Here’s a question for you, one that I ask my (fabulous!) coaching clients – why did you start your business? The reasons almost always echo for the women I work with. One reason is they had expertise, skills and experience that they wanted to share within the structure of a business rather than working for someone else. The other overwhelmingly common reason? They wanted to design or create alignment between their professional and personal lives with intention. They wanted a mechanism for their work life that allowed them to call the shots.
Amen to that! Any of us who have juggled multiple competing priorities across different factors of our lives, AKA all of us, know that seeking permission to step aside from work within the confines of Awards and Employment Contracts can be really, really difficult. Launching a business can seem like the rocketship to flexibility, the answer to all our problems. When we launch a business, there’s a sense of almost euphoric freedom when we realise that if we want a day off, if we want to finish up early, if we want to take leave, the only person we need to seek permission from is ourselves. So why don’t we give ourselves permission?
I have a wonderful client with a thriving business that’s almost a decade old. She has created systems and processes that most businesses would dream of and she’s well supported by an online business manager that she trusts. She’s built this over ten years, but while she’s the first to offer ‘flexibility and freedom’ as the core reason for her business, she still struggles with the idea of taking regular holidays. Our coaching has uncovered an underlying reason of why she’s fundamentally bought herself a job – she simply can’t find a way to give herself permission to pause and this is critical to our work together to reenergise her biz so she lives a life she loves.
So that’s the million-dollar question: how can we stop, and give ourselves express permission to do so?
The answer isn’t through running yourself into the ground in the lead up to a holiday, doing all the things so your business doesn’t grind to a halt in your absence. This is why some women fall in a heap the moment they stop. They spend their holiday with cold sores and battling a head cold. Of course, there are practical tasks that need to happen – more on that shortly – but this concept of permission is critically important. It speaks to the mindset work that we need to do, the self-kindness, the recognition that we work hard and so we’re entitled to play hard too, away from our business. Switching off is a good thing, for us, and for our businesses.
However, switching off is that much easier when we’ve put into place some bits and bobs to keep everything humming away nicely while we’re sipping margaritas in the tropical sunshine – bliss.
Firstly, communication – tell your audience and clients about your plans and your availability – ideally, none! Bring your boundaries to the fore and let them do their thing of protecting your energy. Write a fabulous Out of Office message that announces you are away from your business, and the timeframe of this. I encourage women to specifically state they are on a holiday (while protecting privacy of course!) because with you as a role model, this allows other women to loudly and proudly proclaim their permission to pause as well. On the OOO – always, always, ALWAYS add at least an extra day to your ‘time away’. This means you’ll return to work without the weight of other peoples’ expectations – or at least you’ve bought yourself some time to delay them!
Before pressing pause, some of my clients like to write their to do list or daily action sheet for their first three days back to work – this means that on return to their desk they don’t have to waste time trying to recall their priorities, and they don’t have to spend their holiday thinking of all their tasks. At the very least, do a brain dump of what your first week might/should/could look like.
If you have support – upskill them to take on more. This also relates to your systems and processes – trust in them!
Get these ducks in a row and you’ll feel a whole lot better about closing the laptop.
In many ways, those ‘ducks’ as I detailed above are the easy, tangible part about stepping away from your business. The more complex, slippery part is that actual permission. If you’re working All. The. Time. to prove your value, even to yourself this is a manifestation of an insecurity. It’s this lack of confidence that makes you work harder, accomplish more but it also actively undermines your performance, not to mention your joy. When someone comes to me frazzled, overwhelmed or not even sure if she values her own business, it’s really obvious that she hasn’t found a way to prioritise rest in her life. These are women who work incredibly hard, too hard, and too often. You see, when we pause we invite restoration – mind, body and soul – and from here we can reflect with some distance and perspective before stepping back into our businesses with clarity and renewed energy. I have a friend, a writer, who always solves her plot problems while out running, never while sitting at her desk, staring at the blinking curser.
Work too much without active, intentional recovery and you end up mentally depleted and emotionally drained. Of course, this has an impact on the quality of your work. When we don’t truly step away from our work, it invariably suffers. We need to view time off as an investment in our business. Our downtime is essential for performance. This is why I encourage my clients to resist the urge to be ‘productive’ while they’re on holidays. This negates the experience of recovery. Added to this is the damaging language around guilt. Don’t allow guilt to enter your vocabulary when it comes to pausing – you deserve rest!
Give yourself permission to pause. If you’re the sort of person that finds accountability as the golden ticket to achieving your goals – including a holiday away from your business – please reach out. Coaching is that golden ticket.