Raise your hand if you are sick of going on vacation but not actually taking a vacation.  Maybe you plan to take time off from work for the holidays, or go on a family vacation but end up on your phone or laptop the whole time answering client emails and putting ot fires.

Taking regular time off from your business is critical so you don’t get burnout and eventually resent the business you started.  In fact, rest and relaxation can help you be more creative and productive when you return back to work…which in turn provides your clients with better services.

I use to struggle with taking a vacation but when my son was born in 2019 I knew I needed to figure out a way to take some time off from work without my business crumbling.  After a couple of years of practice here are my # steps to take a vacation from your business.

How to completely unplug from your business? 

As an online service provider, we don’t have the luxury of paid time off, “business hours” or co-workers who can provide vacation coverage.  Since we work remotely we have the freedom and flexibility to work anywhere and anytime we want.  We are too available.  

This made it hard for me to fully unplug when I took time off.  It was so easy to answer my email or check my Slack messages but this one “quick thing” would turn into an hour later of being on my laptop.

# Steps to Take a Vacation from Your Business

Taking a completely unplugged vacation from your business requires proper planning.  The earlier the better.  Once you have your plan in place the rest is all mindset and respecting your boundaries.

Step 1: Plan your services around your lifestyle

When you are starting your business and deciding on your services, take your lifestyle into consideration.  If you want to take 6 weeks of vacation then you might not be able to offer any services that are date/time specific.  That may not be an option for your service niche.  So you can take that 6 weeks of vacation still but you will need to hire a VA to complete those tasks while you are out.

Step 2: Make it a regular thing!

If possible, I suggest making an annual vacation schedule.  For example, I always take off the week of Thanksgiving, the last two weeks in December, all long holiday weekends, my birthday, my kids’ birthday, my husband’s birthday, and two weeks in the summer.  By knowing all of these dates every year in advance I can put them in my calendar to recur annually and I can include all of these dates in my client welcome packet, FAQ’s or even my service agreement.  Most of the emails and fires come from clients not being fully informed or fully prepared for you to be away from the office.

Step 3: Give your clients plenty of notice.

If you cannot create an annual vacation schedule or maybe you just want to plan something a little more spontaneous try to give your clients at least 4 weeks’ notice of you being out of the office.  This will give them plenty of time to get you everything you need to complete step three. 

Step 4: Plan your tasks ahead as much as possible

Now that everyone knows when you are going to be out of the office, you can plan all of your work around your vacation.  If you don’t have a team this is going to be critical for you to be able to fully unplug from work.

If you are a bookkeeper, you are going to need to plan when are you going to get all of your monthly reconciliations done.  If you do payroll, you will want to pre-schedule it in advance and speak with your client about how to handle any changes.  Or this might be a task your VA must complete like we discussed in step 1.

If you are a social media manager, create and schedule all of the content prior to leaving on vacation.

If you are an OBM or VA offering services at an hourly rate, making your list of tasks might be a little harder.  Switching to packages in the future may make this a little easier for your next scheduled time off.  Brain dump all of the tasks that need to be completed or pre-scheduled while you are out of the office.  Communicate this list with your client so feel more confident that you got it all handled.

Step 5: Communicate and remind your clients and VA frequently that you are going to be out.

Again, by having an annual vacation schedule I put reminders in my calendar to remind myself, my clients, and my VA that vacation is approaching and they need to submit additional work requests (that we didn’t cover in step 3) a couple of weeks before I’m out of the office.

This is also when I will put an upcoming vacation notice in my email signature and any other tools we use (task in project management tool, Slack status, etc.).

Step 6: Plan for emergencies

If you have a VA, the week prior to vacation you will want to review your ISHTF plan and also what truly constitutes an emergency you should be contacted for.  In our line of business there typically aren’t a lot of emergency situations.  In my business, I define them as anything that would stop the company from collecting payment (ie. credit card not processing, broken checkout form).  However, most of these can be solved with a good SOP or ISHTF plan.

Depending on the type of services you provide you will also want to review this with your client.  I like to have a meeting with my client and VA to introduce them.  This makes my clients feel more confident that there is backup coverage if something goes wrong while I’m OOO.  If you don’t have a VA then I still suggest reviewing this information with your clients so that they have a clear understanding and expectations of your availability while on vacation.

Step 7: Put up your email vacation notification

In Gmail, this is in settings > “Vacation Responder”. Include instructions for clients in case they have an emergency. If you are totally unavailable, consider giving them a backup option, like contacting your VA.  Your VA will then check your email and pass things along to you via text message or your internal Slack channel that truly is an emergency.  This is why defining emergencies in step 5 is so important.  It will reduce if not completely eliminate your clients from contacting you while you are on vacation.

Step 8: Unplug!

This is probably the hardest part.  You have to trust that all of your planning and prep work was done correctly and you didn’t miss anything.  The first time you go on vacation and completely unplug it can be a little scary.  I suggest having on dedicated contact method for emergency situations.  Mine is a private Slack channel with my VA.  All other notifications are turned off on my cell phone.  If I’m having a hard time being disciplined with not checking email, I just remove the app altogether from my phone while I’m away.

Time to implement!

Now that you have all of the steps to plan and take a fully unplugged vacation it’s time to decide when you are going!  Open Google calendar in the year view and plan your annual vacation schedule or at least pick when you will go on your next vacation.  Then work through the steps above to make it a relaxing and successful one.  Each time you go it will get easier and easier to communicate with your clients and your team.  Tell me in the comments below when are you going!