29 Nov 40 days and 40 nights
Or why I’m gifting myself a business off-season (and you should too)
Summer holidays and the festive season are just around the corner. Most years, I’m entering a panic around about now trying to figure out logistics for managing family life alongside business commitments.
This year, however, is different. I’m taking 40 days off – a business off-season.
What is a business off-season?
The concept of a business off-season was introduced to me by my friend Christine, who had learnt about in at a leadership course she had done. The reference material she had referred to research by Andrew May who had applied learnings from the sporting world to the business arena.
In elite sport, no-one expects athletes to be at their best seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. No-one expects them to train every day and play the equivalent of a grand final each week. But in business, that’s often what we are expected to do.
May proposes that to be our best, to be resilient, and to maintain creativity, we need a business off-season. That is a solid chunk of time off, of at least a few weeks, where we totally switch off from work. No emails, no “I just needed to check this” phone calls, nothing. A total break to refresh and recharge.
So why am I taking a business off-season now?
Undeniably, the idea of a business off-season had immediate appeal. And there are a few key reasons why I am taking one this year.
- My husband is taking half of his long service leave (six weeks)
- My children are on school holidays and at 10 and 6, are still at the age where they want to spend time with us
- I’m turning (ssssshhhhhhh) 40 smack bang in the middle of my break and there’s something about milestone birthdays that invite you to take stock of life – a solid break to just be without pressures of the to-do list allows time to think about what I want for the coming years
But the big reason why I’m taking a business off-season is that I could see the signs that I needed a break. I’ve had a big year in my business, with significant growth in workload and revenue, which is great. Yet there’s obviously a flipside to this growth. I have been becoming irrationally irritated by perfectly reasonable client requests. In addition, instead of finding deadlines motivating (like many creative professionals, not much happens at Denly HQ without the accompanying sound of a deadline rushing closer…), I’ve been finding them stressful. Taking a break is an important element of restoring my resilience, topping up my creativity tanks, and allowing me to continue to provide amazing client service in 2019 and beyond.
What are my plans for this business off-season?
First and foremost, my plan is to relax, refresh and spend time with my nearest and dearest. It’s a wonderful opportunity with my husband also having an extended break for us to focus on our family for a few weeks and give our girls an overdose of quality time.
Here’s a bit of a rundown of what this business off-season is going to look like:
- Week one: Christmas and New Year – and all the family catch ups you’d expect as part of that. We’ll be shuffling back and forth between Sydney and the Central Coast.
- Weeks two and three: A family of four in a small campervan touring Tasmania. Fingers crossed for fine weather! We’re hoping for lots of walking, nature time, great food and even better drinks. Hello cold climate pinot noir and chardonnay!
- Week four: THE FESTIVAL OF FORTY. I’m having a pool party complete with outdoor cinema at home.
- Weeks five and six: Just lots of taking advantage of Sydney’s natural beauty and numerous attractions, like beach picnics, body surfing, trips to the city and ferry hopping around the harbour.
And of course, I’m hoping for lots of time reading books – with absolutely no books on business, writing or marketing on the cards. We’re talking pure fiction overload, to stimulate creativity, see the world in new ways, and generally just take in the joy of a great story well-told. Sometimes in order to be able to create, it’s important to take time to consume. For this reason, I’ll also be catching up on my to-watch list as well.
What if you can’t take an extended break? What other things can you do to boost your business resilience?
Of course, I appreciate that not everyone can take six weeks out from work or their business. If you are an employee, you might not have enough leave (although Roy Morgan research found that Australia’s full-time workforce had an average of 21 days leave each accrued – take it people!). Or if you are a business owner or freelancer, you might have work booked in that you need to do, or can’t afford to take the break. If it’s a money issue, though, I strongly recommend taking a look at your business structure and how you are charging to ensure that in the future you can afford to take a couple of weeks off – it’s important to your health and well-being.
If an extended break isn’t on the cards, here are some other suggestions:
- Take a mini-break, for example, taking Friday and Monday off for a long-weekend somewhere. Great ideas include a beach house, a mountain escape for some walking, a few days in one of Australia’s incredible wine regions, or a city escape.
- Treat yo’self to a massage, a day spa, a lunch out, or even just a day in bed with a good book. No checking email allowed!
- Gift yourself some extra time by outsourcing some of your domestic responsibilities, like cooking or cleaning, so that you can spend your non-working hours actually catching up with friends.
- Make some (non-work) phone calls. Maybe you don’t have half a day to give over to meeting up with a friend for lunch and a chat. But you probably can find 30 minutes or an hour for a good old chinwag on the phone. It’s much more restorative than scrolling on Facebook or Instagram will be.
Over to you
Are you taking a break over the summer? If not, why? And if you are, I’d love to hear your plans.