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Don’t Feel Guilty – Taking Time Off IS Work!

I realized something over the past few weeks…. I’m kind of insane.  I suppose in some ways all of us self employed entrepreneur types are a little insane. After all we risked everything, threw caution to the wind , gave up the steady paycheck, paid vacation, sick days, healthcare, and 401k matches to follow our dreams; many of us struggling and barely scraping by the first couple of years to build something we  passionately and  whole-heartedly believe in. 

My latest “I’m insane” epiphany came after undergoing major surgery 4 weeks ago:  I don’t know how to take time off.how vacation owners take vacation

Sure, the surgery wasn’t life-threatening (I had my uterus removed) and it went smoothly and was a huge success. But I had allowed myself 2 weeks off to recover and yet there I was in my hospital bed doped up on Morphine and Percocets just hours after leaving the O.R reading  and responding to work emails (and I was surprisingly lucid and effective…).  – And I was home the next day at my computer writing blogs, catching up on Fortune Marketing Company Social Media Marketing,  brainstorming titles for and writing chapters of my book,  and organizing future workshops and webinars. Basically, I was doing anything but actually taking time off.

I am such a hypocrite! 

I consult small business owners all the time about the importance of taking time to themselves – and even how an effective marketing strategy can help you do that. What I realized through my own experience is that you have to WANT to take time off – and maybe just like selling or marketing or accounting or networking it’s a learned skill for we crazy entrepreneur-types! So, even after major surgery, I guess I just didn’t know how to want to take time off…  

But then on my 10th post-op day something happened….  My morning started with coffee with my friends, and then I decided to go on hike rather than go back to my home office, after the hike I decided to enjoy the beautiful summer day and splurge on a leisurely outdoor lunch at a little country café near the park.  While enjoying my turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich and fries, I thought  that my dusty tennis-shoed feet could probably use a pedicure. After my pedi I took a meandering midweek Sunday-drive in the country and made a couple of serendipitous stops at local produce stands where I sampled local nectarines and tomatoes and talked to my neighbors. I ended up with bags of ripe fresh produce and went home and cooked myself a nice dinner… before I knew it, I had gone a whole entire day without turning on my laptop or reading a single email.  Not a single drop of work – that is unless you count the thinking I did – and that’s what  hit me:  I realized I was thinking clearly!  During my day away from emails, research, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter thoughts and ideas and plans and dreams were flooding my brain like crazy! I felt refreshed and clear-headed and alert and alive!

So, I took the next day off, and then the day after that – and before I knew it, I had strung together 3 work-free days – just in time to “officially” go back to work. I was soon lamenting the fact that I had to go back so soon and was wishing I’d learned to let work go on Day One!

See the problem is as a small business owner, and especially as a small business owner who is still very much in start-up mode, there is always stuff to do. – ALWAYS. My mental to-do list has no end. So doing nothing, or reading a fun book instead of a work book, or lounging by the pool, or taking a hike, or a drive, or just watching Netflix without the heat from my laptop burning the skin of my lap, I feel guilty. I always feel like I should be doing more. 

But surgery (finally) taught me that taking time off is crucial to success.  When I came back I was refreshed and invigorated with new ideas. I talk a lot about the difference between working on our businesses and in them  and that time “off”  where I could clear my head and not be bogged down by the tactical details of working “in” my business allowed me the brain-space  to strategize and plan the future direction of my business – and my life!

And the Moral is….

Taking time of work is work because it allows our minds to clear of all of the fires and the “stuff” of running a business and allows us to get out from under ourselves so we can see the big picture again; to strategize, to think… to dream, to plan – to actually be business owners and entrepreneurs rather than overworked and underpaid employees of our own companies!   (Or is this just some reverse psychology ploy the right side of my brain is using to trick the left side into succumbing to this theory? ). So go ahead – take the day off – and don’t feel guilty, you’re still working!!!

I’d love to hear your story about life lessons you’ve learned as a small business owner. Please feel free to leave your comments!!! Leave your comments here.

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4 Responses

  1. I’m right there right now. The entire summer went by and I didn’t even see enough sun to get a freckle. Now it’s getting into Autumn, my favorite season, and here I am, still working 16+ hour days.

    I guess my difference is that I DO want to take time off, I just don’t have a light at the end of my work tunnel. I’m in the process of hopefully hiring someone to help me with my workload and even a personal assistant for everything else, but that’s just even more time consuming.

    I’ve officially been swallowed.

    1. Carolyn

      HI Amanda,

      Thank you for reading my blog and for taking the time to post your comment. Being a small business owner is so complex, isn’t it? We want to grow and be able to have a life and know we need to hire people to do that once we get to a certain point, but then that’s another big jump – and often a sacrifice. It’s like we have to give up part of what we worked so hard to gain (ie: income) in order to move forward.. I guess it’s all part of the process and of learning as we go! 🙂 .
      Be good to yourself – get an intern or hire an out-of-work person to do for a few hours to take care of some of the things you can pass off and go spoil yourself for a day!!! Trust me, it’ll be worth it, and you’ll find that the time off may help you solve some of these problems! – Good luck, Carolyn

  2. This quote from your post amazes me: “before I knew it, I had gone a whole entire day without turning on my laptop or reading a single email.”

    Simply because I know this affliction very well. And with the undetachable thing we call a smartphone these days, there is simply no escape from the compulsion to “check-in.”

    It’s great to read your story and your description of the clear-headedness you experienced as a result of taking real time off.

    1. Carolyn

      Hi Scott,

      I know, it is so easy to get drawn into work and facebook and email and ‘stuff’ when we’re lugging it around on our smartphones all day. It took concious effort to not look at my phone, leave it in the car, turn it off, or whatever it took to not be tempted to get drawn into it!

      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and for your comment.
      -Carolyn

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