anxiety rising when you have a business to run. You don’t feel like you have “earned” your time off…or maybe you’re worried about how to pay your bills if you take an afternoon off, a long weekend or (gasp) actually block a whole week off.
Pushing through and working harder will not recharge the batteries. And the more you push through and wear yourself out, the less you are in love with your dream business.
The answer? You really do need a vacation sometimes. This is not optional! In this blog post, I’ll explain why you need a vacation and strategies for making it happen. Let’s dive in!
Why do you need a vacation?
Having time to relax, unwind and have fun reduces stress and anxiety, lets your brain have a bit of distance from your work and allows you to come back to work recharged.
…if you do this right.
Why are many entrepreneurs uncomfortable on a relaxing vacation?
It can feel scary and uncomfortable to step away from your business as an entrepreneur. Why are so many entrepreneurs uncomfortable on a relaxing vacation?
There can be many barriers to enjoying your vacation, from not having the right systems in place, to needing to practice boundaries with your clients to financial strategies to not feel like vacation is “wasted time.”
Good news: we are covering it all in this comprehensive article.
Begin with the end in mind
Heather O’Neal, the founder of The Dietitian Entrepreneur Symposium, kicks off each year with a plan, starting with v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n:
“Make vacation planning step one in your annual plan. Schedule vacation and other time off first. Let your clients know in your policies that you are closed then (or if you don’t have dates yet, just that you do close – or close 3 weeks/year, etc.)
It’s perfectly acceptable as a business to not be open 24/7 and to not cram in extra clients before or after. If you do monthly rates, you can choose to let them know that these ‘off’ weeks are taken into account when setting your monthly rate.”
Remember: you’re the boss. And if time off is going to happen; you have to plan for it!
“I’m a believer in killing it before the vacation so you can be fully disengaged during the vacation.” – Jill Castle, MS, RD, Founder of The Nourished Child
Feeling nervous about stepping away? Or feeling broke? Start with a mini-vacation.
The first time I was an entrepreneur, I was pretty broke, but also committed to enjoying some of the benefits of being my own boss no matter what.
Each quarter, I planned a full day of inexpensive fun: painting my nails, hikes, delicious coffee drinks and tons of tasty snacks. Having that time off really helped to boost my mood and focus for when I got back to work. I enjoyed looking forward to each staycation and enjoyed planning them. Plus, the glow of the day off carried me for weeks afterward.
If you’re nervous about taking a full week or two off, it may benefit you to pick a “practice” day or two first. This time off in advance of your bigger, planned vacation helps to let yourself know that it really is ok to take time off.
You also get practice setting and keeping your boundaries (no email responses, please). In addition, you also get practice figuring out what systems help your return to be more smooth.
Vacation does not have to be “away” to a tropical island or cozy cabin. But the idea of having time away from your screen, stress and tending to others empowers you to be your best self to those who love and depend on you, including yourself.
“Try to take time every day, not just on vacation. I make sure I exercise (walk with my husband or friend) and meditate everyday (at least for a few minutes). Many studies show how being in nature can decrease stress and improve mental health. Being near water can be relaxing. I work in an ADHD clinic and mindfulness and exercise are always in our goals.” – Amy Archer, RDN, CLT, CHWC Founder of WellnessRD
The Big Kahuna: V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N
Now: what kind of vacation would get you really excited to have booked and your calendar marked? Are you most excited to eat your way through a new city, enjoying a food tour and exploring new restaurants?
Or do you want to snuggle into a cozy cabin and spend your days hiking, reading a book and toasting your toes by a campfire?
Here’s the good news: they are not mutually exclusive.
“I like to plan one active vacation that will inspire and challenge and grow us as a family. And one super chill, easy to get to, veg out vacation where I don’t feel guilty about naps and sleeping in, flip flops and shorts only, and takeout or easy prep meals and paper plates, with some nature thrown in if the humidity is low and bugs are manageable.” –Jennifer Bostedo, RDN
No matter what vacations get you the most excited: it is crucial to the success of your business that you’re working at your best. Time off lets that happen. Your clients deserve your most energized and vibrant self: vacation allows you to run your business to the best of your abilities.
