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If you are a purpose-driven entrepreneur, then there will come a time when you will inevitably need to step away from your business for a period of time. For me, that time is coming in just a few weeks when I give birth to my baby girl and take a three-month maternity leave, followed by part-time hours.
For you, it might not mean maternity leave, but it could mean vacation, taking care of sick kids, or attending to unforeseen circumstances that take you away from your business for any length of time.
No matter what stage you are in your business, it’s a good idea to start preparing your business for the unknown and for those times when you will periodically step away to refuel — so that you can come back to your business better than before without it all falling apart while you are away!
Today, I want to take you through the behind-the-scenes of how I prepared for my maternity leave at Rank & File so that you can put the same sort of practices into place for your own business, allowing you to step away at a moment’s notice with ease and with no interruptions to the impact you desire to create in the world.
Why Time Away is Important as a Purpose-Driven Entrepreneur
The first thing I want to say is that, it’s so easy (especially for new founders) to get caught up in the “culture of doing.” And not just doing, but thinking you need to do everything yourself. You either don’t trust other people to take on certain tasks for you, or you don’t feel like you have the budget to start hiring people to help you “yet.” I’ve been in both of these places, and I actually struggle from time to time still with these limiting beliefs.
But, it’s important to realize that these fears shouldn’t hold us back from taking time to care for ourselves and to live a purpose-driven life outside of our work — these things are more important than our fear of business perfection or revenues.
I believe that we not only need daily, monthly and weekly balance as purpose-driven entrepreneurs to ensure that we are thinking and doing optimally with the high-energy and brainpower required for creative thinking and good decision making for our businesses, but we also need to listen to our bodies and our souls to allow for different seasons in our businesses. We are not machines after all, we are human beings.
So there will be times when we need to slow down, or speed up depending on ourselves and our circumstances.
In fact, when I started taking more time off each year, I saw my business success go up. Personal fulfillment went up of course, but my impact and revenue went up too! To give you an idea, I went from three weeks off working in Corporate America, to then six weeks off as a new entrepreneur, to now around 13 weeks off every year! So, I am now confident that my maternity leave and part-time work this year will not crush my business or social impact. It will make me even more successful moving forward.
Create a Vacation Schedule (Similar to If You Worked a Traditional Job)
If you don’t have a healthy vacation schedule marked out for yourself as an entrepreneur yet, I would suggest you start there. Create a Google document, entitled “Vacation Schedule” and mark out holidays, vacations and other personal days throughout the entire year that you are committed to taking EVERY YEAR. Then, block these on your calendar and share this with team members if you have them. This list should be a nonnegotiable for you and your working schedule should form around it.
When you make this schedule, don’t get caught up in the scarcity mindset of thinking more hours = more results. Of course, you will need to diligently show up for your business to take action consistently, but you also need regular time away to make your actions more effective. So, get that vacation schedule in place!
How to Make Sure Your Time Away Doesn’t Feel Like Work
Now that you have your dates in place and you are committed to taking them, how do you prepare to fully step away so that your time-off doesn’t end up feeling like work? It all comes down to commitment and preparation.
1. Get Clear on the Vision
The first step is to get really clear on what you would like to feel and do during your time away. I like to call this a “gut check.” Ask yourself the following question about the upcoming work break: What would make me regret something during this time away?
For my upcoming maternity leave, I knew I would regret not being 100 percent present with my newborn and my husband during this special time. And I knew that I would resent the day-to-day tasks of my business during this time (like posting to social media, sending newsletters, following up with contributors and interviewees, etc.). Because of this gut check, I knew that I needed more team support for my business to take more of the day-to-day tasks.
This gut check, helped me really plan out my vision for what I wanted my time off to look like, and my vision for how I needed to prepare for it.
2. Prepare: Get Help Onboard or Batch and Work Ahead
There are really only two prep options for being able to step away from your business without it falling apart:
Getting Help: Hiring People / Training Team to Take on New Areas
Working Ahead and “Batching” Your Tasks
I’ve done a combination of these two to allow my to take my maternity leave and part-time hours.
