What I learned about my business from going on vacation

June 25, 2014

what i learned about my businessWhen was the last time you took a vacation? As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to forgo vacation time not only because we often love what we do, but also because there is so much to do in our business! The last time I took a vacation for more than a few days was when I went to San Diego with my family in March 2013. I do take smaller vacations – a lot of them actually, which is why I love being an entrepreneur – but they’re more like taking a few days off from work than truly going on vacation and unplugging.

When this summer rolled around, I realized that I only have a two week window in which I can go on vacation. Between a launch, a move to a new city, summer camps and selling our home and buying a new one, it was now or never!

My family and I packed our car and we drove from Colorado to Lake Michigan to spend two weeks on the beach in South Haven (If you haven’t been to South Haven, you have to go! It’s a great little beach town in Michigan – quaint, quiet and with absolutely amazing views of the lake, which really looks like an ocean.)

We had a ton of fun – bike rides on the Kal Haven Trail, a Detroit Tigers game, sand castles, walks to the lighthouse, strolls through farmer’s markets, the Silver Beach Carousel, kayaking, swimming and just hanging out. But one thing that kept on popping up was all the “work” that I wasn’t getting done in my business and all the stress and guilt that comes with it.

Can you relate to that?

I kept thinking that my businesses needed me because I had just launched Get Media Happy and needed to add new publicity opportunities there on a daily basis. Who leaves for a two week vacation right after a major launch? That thought kept on creeping up on me every day of our vacation.

So I ended up checking my email frequently, working here and there and not really enjoy my vacation the way that a vacation should be enjoyed. Until I decided to change all that and truly unplug. So I turned off my cell phone and my computer and spent the last few days being present in my vacation.

It was my decision to completely unplug that gave me a lot of insight into my business.

Here’s what I learned about my business while being on vacation, unplugged:

1. Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of discipline

As an entrepreneur you can take off as much or as little time as you need. There’s no “two week vacation” rule that is enforced by someone in the HR department. You decide when to do it all – when to start work, when to take lunch, how much to work, when to launch something new, when to change up your website, when to post on Facebook, when to take a vacation, when the close down your business, when to do an interview and so on. You’re fully in control – and that can be a good thing if you have discipline or a bad thing when you don’t.

When I first started working for myself years ago, I would get out of bed, have breakfast and sit down and start work. And before I knew it it was 7PM and I was exhausted, hadn’t been outside all day and felt totally disconnected from my friends and family. Over the years I learned that I need to spend some time outdoors before I start work, so I go on a long walk every morning before I sit down at my desk – no exceptions. That walk has now become non-negotiable and I schedule my morning meetings around it. I don’t eat lunch at my desk and I don’t work more than 90 minutes without taking a break.

But I still have a long way to go – I still find myself checking my email throughout the day, even though I know that I am a lot more productive when I check it at set times during the day. And even though it’s something that I tell my clients and readers all the time not to do – I still find myself doing it at times. Lack of discipline? Yes.

I think about my business even when I am not working and I think about my to-do list constantly. Being on vacation and truly unplugging made me realize that I can still use more discipline in my business. It took a lot of discipline on my end to turn off my phone and laptop. Was it hard? Absolutely! But was it worth it? Definitely!

Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of discipline and discipline takes a lot of practice – the more you do it, the easier it gets.

2. I’m really good at “doing,” but not so great at “dreaming”

I LOVE the details. I HATE the big picture. I LOVE the doing. I HATE the dreaming.

And that’s a problem as a business owner. Give me a piece of paper and ask me to plan the next year in my business and I draw a blank. Give me a piece of paper and ask me to make a list of the custom audiences I should be targeting with my next Facebook ads and I’m in! Ask me to make a vision board and I immediately start stressing out. Ask me to go buy the materials for a vision board, organize an event around it and invite 100 entrepreneurs to make their vision boards – piece of cake!

As I was sitting on the beach in South Haven while unplugged, I started asking myself “Ok, where do I want my business to be in a year? Why am I doing what I am doing? What’s the big WHY in my business?” And I found myself consciously steering myself away from these answers and instead wanting to add items to my “to do” list.