Take a vacation before you need it.
Like your thirst mechanism, your lust for a vacation might surge far past the time that you really needed it.
“Take time off BEFORE you really need it. Rest proactively rather than reactively. Too often we push until we burn out. Our hustle culture does NOT value rest and it’s a huge problem. ” – Jess Serdikoff, RDN founder of Empowering Dietitians
Why is it that we are so much harder on ourselves than we would be on others? We would never tell our entrepreneur friend that she should skip vacations for years and years…right? Let’s be a bit kinder in our expectations of ourselves.
How to tell your clients you’re going on vacation
As a private practice dietitian, you can let your clients know of your vacation policies in a few ways.
In your client agreement, you can let your incoming clients know to expect that you’ll be off for a certain number of weeks per year and how much notice you’ll give.
If you’re feeling guilty or stressed about taking time off, consider your mindset. What scarcity trickery is your mind up to?
“Look at it from a perspective of a different business that’s not your own – if you see a chiropractor regularly and one week you can’t go in because they’re closed, it’s no big deal. Or a gym membership and they’re closed on holidays, etc.” – Heather O’Neal
In a way, taking a vacation is further demonstrating the healthy, balanced lifestyle that you also want for your clients. Do you want them to never take time off? Of course not. And really, they want the same for you.
How to set boundaries while on vacation
As much as it is possible to work from anywhere, we should not be connecting with our work and clients while taking time for ourselves.
Easier said than done, I know.
“Set and enforce your boundaries. Communicate to your clients ahead of time so they know what to expect and what to do in the event of an emergency…and help them understand what a true emergency actually is. And then follow through on the boundaries you set.” – Jess Serdikoff, RDN founder of Empowering Dietitians
We all do well when we have clear expectations. Lay out your expectation with your clients to protect your time away and then tell your clients. They’ll understand!
“When I know I have something scheduled in my calendar it helps me relax. Also, a very clear and advanced notice to clients about your time away (likely would be good to include in the client agreement) and how frequently you’ll be checking and responding during your away time.” -Jen Hernandez, founder of Plant Powered Kidneys
Protecting your actual vacation time
While away, dial back the tech so that your time, energy and mental space is fully focused on the vacation (and those staycations are a great time to practice disconnecting – the sky is not falling, I promise!).
Deleting apps from your phone
While on vacation, temporarily delete any apps from your phone that you can. If you’re usually on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook to promote your business and brand, delete them for the time that you’re away. When you get that urge to scroll, you’ll have a system in place to pump those brakes.
Auto reminders from emails
Be sure to set up an away message while you’re away letting your clients know that you’re away and won’t be checking or responding to emails.
Really. You’ll get through them when you get back from vacation.
Close the calendar
Do you have a place for clients to automatically book appointments or calls with you? Close that calendar for the time you’re traveling as well as for a buffer period upon your return. This allows you to have a smoother start back to work when you come back.
Getting back to work after vacation
Give yourself a day or a few days to get back into the swing of things before going full-steam (or overtime) when you get back. Protect that lowered blood pressure and reduced stress with a gentle return to work.
“It is important to hold boundaries around not seeing too many clients on the post-vacation weeks or all of the stress that you let go of while relaxing will bounce right back.” –Kelly Abramson, MS, RD, Founder of NpowerYou
How to take a vacation when you’re working two jobs?
For many entrepreneurs, there can be an intense season of building the new business while also working another job or two to make ends meet.
It can easily feel like you’re working 24/7!
This makes having a plan to take time off even more important, not less. Be specific about your plans and stick to them.
One strategy during the busy season of building is to pick one day that you will not be working either job. I am no longer working such frantic hours, but when I was, I held steady to the idea of “sacred Sundays” where I wasn’t allowed to work. The rule was firm and my mind was able to better relax because I didn’t negotiate or budge with myself about it.
