More importantly, I took a VACATION (VACATION requires all caps!) with my husband and I got to ENJOY it because I wasn’t looking at email and potentially getting stressed or worried or aggravated.
I did not check
email for 6 days.
SIX WONDERFUL TOTALLY VACATED FREE DAYS!
This morning it took me about an hour to go through emails and delete and respond.
How did that happen without the entire world ending? Here’s what I did so you can look into replicating it!
Freelancer Steps to Take to Get a Vacation
1. Prepare your clients. Starting two to three weeks before your vacation (or earlier, depending on what will be due/what you are working on around then) let your clients know that you will be away. Give them a drop dead date to get you information. (Two to three weeks is usually sufficient because it doesn’t let the news get stale.)
2. Prepare new clients. Sending out proposals? Let them know how long the quote is good (expiration date!), when you’ll be gone, and when you’re scheduling new work. For example, you could send a quote on March 1 that says “Quote is good through March 25. I will be out of town March 9-15. I am scheduling new work to start May 1.”
3. Aggressively schedule yourself. I don’t mean schedule yourself to work nonstop before you leave. I mean, look at what HAD to be done before you go, what can be done when you get back, and start making lists.
The Friday before a new week I schedule every week like this:
MONDAY: 1, 2, 3, 4
TUESDAY: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
WEDNESDAY: 1, 2, 3
THURSDAY: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
(Things that don’t have to be done this week but have to be done soon.)
About two weeks before you leave, start scheduling your weeks prior to leaving and the week after you return. Things will move around. They always do. But you don’t want to arrive at your vacation so exhausted you can’t see straight or return home and have four days of work crammed into one.
When I got home I knew EXACTLY what I needed to do today (Wednesday), Thursday, and Friday because I scheduled it before I went away. That helped me not be as anxious when I left.
4. Set an out of office message. This was my message:
I’m out of the office Thursday, March 1-Tuesday, March 6. I will not be checking email until Wednesday, March 7. If you have an urgent issue, please call or text me at 317-313-8366.
Otherwise I’ll catch up with you Wednesday!
That told my clients what was happening, when I would be back, and whether I’d be checking email. I could rest easy knowing that my clients KNEW if there was an emergency, they could get in touch with me via phone BUT THEY HAD TO CALL OR TEXT. One person on a deadline texted me a quick question. I got another message via FB that I replied to with “I’ll get to that on Wednesday.”
5. STICK TO YOUR BOUNDARIES. On Monday (Day 5) I started to get anxious. It was hard not to check my email, but I KNEW that it would catapault me straight out of my relaxed and vacated mindset and I didn’t want to do that to my husband or myself, so I STAYED STRONG. (And posted in one of my Facebook business groups that I was feeling itchy so I didn’t do it.)
Everything was FINE. I had no inbox bombs. My clients were fine. I got some checks in while I was gone. I got some responses to proposals while I was gone. They got the out of office message.
The ONLY way to make this work, though, and build on it is to stick to my boundaries. If I had caved and checked email during vacation I would have taught my clients that I don’t respect my own boundaries, and that my schedule is a free for all. That is a recipe for future disaster.
DIFFERENT TRAVEL REQUIRES DIFFERENT BOUNDARIES
I have been gone 40% of the days between January 1 and March 6, 2018. That is NOT my normal schedule, and I’m not thrilled about it. It was fun but I’m glad to be home. I was on a mixture of business and fun travel. Sometimes my out of office indicated that I would be checking email, but my response would be slower. I can probably wean myself off the need for that one.
Eventually I’ll go to Europe, and I won’t be available AT ALL, even via phone or text. During that trip, I’ll probably designate a client sitter to be available for emergencies. Or maybe a couple. Or I’ll designate a central client sitter that can direct emergency project work to my subcontractors because different clients have different needs.
I’m proud of this 6 day vacation, and, importantly for my work, I’m ready to BE back at work and give my clients my best!