Yesterday, Ken Mueller published a post that he wrote and filmed (it has a video in it) from the beach … while on vacation. His blog opened with:
“I’m currently on vacation at the beach but that’s no reason to not continue blogging and shooting videos.”
You should read the post and watch the video, because Ken gives some great tips on what you can do to keep your business moving while you’re out. He also links to a post by Marijean Jaggers on managing social media while out of the office. Also some very good tips.
But when I read it, I thought, “Dude! You’re on vacation!” Doesn’t a guy deserve some R&R?
Here’s my take
While your business most likely can’t afford to go on vacation (unless you have successfully figured out how to roll between “on” and “off” time during projects), you must. You need that down time to rest and replenish your soul, cheesy as that sounds.
It’s one thing to share photos, tweets, etc., while you’re on vacation for fun; it’s quite another to feel you have to keep doing so in order for your business not to fall off the rails.
I know this is tough for many of us, especially those of us who are independent practitioners – because there’s no one else to do the work. So here’s how I approach it.
1. Prepare your clients.
Whether you’ll be out of office for a few hours, a day, a week, or more, let your clients know ahead of time. If there are time-sensitive issues at hand, try to take care of them before you leave. If you think things will happen while you’re out, let your clients know what time each day you’ll be available to check email and/or talk to them.
Caveat: this does not include crisis situations. For those, all my clients know that if something urgent comes up, they can reach me, and I’ll jump online/get to work.
2. Plan ahead … and schedule.
Marijean described how she wrote and scheduled several blog posts for the week she’d be out. I’ve started taking this a step further; I line up several guest posts ahead of time, and let the guest bloggers know when their posts will be running. This way, I know WUL will still publish, but I don’t have to worry about checking for, and replying to, comments.
That’s as far as my blog goes. I do the same with client work; get whatever I can done ahead of time, so that I’m not worrying about it while on vacation.
3. Automate with caution.
These days, we have great tools that allow us to automate at least some part of our social media activity. But I’m careful about how many posts I schedule while I’m out (I’m careful about how many posts I schedule while I’m “in,” for that matter, usually no more than two or three a day).
Because if people see a ton of tweets coming from my stream, they’re going to assume I’m around, and then they might get mad if I don’t respond quickly. And I wouldn’t blame them.
5. Set your out-of-office on email and voicemail … and social profiles.
I do this almost automatically for email, but a few months ago, I forgot to do it for voicemail. Guess who had a ton of messages to respond to?!
Adam Toporek took this even further earlier this year, when he changed his Twitter bio to note that he was on vacation (I thought this was such a great idea, that I promptly stole it. Erica Allison wrote about this when she was going on vacation, with a cool screenshot of Adam’s Twitter bio in her post).
5. Divvy up the work.
Sometimes our work includes activities where we’d benefit from extra help. For me, this means using subcontractors when appropriate.
When I hire subcontractors, I always treat them as part of the team. They are not hidden away from the client, and I try to bring them up to speed on the entire project/work as quickly as possible.
While their supporting role is clearly defined, they add a layer of comfort not just for me, but for the client as well, since the latter knows that there is someone who will respond in real time.
If it is work that does not require subcontractors, then I do all the above.
6. If you’re going offline, stay offline.
If the whole idea is to go on vacation, why not actually do that? I know, I know… “what if something happened?…”
If I’m out, I don’t even open my laptop. I’ll look at email on my iPhone or iPad once in the morning and then in the evening, mostly to see what crappy newsletter or pitch has come in that I can delete (so that my inbox is as uncluttered as possible when I return) and to do a quick client check.
If I log onto Twitter or Facebook, it’s only for a short while, and just for “fun” stuff. Ditto re: sharing photos, Instagram, et al.
7. Keep a clear calendar for at least a week after returning.
One of the worst things I used to do was schedule a ton of phone calls, meetings and/or events for the week I returned from vacation.
It takes me time to get back into “work” mode, which means I need at least a couple of days to clear stuff up, and start catching up. And when I didn’t allow myself this space, I was exhausted. So I try not to do this any more.
How do you keep your business running when you go on vacation? I’d love to know.
And btw, that pic is of me on vacation in London last year. I had a blast, in part because I didn’t work!
@TheJackB That’s a neat distinction. “Publish” v “write.”@KenMueller
@CourtV Ha! Chicken and egg, eh? :p
@Lisa Gerber Except when we get our hair done. Then it needs to go VIRAL.
@John Falchetto LOL! I try to find the wifi too (and if it’s not free in the hotel, I pay for it). For me, it’s not about disconnecting from my friends – you’ve seen me post while out, after hours, etc. I’m just not going to be on social as much as I normally would (and I definitely don’t want to blog on vacation, because then I’d feel bad if I did something IRL and didn’t check comments). Even more, for me it’s about disconnecting from work – the feeling that “I must” do X or Y or Z.
I think it’s terrific that @Marcus_Sheridan @KenMueller & others don’t get that feeling. It’s just that I do, and like I said to @adamtoporek , I’m not good at being half in/half out. So this is the way I have to do it.
Btw – is your leg all healed? Let’s get another vlog, please!
Great post Shonali! Love the tips – especially the one about not scheduling anything the week you get back. I’ve made that mistake as well. Now all I have to do is find the time to make for a vacation! ;)
It’s the Beatles walk!
You know, you’re right in this. I took a week off last year, but still blogged and stayed up on my email. The result? I feel like I haven’t had a vacation in years. Until about two months ago, I was working every weekend. Then I discovered I’m MUCH more productive if I take a couple of days off. It really, really is important to recharge.
