Here’s an article I had published as the cover story of the August 1997, issue of Small Business News. My executive coaching clients still find it useful.
I remember when I sold my first business and got a “real job.” A “real” job is the kind with set hours, limited responsibilities, and weekends off.
Weekends off! What an alien concept. Once I got used to the idea of free time and stopped bringing “special projects” and extra reading home, I noticed something very odd. I got a whole lot more done on the Mondays after a relaxing weekend than I had after struggling with work for seven (or seventy) straight days. Abe Lincoln is said to have declared that if he had eight hours to cut down a tree, he would spend four hours sharpening his saw. Vacation is for sharpening your most important tool: yourself.
Long-term Vacation Planning:
Grow your staff
I once asked the President of a division of a public company, “How do you account for your great success at such a young age?” After a moment’s reflection, he replied, “I let people help me.” Notice the exact words he used. Not “I got” people to help me or “I made them”, but “I let them.” One of the most powerful human motivations is to contribute to the success of another. Are you letting your staff help you?
You probably have a few clients, suppliers or employees who require an unwarranted amount of unscheduled time and attention. In engineering terms, these people are time sinks: no matter how much time you give them, it seems to go down the drain. Take a look at what these people contribute to your goals. Are they paying their way? If not, plug the leak. Limit their access to you by establishing rules of engagement or, if necessary, ending the business relationship. You have better things to do, don’t you?
Short-term Vacation Planning:
How, Where, & Why
Being unavailable is not going to help any manager to relax. Give a key staff member and a few clients specific instructions on how to contact you. No news is good news only when you know the bad news can find you. These instructions must include clear guidelines on which things you need to hear about immediately and which you want them to handle or save for your return.
Crystal Ball Gazing
Take an honest look at what is on the horizon. Even if you are an habitual reactor, three to five days before you leave start to think carefully about what emergencies are likely to emerge while you are gone. Can you handle some of them now? Take pre-vacation action to defer them until you return? Empower someone to handle it while you are gone? For example, I introduced my new assistant to an important client because I wanted them comfortable working together should any issues need to be resolved while I was on vacation.
Cut the Cord
Accept that your business is not going to run the same way during the vacation as it does while you are there. Some things will go worse, some may go better. Its like raising kids. You never know how well you raised them until they go off on their own. If you are running the business reasonably well while you are at the office, nothing seriously bad will happen because you are gone for a week or three. If you are not managing well, this is a quick way to uncover changes you need to make.
A skill shared by many entrepreneurs I know is focus. You can concentrate your energy on a result to the exclusion of all other factors. Actively apply this skill to your vacation. When you are baiting a hook or reading a menu reject all thoughts of the office as briskly as you would dismiss an offer to play Frisbee while the big proposal is being written. Any time you notice your attention being divided or ricocheting from concern to worry, immediately bring your attention to some physical sensation you are having right now. Practice being in the moment by noting the sensation of the breeze on your arms, the sunlight on your face, or the aroma of the forest. Step-up your focus by closing your eyes, and count ten breaths while feeling the air as it moves into your nose, down your windpipe, into your lungs, and back out again. You can only be here now, so its wise to have your mind here with you, too. Here are my audio instructions to help you.
Master these basic small business survival skills and you may find you have combined the best of both worlds: the scope and freedom of running a business as well as the flexibility to take time off, just like a “real job.”
No profit grows
Where no pleasure is taken.
The Taming of the Shrew
See free, easy Meditation Instructions on this blog.