We hear a lot about work-life balance these days: from parents, colleagues and, well, anyone with a job. There seems to be this belief that work and personal life are completely separate and should be kept so through rigorous scheduling. It implies a "punching of the time clock" mentality in which a worker has set hours on the job that they happily leave behind at the end of the day.
I don’t know about you, but I have never experienced this type of employment, and increasingly find that my work life and home life have completely melded into one another. When work is no longer confined to an office, when we are in constant contact with clients or when your colleagues are your friends, the lines become blurred - if not nonexistent. Instead, parents now bring their children to work, companies maintain virtual offices and friends start businesses together. More than ever, we are in charge of our own calendars on a daily basis, which is why scheduling down time is so important.
The reality of owning a business is that you never really have off. Yes, you can fly to an exotic location with the intention of relaxing by the poolside, but someone (you or a team member) has to be holding down the fort in your stead. For many sole proprietors that means checking email, responding to leads, and/or following up with clients while on "vacation." It’s hard to shut down your business completely, even for a brief period of time, and it may not be an option at all.
However, while you may be lamenting the loss of your freedom to truly get away and tune out for the duration of your trip, there is an alternative. Here are some realistic vacation options for busy business owners that will save your sanity and help you create that desperately-needed down time.
This is the most extreme form of vacation, and what most of my colleagues dream of - but it's often only possible in small doses or if you're lucky enough to have a solid team to rely upon. My cousin happens to be embarking on this very type of vacation as we speak. As a busy midwife, she takes short trips in between births and prefers to unplug completely in a remote location. No phone, no computer. (I’m not sure how rustic her accommodations are, but you get the idea.) She hikes, reads and generally lays about doing close to nothing for several days, all in order to recharge and be back to work the following week. Because these trips are only a few days, she plans her seclusion to be more intense than the typical vacation, and it helps her to thrive.
The 90/10 (percent, that is)
This is my preferred method of vacationing: I spend a few minutes in the morning checking emails, posting on social media and responding to any leads or client concerns, and then I get back to relaxation mode. This approach allows me to check in periodically to make sure everything is running smoothly, and I can then relax and enjoy the day knowing my business is under control. Most of the time, there is nothing urgent that needs my attention, because I've alredy taken steps to minimize my workload prior to my trip. I’m really just helping myself to mentally relax by proving to myself daily that there is no need to panic.
The Working Vacation
This simply means creating a vacation around an existing job: your sole purpose for travel is for work but you take the opportunity to turn it into a fun-filled trip. If you book a destination wedding or have to attend a conference, don't let the chance to explore a new city go by just because you have to work! Take a few extra days to roam around, visit friends or (at the very least) try a new restaurant. You might not have a ton of free time, but it’s worth doing what you can to unwind - even if its only for a few extra hours.
The Non-Existent Vacation
Please don’t. Just take a vacation, already.
As someone who is currently writing this post while on vacation, I'm reminded of the fact that I don’t believe in work-life balance; it’s just my life. Instead, I try to create fun, relaxing moments whenever I can, whether I’m working, spending time with family and friends or traveling. Sometimes, like this week, it’s all three, and that’s fine with me.