And then I came across this great quote:

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.  РJoel A. Barker
WHOA! That blew me away because I immediately recognized myself as “action without vision.” I’ve had a lot of success in my business until now, so I thought I was on the right track. But I lacked vision and clarity. And that needs to change ASAP. This is really hard for me to admit, especially to all of you reading this.
So what am I going to do about it? First, some changes are coming to Launch Grow Joy as I get more vision and clarity each day. Second, I’m going to actively challenge myself and set aside some time to DREAM, rather than just to DO. And I have my eye on this amazing program that starts in the Fall.

3. My business still can’t run without me – and that’s a problem

I left on vacation shortly after I launched Get Media Happy, knowing that GMH needs to be updated on a daily basis and that editors and bloggers were submitting publicity requests daily. I knew this before leaving so, to prepare, I put an ad out on Craigslist and on Elance and Odesk to find a publicity assistant to help me. My regular assistant was already helping me with this a bit, but not to the extent where she can do all the daily updates without me. And that’s my problem – I didn’t take the time to train her because I was so busy doing it all myself and trying to figure it all out.

I received a lot of great resumes and I realized that I didn’t have the time to set up interviews and train someone before I left for vacation, so I ended up still doing a lot of the work myself. This also meant that on vacation I had to update pitches, send emails, reach out to editors, crop photos and more on an almost daily basis – not exactly what one should be doing on vacation. I planned it all around our daily outings so it wouldn’t interfere too much with our vacation plans, but it was still on my mind constantly and it had to get done. AND I HAD NO ONE TO HELP ME DO IT.

I also had to take a break from my weekly podcasts (which was not good right after my podcast went to #2 in the business section on iTunes), my weekly blog posts, social media interaction and weekly newsletter. This is definitely not how I want to present myself in my business, especially since for a lot of you this is a super busy time as you are getting ready for holiday sales and I want to be there for you. But I completely dropped the ball and I’m sorry for that.

And yes, while I do have two part-time assistants, a graphic designer, a bookkeeper, a writer and a video editor, I still don’t have systems in place for my business to run without me. I can assign specific tasks to everyone who I work with, but I’m still the bottleneck when it comes to signing off on everything before it goes live. The smaller systems are there, but the bigger ones aren’t. (And I’m not surprised that this is the case, especially after realizing #2, above).

Part of the “dreaming” that I talked about earlier involves being really clear about who I want on my team, WHY and what they’ll be doing and then setting up a system so that everyone who works with me knows not only what they’ll be doing each day, but also how their work is impacting the bigger picture.

What’s next?

So while that’s a lot to realize during a time when I was supposed to relax and enjoy my vacation AWAY from my business, I am so grateful that things went down as they did. It would have taken me a lot longer to realize this had I not had the time away to unplug, even if it was just for a few days.

I know my next vacation will be a lot different – I’ll have someone on my team to run things so that I can truly unplug and be 100% present with my family.

I know that my business will go through a few changes as well, again, over the next few months. I’ll be focusing on only the things that I’m 100% clear about in terms of WHY I am doing them. And I’m going to simplify¬† – A LOT. And set up systems so that things can run smoothly without me.

And DREAM a lot more!

It’s your turn!

I’m curious to know – are you better at dreaming or doing when it comes to your business? Or have you discovered something interesting about yourself and your business while on vacation? Leave a comment below and let me know.

19 Comments. Leave new

You and I could make a team. LOL. I am REALLY good at dreaming. I LOVE to create vision boards. I can really see what I am doing in 3 years. But action to make the dream come true? Uhhhhhh, I catch myself dreaming a bit TOO much although I am taking baby steps now. I find it helps to take action by making SHORT daily to-do lists. If the list is too long, I freeze and end up doing none of it.

launchgrowjoy
June 25, 2014 8:49 pm

Indre, I definitely need someone like you on my team :) And, yes, I agree that shorter to-do lists are much more likely to get done than longer ones!

Great post Andreea! I’ve been on vacation for the past 2 weeks as well and faced similar issues. The good news is it gave me time to revisit my direction and really reevaluate whether my efforts will ultimately result in results. I had to postpone a launch as well, but I think it was the right thing to do under the circumstances.

