With the summer fast approaching, most of us are starting to think about our holidays. But if you work for yourself, taking a holiday can seem like an unaffordable luxury – especially in today’s economy. However, not giving yourself a decent break is a surefire way to build up stress levels, which can lead to decreased efficiency and even ill health, so it’s important to schedule proper down time. Here are some tips to make yours a happy holiday:
Take a proper break
Put on your out of office, switch off your mobile or BlackBerry and leave your laptop at home! If you spend all of your time checking emails or dealing with clients, you might as well be working. If you run a business, avoid telling your staff they can contact you ‘if it’s important’ – you’d be amazed at how ‘important’ things suddenly become. If you absolutely can’t relax without checking the world isn’t exploding in your absence, then at least restrict yourself to a set time: say, an hour every morning. Make it clear you won’t be available outside that time, and don’t get sucked into dealing with every little thing as it arises.
Tell your clients in advance
I’ve worked with a lot of freelancers, and am always amazed by how casual some are when it comes to letting clients know that they won’t be around for the holidays. While obviously it’s not unusual to have the odd day when you’re uncontactable – and there will always be emergencies no one can predict – if you are going to be unavailable for more than 48 hours, let regular clients know this well in advance, so they can plan their own requests around your availability. Nobody will resent you taking a holiday – but they will resent you leaving them in the lurch!
Know what you need
Everyone is different in terms of their own requirements. Are you a two weeks on a beach person, or do you need an active city break to invigorate you? Do you work better when you take one big holiday, or lots of short breaks? One of the benefits of being self-employed is, childcare commitments aside, you are free to choose your own holidays – so go for what best works for you.
Time your trip
Taking a long weekend when you’re two days from finishing a major order is pointless – you’re likely to spend the entire time worrying about it and wishing you were at work. Holidays should be a time to concentrate on yourself (and your partner/children, if you have them) not fretting about what you’re not doing back in the office. Consider your deadlines and delivery dates and plan accordingly.
…But don’t wait forever
It’s also important to accept that, if you work for yourself, there will never be a perfect time to take a holiday. There will always be things that need doing and a hundred reasons why you should be at work, so it’s easy to keep pushing yourself with the promise that you’ll take a break ‘when things calm down’. Treat having time off as a serious task and timetable it the same way you would any other important item. No business should be so fragile that it will collapse if you take a few days away from it.
Don’t expect too much!
Finally, when you do manage to take a holiday, don’t put pressure on yourself to have the perfect getaway. The aim is to relax, not make yourself even more stressed! If you only take a short break, don’t try and cram so much into it you come back more exhausted than you left. Be realistic about what you want and what you can achieve, and you’ll get so much more out of it.