@Shonali@KenMueller Frankly I find writing to be relaxing and enjoyable so I really can’t imagine a time where I wouldn’t do it. There are moments where I don’t publish, but never a time where I don’t write.
The last time I did a video about taking down time I ended up in an ambulance. So I am staying away from mixing vlogs and downtime now :)
Seriously, I’m with @Marcus_Sheridan and @KenMueller on this one. The first thing I check when I travel is where can I find Wifi. Before food. Trust me this means a lot to a foodie like me.
I don’t believe in being disconnected from my friends online. It would be like saying you can go on holiday but not speak to any of your friends, why?
@shonali Most welcome … :-)
@adamtoporek You’re welcome! And exactly – I really have trouble with the half-half approach too. It’s my nature; if I let myself see something, I want to jump into it. So for me, I have to turn it off. markwschaefer That was such a great idea!
This is a great list Shonali. I tend to like your approach of the hard cut off, because I have a hard time with the half in, half out thing. This is partially because I find it easier to get others to respect a firm “I am gone”. Once you respond to one email, the door is open.
While I understand where @Marcus_Sheridan and @KenMueller are coming from, I do think that time away from any activity, even one you enjoy, can be restorative and add perspective.
Thanks for the shout out! In the interest of forthright disclosure, I did get the original idea for the Twitter bio from markwschaefer
@TheJackB I love it! You know, it’s funny, because when @KenMueller made his first comment, I thought of you, and how you love writing so much. So it’s good to know that you, too, turn stuff “off.”
@HowieSPM Good luck in getting the 5-day work week back!
One thing about you is that you do some great driving. That must be a good way of relaxing a bit, no?
@KenMueller@Marcus_Sheridan I love tweeting etc., on vaca – but for me, it’s being able to do it when I *want* to do it that makes the difference, and not when I *have* to. And even with other things I love – e.g. when I was an actress – the passion drove me. But believe me, there were times, even then, when I just didn’t want to do it. I just needed to be “off” sometimes.
I guess it’s the quality time thing you talk about, Marcus… I just don’t want to be thinking of work or all the “I must do…” stuff when I’m on “down” time… if that makes sense?
@KenMueller Yea, be careful that couch doesn’t move the wrong way… :p But seriously – I know what you’re saying, and I love writing/blogging (and my work!) too. But I just want to feel like I *have* to do it. If I don’t get enough *me* time, I can start to feel like that.
Ah another good post from the Lovely Shonali. You asked me to repeat that a bit so get used to it. ;)
I am on vacation now too, but I couldn’t avoid doing some work. The upside is that every night I use the laptop to upload pix and video so that should save time later.
But I have made a point of turning off the phone and shutting down the ‘puter for large chunks of time. Down time is far too important to miss out on.
I used to work on very sensitive timely engineering programs for auto and military that had my clients freaking I was going away, especially my two burningman trips in 05 and 06. Back then there was no cell service. And I worked for a small company so it was very critical to have every base covered so that I didn’t come back into a shit storm of problems.
Now a days I am so conncted I can even run twitter if needed from a far for a client. But down time is soooo important. I miss the 5 day a week world a lot and can’t wait to have it back.
@Marcus_Sheridan And that’s the point, Marcus. I find it therapeutic. It relaxes me, which of course can cause some familiy friction. They are allowed to go off and read, or sleep, or whatever, but by being online, I’m suspect. Even when I do give them a lot of my undivided time while away.
@Shonali I NEVER said that. haha. It’s just for me that the writing is therapeutic. and again, not that it isn’t for you. wow. i’ll never dig out of this one. good thing i like you!
@KenMueller I’m with Ken on this one. One of my favorite books is ‘Tribes’ by Seth Godin. In it, he describes a time when he was on vacation and couldn’t really sleep, so he went down to the lobby of his hotel and answered some emails from readers. A lady walked by and made a comment that it was a shame that he couldn’t even enjoy his vacation because of work, and his immediate thought was , ‘but this isn’t work, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing’.
For the most part, that’s how I feel about writing and interacting. I think if someone still works, tweets, etc while on vaca, but still gives the appropriate quality time to family and self, then it’s a great thing.
@NancyD68 LOL! Oh, now you’ve given me another idea for a post! How to Go On Vacation When You’re Broke.
@Shonali I only don’t go on vacation because I have no money! I wish I had this problem!
@NancyD68 Well, if it works for you, keep doing it, LOL!
@EricaAllison That’s very true, about having no (or little) down time. But I think there is a difference between working on your business, i.e. thinking of ways to expand, etc., and always being “on” while on vacation… no?
@KenMueller So what are you saying… those of us who want down time *don’t* love writing/blogging, or our work? Treading on thin ice, my friend… :p
Vacation? What’s that? I really must be doing something wrong. :)
I love the list here, Shonali. I struggle with this so often when I’m “off” or on vacation. There really is no down time when you have your own business; however, if we don’t make it happen and protect it, we might end up with no one to run the business we’re trying to maintain! A burned out, crabby consultant or business owner is NO fun to work with! :)
You know what, @KenMueller, I can tell that you really DO love writing and blogging, which is why we’ll give you a pass on that working on vacation thing. :)
I hear ya loud and clear. The thing for me is this: i LOVE writing and blogging. This sorta thing is relaxing for me. I’m an odd one. I really don’t look at my work as work, for the most part. Most of the work I do on vacation is for me, and not so much for clients. They know I am away and won’t bother me unless it’s an emergency.
Great tips, by the way