Emergency time off
What if time off is needed for an emergency? The better that you can plan ahead for all kinds of time off, the less you’ll feel like you have the rug pulled out from under you.
We’ve had more practice than ever this past year juggling ever-changing expectations and schedules with COVID.
What about an emergency, such as a death in the family?
“I just took off 8 days unexpectedly after my best friend’s husband died. I immediately knew that I would be there to support her and took action to pause my business. I sent out an email to all current clients letting them know that there had been an emergency and I would be off for ten days, the first three would be without any checking of my emails. I showed both vulnerability with how devastating this situation was and also boundaries with what space I needed to get through it. I left my phone in the car the whole time I was there.
A few days in, I worked for a few hours to support my most urgent clients. The rest were able to wait until I was fully back.
A close friend of mine advocated for my needs as I set up this plan, ‘ what are you doing for you?’. Of course my priority was my best friend, but it was important for me to have the space and time to heal before coming back to work.” –Jill Mongene RD, LDN, founder of True Course Nutrition
Other time off
It protects your mental health (and heck, your productivity, too) to have time off to recharge throughout the year.
And if you don’t have time off enough, the anticipation of your vacation time can reach epic levels. Best to have some “me” time throughout the year.
Maybe you take a half-day off to hike and eat a picnic outside, alone, without needing to touch base with anyone for a few hours. Or explore your own hometown as though you’re a tourist: rent a canoe and paddle across the local lake, visit a local museum or enjoy a quaint festival. Check our local visitor’s bureau for the events calendars near you and mark your calendar for activities and festivities that get you excited.
Show me the money
If no one is giving you paid time off, what can you do to pay yourself so that you’re not in a scarcity mindset while taking time off?
Here are a few suggestions.
Make sure that your prices reflect your ability to live the life you wish to live, including the ability to take time off in a way that you enjoy (including the plane tickets and snacks).
“Take vacation into account when setting your prices – when you do your annual plan for this example, add up how many weeks/days you will actually see clients, take an average # of appts/day, and calculate what that would be annually. Make sure your rate still equals what you want/need to bring in as a whole annually. Basically, don’t calculate for 52 full weeks of clients, calculate for what you’ll actually see.” – Heather O’Neal
Keep a cushion in your business bank account
Everyone has their own system for banking, but I believe in a healthy cushion in my business bank account, and that is part of my plan to be able to take (and enjoy) time off.
Every two weeks, I pay myself the same amount out of my business bank account, no matter what amount is in there. I keep a big cushion in there. This system allows me to keep paying myself consistently, even though my income varies month to month.
Create your own PTO
In addition to keeping a cushion in my account, I automate savings for my own PTO. I use Novo, a free business bank account and what I love about it is that you can set up several “reserves” in addition to your main checking account.
You can also automatically add a percentage of each deposit to any and all of the reserves. So, I set up my reserves to automatically put 6% of each deposit towards my own PTO. That way, when I take a day or a few days off, I can cover the cost of not working. Talk about a stress reliever!
(Psst: use my affiliate link for Novo to get a bonus $40 when you open up your own account)
Save your personal windfalls
And in my personal finances, anytime I get a “bonus” of money, like rewards on my credit card or a rebate, I always stash it in my personal vacation account: no questions asked!
I love keeping multiple long-term personal savings accounts in an online bank called Capital One 360. They let you keep several free savings accounts open that you get to label.
And vacation is one really motivating account for me to keep adding to. My bank account lets me set up automatic savings transactions so that I’m getting ready for my vacation year-round. This personal account is the money that covers the additional expenses of vacation: the plane ticket, the hotel, the delicious food and cocktails. The business account is my self-employed equivalent to PTO.
Key Takeaways: Why you need a vacation
I hope that you enjoyed this article. Not only do we need time off for an actual vacation, we also benefit from mini-vacations and daily recharge moments. But, we don’t get those without having a plan (and the right mindset) in place.
Not only do the right systems protect your time and energy while you’re away, it also means that you can step away at a moment’s notice in case of an emergency.
So the big question is: what is your next dream vacation?