Looking forward to working with you when I’m ready in July!

I used to take a short vacation every few months, but now it’s been years. Since I also work as a speaker, I try to schedule a few days around a speaking job in another state or country. It’s nice, but still not the same as totally unplugging for 2 weeks. It takes a few days just to adjust!

launchgrowjoy
June 25, 2014 9:20 pm

Yes, Julie, I agree! It definitely takes a few days to adjust back to the regular work routine.

Bradley Harris
June 25, 2014 10:14 pm

Andreea,
Oh how I loved your post and so timely! I have been trying to ‘drag’ Phyllis away for a short vacation since she launched her business two years ago. It always seemed like ‘now’ just wasn’t a good time. Too many ‘things’ to do. Who is going to fill orders when we are gone? What about customizations? Customer service? Responding to press? Etc….. Well, we are finally taking off a few days next week. And where we are going there isn’t even cell coverage! Nervous? A little. But we need a vacation to recharge and to DREAM! Phyllis and I make a great team as I am more the dreamer and she is the expert doer. And we are so thankful for you and your amazing support and friendship. YOU are the best of the best!

launchgrowjoy
June 25, 2014 10:29 pm

So excited for you and Phyllis! You have both been working so hard over these last two years. Enjoy your vacation. (and thanks for the nice compliment and for all your support so far!)

Thanks for being so honest about it and sharing your process. It helps to teach me about systems I need to put in place someday. I just have to stop so much of the “dreaming” part and get to the “action” part now.

launchgrowjoy
June 25, 2014 10:31 pm

Thanks so much for reading, Melisa! Systems, no matter how small they are, are a great thing!

I love South Haven and Saugatuck and so badly need a vacation. For me, the vision and the planning are hard … I heard it’s good to sit down and write 20 blog posts in 1 day, to batch items together. I don’t have all my topics yet, geesh. Then, there’s my email list: am I satisfying them? Should I cut down to 1x a month and give better content?
So glad YOU had a vacation. I need some sales before I get to have a weekend away.

launchgrowjoy
June 26, 2014 12:27 am

Yes, it’s beautiful there! I can’t wait to go back next year :) As far as your newsletter, how often are you sending it now? I think once a month or every two weeks is good for product-based businesses…

Your dilemma is exactly why Malcolm, my husband, and I make such a good business team. I am the ‘doer’ and Malcolm is the ‘dreamer’. It is not that Malcolm never ‘does’ and I never ‘dream’, it is just that we tend to have the the roles split in this matter.

I love the synergy that we create together as this team! I don’t know how I would run my business without him.

On a side note, great to hear that you made time to take a vacation. We haven’t really reached that point yet, but congrats to you!

‘Gift Rep Sandy’
http://www.SellingtoRetailStores.com

launchgrowjoy
June 26, 2014 7:54 pm

It’s so great that you two can work together and complement each other’s strengths :)

I am about to take a month long break and I am already stressing about brain drain. It takes me a long time to get back in the groove once I am back, but I recognize that this break is vital for my sanity. I am glad to know I am not the only one who finds it hard to unplug. Are we self-employed wired that way?

launchgrowjoy
June 26, 2014 7:54 pm

I have a feeling we are all, not just entrepreneurs, wired that way if we give in to it. Enjoy your vacation!

Thanks for a great post, Andrea. Lot of recognition.
And I want to encourage you to do Hiro Boga’s training this fall. I just finished the spring session of BYOBA and it was epic. It has changed everything about how I think about and do business. If you feel the urge, do it!
(And don’t worry about dropping the ball, most of us didn’t even notice :))
Good luck with all your new insights!

launchgrowjoy
June 26, 2014 7:52 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience about working with Hiro! And great to hear about your own transformation :)

I’ve also just been on holiday (as we call it in the UK). Before I left I wrote and scheduled blog posts, emails and social media updates that all updated automatically while I was gone. I turned my phone on once to check everything was OK and it was. I learned from this that I can create time in my business for things other than marketing busy-work and hopefully address things I haven’t found time for before. It was a good lesson to learn.

launchgrowjoy
June 26, 2014 7:52 pm

So great to hear that, Lucy!