I saw a really sad post on Facebook a while back. A colleague of mine that owns her own business said that she was envious of all the vacation photos people post online and that she hadn't taken a vacation in a long time. She implored her Facebook friends to let her know how this could be accomplished, citing that vacation means losing precious jobs and money. I have owned a business since 2001 and have taken trips 3-4 times a year. I am the sole business owner and admittedly do most of the work. I could easily work all day, every day, yet somehow I manage to travel more than the average person. Below are some tips to help you plan your next getaway.
1. Put your off days on the calendar and stick to them. I am a calendar nut. I'm never without my smartphone and my calendar is religiously synced. If it's not on the calendar, it doesn't exist in my world. It's hard to tell a potential client I can't meet with them on a given Sunday because I just want to relax and recoup, but I do it. If they can't meet any other day, they are really not that flexible and probably not my ideal client. Some weeks I get one day off, some weeks I get two. I just make sure they are regularly scheduled so I don't get burned out.
2. Plan trips well in advance. I have weddings on the books up to a year and a half out. I'm already planning next year's trips. That way, when a potential client wants a date that I am away, I can offer them my associate or refer them to one of my many photographer friends. It doesn't feel so much like losing a job as helping a fellow colleague. Believe me, they will return the favor and you'll get a job in return sometime in the future. Once your vacation is paid for or reserved, you'll work around it. Be sure to give yourself several days before and after to finish up last minute jobs or play catch up on email when you return.
3. Make time away a priority. Nothing makes you hate your job more than working all the time. I could literally work every day for 16 hours a day. There is that much work to occupy my time. The reality is that weddings are not life-and-death situations with issues that need to be addressed immediately outside of the wedding dayBesides, I'm much more creative when I'm well rested and have had some time to myself. I get my best ideas on vacation when my brain can finally just wander around to all of the things I've been thinking about but haven't had the time.
4. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. You don't have to take a two month Peruvian trek to get away from it all. Take regular 3-5 day vacations throughout the year to refresh. Go visit some friends out of state or camp over the weekend. The more often you vacation, the less you'll feel like you have to travel to Mongolia just to get some peace and quiet. You'll also get the hang of packing a quick bag and not stress so much about vacation prep. Unless you're in a desolate nature preserve, they probably have a drugstore where you can buy whatever you forgot.
5. Turn off the technology. This one is huge. I let all my clients know that I will be away and that they should only contact me with urgent matters. I do check my email and voicemail once a day, but only respond to new leads or to reiterate that I will get back to them when I return. Most people are completely understanding. This takes 20 minutes a day in the morning, and once it's done, I can relax. A better option would be to delegate this task to someone at home or a trusted friend or colleague.
Now get out there and relax!