London, Baby!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!

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke