Taking a Time Out
I’m gearing up for a vacation.
On Tuesday night, I’m flying out with my wife for a week of vacation. It’s some much needed time away from work, and the only "vacation" we’re taking this year. We had the opportunity to travel together, but it was always connected with something work related, either for her or for me. This trip is not connected to any work event, and thus our big opportunity to get away.
Since I get asked what technology keeps me working, I also plan for technology that is vacation worthy. To start, I’m not carrying a laptop or netbook. With the intention of disconnecting, there isn’t a reason to carry either device. Instead, I'm carrying my iPhone and my iPad. The iPad I’ll use for reading books and magazines, watching movies and TV on the long flight, and for occasional email reading on-the-go. Because the trip is for fun, I’ll also have my Flip Video HD, and our new Canon PowerShot SD1400.
This isn’t a vacation preparation article, however. With the intention of taking a vacation, I intend to disengage from my work. It isn’t really a vacation if you’re still working.
As small business owners, we engage closely with our businesses, employees, and customers. We’re used to being in touch, and being in communication with those around us. It’s difficult for us to disengage, and we have the expectation that we should be available all the time. I find myself even feeling guilty for wanting to disengage. How dare I take time off, after all, since I’m paid to deliver service!
Of course, I preach this to my team all the time.
"Take time off," I say, "If all your documentation is in, you can take time off. That’s why we do it!" I made a special point when my Service Manager was on his honeymoon to make sure he was fully disconnected.
As a business culture, however, we hold ourselves very accountable. We want to always be in touch, always connected, and always available. Turning that off is a difficult mental process. I believe it’s healthy and good for us to take the time, and we should declare it to the world: "Yes, I get a vacation too." Communication is the key.
First, I clearly communicate with my team. The dates of my trip, the expectations for the team, and the decision making processes are all made well in advance. As I leave for my vacation, my team knows who can make decisions without me, and are enabled to know how those decisions can be made. Empowering the team to make decisions is key.
Second, I clearly communicate with my customers. I don’t feel it necessary to advertise to the world my vacation by broadcast, but I do ensure that my phone’s voicemail message directs them to those decision makers in the organization, and my Out-of-Office message details the various ways someone can get help. I’ve delegated control of my schedule to my assistant, delegated decision making power to my executive team, and made their contact information available in that message. I also try and make it entertaining. It’s a pretty lengthy "OOF".
Finally, I make the commitment to myself. I make the decision to go on vacation, to disconnect, and to trust my team to do what is best for the business. After all, I’ve been planning this trip for a year now.
It’s something we all should do.
Dave Sobel is the CEO of Evolve Technologies.