Time Out: Lessons from a Week’s Leave

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I was sitting on a chair in Specsavers, choosing new glasses.

This wasn’t the anomaly. The fact I was doing so on a Tuesday morning at 10:00 am was the strange bit. When the young man testing my eyes asked what I was up to in the coming days, I told him that I was on a week’s leave. He responded pleasantly, sharing that he had also just had a week off after six month’s toil.

I paused to reflect: I was enjoying a week off after eight years of work in my business. Suffice to say, I think I’d earned my time out. Of course, I take leave each Christmas holiday period. But never before had a dared to take time out during the working year. There are a multitude of reasons why entrepreneurs and business owners elect not to take time out of their business, most of which are the result of having too little support. For the first time in my business, I had the support required to prioritise taking leave.

I won’t lie to you: it felt weird. It also felt important. Here’s what I learned from taking a week out of my business.

  • All the Feelings

If you’re taking a week out of your business for the first time, get ready for an emotional rollercoaster. At the start of your leave week, your out-of-office and voicemail are on. You nervously await a client demanding your immediate attention, and experience the fear they might get angry with you for being unavailable. (This doesn’t happen, by the way. But that could be the result of having rather excellent clients.) You feel anxious at what you might be missing, what might be going astray in your absence. When the sky doesn’t fall in after one day out, you begin to feel less trepidation and you focus on trying to relax. But let me tell you, the Pavlovian response to your email pinging or an SMS message arriving is a hard one to fight. You’ll also likely feel extreme elation when doing something as banal as going to Specsavers for glasses mid-week, with the luxury of being able to wander aimlessly around KMart looking at homewares for as long as you like afterwards. You might feel bored, or a bit guilty for watching heaps of Netflix or YouTube beauty vlogger tutorials. You will probably feel terrific pride and gratitude when you observe a team member respond perfectly to one of your clients in your absence. You will hopefully feel a deep happiness when reading on a sunlounge in your backyard. You might feel a bit lonely. Point being: get ready for the feels. Don’t resist them. Business owners have their identity tightly wound into their practice. Having a week out is bound to be emotional.

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  • Recalibrating Your Expectations

Prior to taking my first week of leave for the year, I’d worked hard to ensure systems and processes were in place. Clients had been introduced to relevant Ruby Slipper team members, taking pressure off my role as ‘first responder’ to everything. As I mentioned, I’d only ever taken holidays when everyone is on holiday. So I wasn’t sure how thoroughly I’d be able to disconnect from the machinations of my business when getting away during the working year.

I’ve read enough pseudo-psychology to understand that rest for the body and brain are essential to the long-game that is business ownership (and life). I entered into my week of leave with the attitude that doing any work on the business would be a betrayal of the goal of my hard-won time out. That touching any business matters would compromise my time in healing and respite.

While on leave, I did have to address a few matters within my business. But rather than feeling guilty about this, the week revealed to me the permanent reality of my business. It’s a living part of me, like a child. And whilst you can have time away from your business, you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. Nor do you really want to, ‘cos you love it. Reality is: doing a few bits and pieces on your business during leave is just part of being a business owner. It doesn’t compromise your rest, so don’t get hung up on trying to achieve perfect zen isolationism.

  • Identifying Weaknesses in Your Business

Scary as it might be, taking time out of your business allows you to see what is working within your enterprise, and what requires further work. It also gives you some distance from your business, allowing you to reflect on how you’d like your organisation to work. My business ran like clockwork in my absence. Yours might, it might not. If it doesn’t, that’s OK – you can now identify your weaknesses and put systems and processes in place to improve your business.

  • Brain on Fire

When you have time out of your business you will begin to have amazing ideasSo many ideas. As your brain decompresses, it will begin to function like a magic dream machine. (Which, come to think of it, it really is.) New business ideas will flourish. You’ll have huge bursts of energy and want to do everything, immediately. Your synapses will glitter. Your sense of potential and richesse in the world will do the cha-cha-cha. Enjoy it, you crazy kid. The key reason that rest is required is to allow you to create, to embrace intuition, to heal and to come up with amazing new ideas. Which leads me to my next learning.

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  • What Rest Isn’t

Rest isn’t following every sparkly tangent your refreshed cerebellum leads you towards. I got very excited during my week of leave. Many ideas revealed themselves, a couple of which are solid gold and which I will pursue. But pursuing them beyond ideation is what really eats into your leave time recuperation. Let the dreams come, write them down. If you’re a serial entrepreneur, it will be very hard not to follow the White Rabbit’s wagging tail, but ignore it you must. Rest isn’t working on new business concepts. Rest is letting your mind float in an ether of freedom, untethered from the relentless pace of your business. This is the most profound lesson I have taken from my first week of leave. 

Next time round, I’ll approach leave with less trepidation. I’m sure I’ll still have that roller-coaster of emotions, but I’ll be unplussed by the occasional bits of administration I’ll need to do. I look forward to those amazing new ideas emerging from my subconscious, but I’ll try my darndest to note them, rather than to act upon them.

Taking time away from your business is an adventure all of its own, your own personal jungle to negotiate. When you have the support in place, and when you’re ready: take time out and feel the feels.

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