Getting Help: Hiring People / Training Team to Take on New Areas:
Hiring new people and/or training your existing team to take on new areas can be an incredible way to lean into future growth for your business. Often times, it’s this forced transition that allows us to see that our time is better off being spent on more strategic, high-level tasks than the day-to-day.
I hired two new team members to prepare for my maternity leave, allowing my hours to cut in half before my leave (which was important in my third trimester of pregnancy when my energy has been low). And now, I am really excited to fill this time in 2020 with strategic, high-impact work to grow the business while my amazing team helps me get there!
A word of caution here: If you pick this approach, don’t think that you can quickly run out and hire a freelancer and dump things on them. The more time and intention you put into hiring, the bigger the chances you will have at finding someone who becomes part of your “dream team.” No matter if you hire someone new or if you hand over responsibilities to a current team member, you will also need to dedicate time in your schedule for several months to training and guiding team members to make sure they understand everything and are fully prepared to carry out your vision while you are away.
As a general suggestion, I would always recommend that you have someone in place to handle your inbox for you while you are away, so that most inquiries can be handled by other team members or left till you return, and that you are only notified in the case of a real emergency.
Working Ahead and “Batching” Your Tasks
Another great tactic to prepare yourself to step away from your business is to work ahead on the day-to-day so that you can take off an extended period of time (even at a moments notice) without your customers ever having to know about it.
I’ve done this from the beginning of my business, trying to stay a few weeks ahead on podcast episodes, newsletters, blog posts and social media. I’m not always perfect with this, but my intention has always been to be a week or two ahead, and it has always served me well and allowed me to live a more flexible lifestyle.
To prepare for my maternity leave, I worked ahead on all the content items that require me — magazine and podcast interviews, newsletters and social media posts written from my perspective. This allows my team to simply schedule these items in for me while I am away.
If you haven’t experimented with batching, I would highly recommend that you do this. Batching is where you set aside dedicated time to work on tasks without interruptions like calls and emails.
To give you an idea of how I use batching in my business, I have a content batch week every other month where I focus solely on creating solo show podcast content. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays of these weeks, I write the content for several shows, and on Thursday and Fridays of these weeks, I proof and shoot the audio for these shows.
In fact, I wrote and recorded this show one month before it was posted for you!
Mondays every week are always a different kind of batch day for me — these are my CEO days when I spend time reviewing my goals and working on high-level strategic projects, as well as meeting with my team members.
Structure: Set The Rules for the Game
Once you prepare for your time away by staying ahead of your tasks, and getting more help with your day-to-day so you can focus on strategic items, it’s important to layout a structure for how you will communicate with your team and customers during your time away.
The last thing you want is your Slack channel, email or phone blowing up with people needing answers from you throughout the week. This is the biggest problem I see for other founders, and one that I REALLY wanted to avoid.
So, I set a structure into place. First of all, I let my private clients who work with me in Rank & File Founders Studio that I would be taking my full maternity leave and shared the dates with them. This allowed me to schedule my working agreements with them so that we either finished up a few weeks before my leave started, or we had a three-month break in their program. During my time away, they have been instructed that my assistant will take their technical questions via email, but no business questions will be answered until I return. They have all been extremely understanding of this boundary I have set, and are even cheering me on!
I have also set a structure for my team. Slack will be turned off for me, and I will only be answering questions during our weekly check-in calls. By carving out one hour every week to check-in with my team, I am avoiding the constant back and forth of Slack and email.
I hope that this inside look into how I prepared to take 3 full months off for my business, followed by two additional months of part-time work, have allowed you to see that it is really possible to step away from your business without it falling apart. In fact, committing to taking extended time off each year will allow you to refuel, and allow you to empower others to help you grow by opening up more time in your day-to-day schedule for high-level strategic work.
I’m Off to My Maternity Leave!
This episode marks the beginning of my maternity leave. This is officially the last solo show I will share with you until late November when I am back from my leave! Thanks to the preparation I’ve done to work ahead and from the help of my team, you will still be able to enjoy new issues of Rank & File Magazine coming out and new episodes every other week with the interviewees and contributors of each issue, as well as upcoming Member-Only Masterclasses that I have prerecorded just for you! So if you are not a Rank & File Member yet, you’ll want to sign-up right away at rankandfilemag.com/subscribe/