Summer can be one of the most difficult times of year for a business owner. The sun is shining through your office window, and you know, somewhere, there’s a hammock calling your name. Somewhere, someone’s waiting to serve you a cold drink in a coconut, complete with a little blue umbrella.
But here you are… clicking away on your keyboard, always finding new ways to work harder, longer hours. The days pass by, getting shorter and shorter with each lost sunset.
So how do you run a successful business while also enjoying this fabulous time of year?
Follow these 3 S’s, then head to the beach/lake/backyard BBQ… you call it, we’ll meet you there!
Set Office Hours
Okay, no cheating on this one. Set office hours – and actually stick to them! Unless you are a doctor, there is no reason for you to be on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even if your office is in your home (or maybe even more so), you need to set boundaries for yourself and your clients.
And it doesn’t have to be the typical 9-to-5. You don’t work an ordinary job, so it’s okay if your office hours are a little wonky. Maybe your hours are 10 am - 3 pm, and then 8 - 10 pm on certain nights of the week.
That means at 3 pm, you stop working. You stop answering emails. You stop writing content. No “one last thing.” No “ugh, I should knock out a bit more work.” It will never end, and you know it.
Whatever you want your office hours to be, set them, post them, and then stick to them.
Side note: Another option is to set “summer hours.” You can always create a limited schedule during the summer months, and then go back to your regular hours in the fall.
Schedule Time Off
In addition to sticking to your office hours, you also need to schedule yourself some time off. It’s so easy to get in the habit of working every single day, sometimes we forget that we need vacations. (Read about why!) Every business owner needs scheduled time away from their desks, away from emails, away from clients.
No matter how much you love your job, you cannot maintain a pace of all work and no play. It will deteriorate your quality of work, as well as your quality of life, and you will burn out faster than a bottle rocket on the 4th of July.
Remember, you are amazing, but your clients will survive without you for a few days, or even a whole week!
Stop Feeling Guilty
This is where we tackle the big “BUTS” that go along with those first two points:
- “I’d love to stick to my office hours, BUT what if someone needs me after 3 pm?”
- “I understand the importance of time off, BUT won’t my work just pile up while I’m gone?”
- “I have office hours, BUT if I enforce them, will my clients go somewhere else?”
- “Vacations are great, BUT what if I miss out on an opportunity while I’m gone?”
First, let’s talk about the three types of people who typically make up your potential client base:
- People who want you to be at their beck and call, 24/7. Yes, they are going to be bothered if you stick to your hours. Yes, they will be annoyed if you take a vacation. These people do not want you to be human; they want you to be a machine. You don’t need these people in your life.
- People who try to respect your hours, but they just need you this one time. There is always a fire, always an emergency. Every time. On the surface, they agree that you deserve time off, but somehow something always comes up where they need you to stretch your boundaries just for them. You can choose to have these people in your life, but you have to be firm and unyielding with them. If they don’t like it, you are probably better off if they just go somewhere else.
- People who are respectful of your time and your boundaries. These people understand the importance of a business owner’s mental and physical well-being. They recognize you as a fellow human being, and they understand that you will provide them with a better experience if you are at your best. And who knows, maybe you do make an occasional exception for them because you know they won’t take advantage of you. These are the people with whom you want to have a business relationship.
Even if you’ve already filled your client base with people from categories one and two, it doesn’t mean it’s too late to set yourself on a more reasonable track with them.
Here’s an example of an email you can send out, letting your clients know that you are implementing some changes:
Here at <company name>, we are constantly looking at ways to improve our processes in order to provide you with the best experience possible.
In the past, we have tried to make ourselves available on an ‘as needed’ basis, but we found this practice was causing us to stretch a little too thin. Going forward, we will be implementing new office hours with a focus on streamlining communication, allowing us to meet your needs within a specific timeframe.
With this change, you’ll know exactly when to expect communication back from us, and you’ll know that you’re always getting us at our peak performance level.
Check out our website for more details on our new office hours, or feel free to reply to this email with any questions or concerns.
We appreciate your business!
<Your Name Here>
See, easy breezy! And again, if they’re the type of person who gets mad upon receiving a notification like that, then you are probably better off without them!
So, no more feeling guilty about restricting your time in the office or taking a vacation. When you have the right relationships with the right people, they will understand and appreciate that you’re maintaining yourself in order to maintain your business. It’s healthy, and it’s a win-win for all involved.
Now, there’s a grill waiting to be fired up, a cold beverage waiting to be sipped, and a comfy chair waiting to be lounged in. Wrap up your work for the day – we’ll meet you by the pool!
Stay tuned through July as we discuss more ways to work smarter so you can play harder all summer long!
I am a working mom with a degree in Business Administration. My career passions include hunting down pesky commas and exploring the dark underbelly of Microsoft Word. I live to edit and edit to live!
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