Happy New Year! 

New year, new you and all that, but don’t feel pressured by the fancy new planner or calendar you bought with its pristine pages inviting you to create the year ahead.

Dome Asylum, Ramona, CA

Dome Asylum, Hippie Homestead, Holiday Lights

Winter is here and it’s time for reflection and planning. 

Unless your business is in health and fitness, January is not necessarily the best time of year to start a new venture. Of course, that is if you buy into the notion that there are good or bad times to take action… I started my first business during the 2007 Financial Crisis and when asked by my business partner if I thought it was a good idea, I answered yes. I used to tell people that I had heard that the financial markets were bad, but I wasn’t participating in their recession. It got the same surprised reaction as when I told a student that I wasn’t in competition with the martial arts school a few blocks away. As with everything, the story you tell yourself is important.

One of the major pitfalls of being an entrepreneur or being self-employed is working non-stop. Your new business needs seemingly constant attention. You’ve invested so much of your time, energy and financial resources that you’re afraid to leave it on its own, or trust it in someone else’s hands. What will happen if you’re not there to handle whatever crisis comes up? Each time I left my school, someone quit or at the very least I had some damage control to do when I returned.

Most of the time though, we as small business owners, are the bottlenecks of our own businesses. This obviously creates burn-out and adversely affects our wellbeing. Check out these stats from Forbes.com

  • 53% work one of the six major holidays (New Year’s Eve, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas).
  • The number one sacrifice each year is not taking a vacation. More than half (60%) only take one vacation per year; nearly one quarter (23%) take fewer than two vacation days annually. When they do go on vacation, more than 75% still work.

It’s not easy, but it is easier to take major holiday breaks, like the time between Christmas and New Years, or to turn Thanksgiving celebrations into a long weekend. Although, it’s probably not a good idea to miss out on Black Friday if you work in retail or have a physical product to sell.

Now that the colder weather is upon us and days are short, it draws us inward, into our homes, relationships, families, and ourselves. I’m all for goals and deadlines, but more than that I hope you enjoyed time with your loved ones this holiday. I did and it just takes a little bit of preparation to clear some space for yourself.

It’s especially important to establish expectations and maintain communication during the holidays, when not everyone is celebrating in the same way as you are. Here’s how to take some time for yourself without sacrificing your business’ reputation.

  1. Plan ahead.  Look at your upcoming schedule and list out all the actions that need to happen to run your business while you’re away. Schedule them, ask for help and find back up. If you have employees, a meeting and a short memo should do it. If you’re still running things solo, you’ll have to schedule the activities that will help your business keep running while you’re away yourself. The days leading up to your vacation can get a little but hectic! Make sure to leave some time for surprises.
  2. Change your outgoing voice mail. – Just because you are on vacation, doesn’t mean that people will stop calling. Thank goodness! They may not need your services immediately but finally have the time to call during your break. When they reach your outgoing voicemail, let them know that you are taking time off, celebrating with your family or whatever it is that has you not taking their call. Occasionally, people have an urgent need and perhaps they won’t be able to wait until you return, but at least they’ll know and not be waiting for your return phone call when you are off-grid for a week. Let them know when you will be back and when they can expect you to return their call. If you have someone set up to support you during your absence, this info can be left in the outgoing VM as well.
  3. Set up an email autoresponder. If your business receives a lot of emails, or even if it doesn’t, set up an autoresponder to let people emailing you know that you won’t be getting back to them until you return. This is easy to set up on most email servers.
  4. Update your online listings. Most listing sites like Yelp, Google and Yahoo will prompt you to update your holiday hours, but if you’re listed on other sites, make sure to update your holiday hours to manage expectations.

That should keep everyone content till you get back. FYI, I still check in with my business daily while I’m away, but limit my engagement and only respond to emergencies.

Did you give yourself a break this holiday? I hope so! What did you do? How did you take care of yourself and your business? Share in the comments below.