I’m not too sure where the pride of working long hours comes from.  Like many design students, graduates and free-lancers, I have done my share of working too late and taking too little time off. I won’t go as far as pretending that I work strictly nine to five and five days a week (I’m writing this on a Sunday) and take my twenty days of holiday per annum, including all bank holidays. A free-lancer enjoys (or endures) flexible working hours, but I keep thinking that holidays were invented for a good reason.

Making most of your time…off

Switch Off

Switch Off

Before you go

  • Book a non-exchangeable, non-refundable ticket and accommodation. Booked trips mean you can’t really pull out at the last minute.
  • Choose your travel buddy well; typically someone who won’t talk too much about work.
  • Switch your mobile off. Even better, leave it behind.
  • Pay bills and deposit cheques before you leave to avoid some nasty surprises.
  • Place ‘hold jobs’ to invoice before or after you go to cover the time you won’t be working, ensuring you have enough income.
  • Take a moment to assess what needs doing during your absence, what can be delegated and things that can be put on hold. Whether you choose to employ extra staff or hire a virtual PA, it’s a good way to learn how to effectively delegate work.

While you’re away

  • Auto-responder can be a great PR tool. Use it to make announcements or ask questions. But don’t forget to give your return date and/or alternative numbers to contact. Keep it short, personal and fun.
  • If you can, record a temporary answer phone greeting that says who and when to call, or that you will contact the caller on your return.
  • Enjoy your holiday! I really mean it – don’t take any work.

When you return

  • Turn off your auto-responder and change your temporary answer phone greeting.
  • If you have lots of emails to sift through, set up an auto-responder kindly prompting people to call or to be patient. If, however, you gave enough warning to clients, partners and colleagues you shouldn’t have too many emails.
  • Whenever possible don’t promise too much too soon. After my last holiday I found it useful to give myself a couple of days to catch up with book-keeping and filing.
  • If you work in a team or on a large project, book a team/project meeting soon after your return.
  • Book a session with your mentor or advisor. It can help you to get back in the swing of things and at the right pace.

Why I think it’s essential to take time off
Having a holiday is the best way to take a regular fresh look at your business – before you go, as you come back or both. It is also a forced deadline. I use holidays as milestones for my medium and long term plans. For example, if I want to progress to “X” by the end of the year, I ought to have sent 3 proposals to potential clients the week before I leave, and have initiated follow up phone meetings for when I return. I read on the MyCake blog that “Taking a holiday is also a great sign of confidence to your clients”. After all, clients take holidays too.

The most efficient people are not those who work the longest hours. Taking your nose away from the grindstone is the best way to avoid getting caught in it – ‘cause you know that hurts!.

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