I'm writing this article on my laptop outside a restaurant, next to a blazing fire pit. At 11:00 pm. In Mexico.
Yes, I'm on vacation with my husband (no kids this time). As any business owner knows, vacations aren't without some degree of worry and stress. I bring my laptop and iPhone. Checking in a couple of times a day actually helps me better enjoy my time away from the office.
Thankfully, my husband is a tech salesman for whom the sales meter is always running. We’re side-by-side at the fire pit tonight, sipping lattes. He calls it geek foreplay. But even when we vacation with our children and friends, it only takes a few minutes a day to check in with my team. Then I’m able to really, truly relax.
I know some people think it’s heresy to bring any work on vacation, but here’s why it works for me – and why it could work for you:
1. No surprises. A few years ago, my company was asked to submit a proposal to be the sole supplier of marketing writers for a $6 billion tech company 3,000 miles away. With the deadline three weeks out, I felt confident I could take a week of vacation, gather my thoughts and return recharged. The day after I arrived in Mexico, I awoke to a text message saying the RFP deadline was moved up – to the day before I was to return. Despite being confined to a tiny corner of the resort so I could grab the free Wi-Fi, I collaborated with seven members of my extended team in three time zones to whip up a 40-page response. My in-office team printed, assembled and overnighted the proposal to London. And yes, we won the business.
2. A change of scenery fuels creativity. It’s amazing how a warm tropical breeze can clear the cobwebs from my brain and help me make decisions faster and with greater clarity. Vacation’s also one of the rare times I can read for pleasure, so I always stop at the airport newsstand to pick up a wide variety of books, newspapers and magazines. By the time I come home, I’ve dog-eared plenty of new ideas for my business, recipes for my family and must-see destinations for the future.
3. Time to catch up. There’s nothing like a good email purge. Getting away from home and office distractions frees me to work on those not-so-urgent replies and connect with people who have slid ever-father toward the bottom of my inbox. While the kids are playing in the pool or watching TV in the hotel room, I can spend a few minutes replying to friends and distant relatives, checking in with a client, or reading a bookmarked article.
4. Minimize the avalanche. Nothing eliminates the vacation state of mind like the deluge of voice messages, postal mail and email that faces me when I come back. Staff, customers and vendors have often been sitting on decisions, waiting for me to return. Intermittent check-ins during vacation can minimize the stress of being disconnected for longer periods of time, and help make me more effective when I come back.
5. Money. In this economy, it’s hard to justify taking any time off no matter what your role in a small business. While I’ve been out of the country this past week, I’ve been contacted by three new clients and received several large POs for existing project work. Yes, work will always be there and my team does the follow-up for me – but being accessible and responsive to clients is a point of pride, and the reason clients come back time and again.
Going away for a week with my husband has been wonderful. And instead of returning to the anxiety of hundreds of emails and client requests, I'm rejuvenated and looking forward to focusing on my family -- without feeling overwhelmed.