When we begin our journey of self-employment, we imagine traveling and taking vacations whenever and wherever we want. The sad truth is that many of us forget to PLAN for a vacation, or even a one-day break. We work constantly and suddenly it’s the holiday season and we’re sick, burnt out, and grumpier than all get out. This month, which is all about taking a break, I wanted to shine some light on how us makers take vacations. Be warned: the truth may frighten you but each and every one of us gets to make our own decisions about how we take time off for ourselves.
Ugh- I don’t know, but way too long! Before I had my own business I was in banking for 10 years. I lost weeks of vacation every year and never used any of my personal days! The year before I left they decided to require all employees take 2 vacation weeks together (they said for work life balance reasons, but the real reason was they thought any employee embezzlement would show up in 2 weeks!) – it was the first time I had ever been off from work for that many days at one time in my life and it was absolutely when I knew I needed to leave!
Lisa Jacobs’ Answer:
A creative career is demanding! Yes, I’m typing to you in my pajamas from my couch under a blanket with a warm cup of vanilla chai tea beside me. The irony is not lost on me. But, I’ll say it again: a creative career is demanding. We make it all up as we go along!
I’ve learned that if I don’t take the break (in the form of a digital sabbatical, weekend away, or a simple day off), the break takes me (in the form of the flu, an injury, or exhaustion). The latter never adds up to the vacation my spirit was craving. I try to always heed burn-out’s whisperings of warning.
I learnt the ‘take time off’ lesson the hard way. When I was transitioning Epheriell into my full-time business, I spent a long, looooong stretch of time – probably over a year – working 16-hour days, pretty much 7 days a week.
Now, on the one hand, that time was crucial in getting my business going. I made a lot of progress during this time.
BUT. I also gained about 10kg because I wasn’t exercising, and eating poorly. I was strung-out, worn-out, and it culminated in a bit of a burn-out. It took that burn-out to make me wake up to how unbalanced my life had gotten. I had to re-learn that I was more than my business, and start the long road to living a more rounded life.
These days, I have good structures in place. I have hobbies outside of my business (which was my main hobby when I turned it into a business) and most of these are some sort of physical activity, so that takes care of both my mental and physical health. I also schedule regular trips away – even if it’s just a night or two – in order to reconnect with myself as a whole person.
All of this has the consequence of making me a better business-person, because of wasting my time on useless ‘busywork’ I’m much better at getting what needs to be done, done.
I think the longest I’ve gone without a proper vacation is about a year. I don’t recommend, my productivity plummeted and I finished the year totally unfocused and unsatisfied with what I had done/not done. Taking time off is VITAL for recharging your batteries, doing your best work and staying focused.
Hmm… To me, A “break” or “time off” from work would mean absolutely no possibility of getting any orders or requests for a period of time, which usually means shutting down shop – I haven’t done that since I’ve began my business … so, four years??! But I still take little breaks for fun, of course! I have recently been making more of an effort to not respond to emails on the weekends… baby steps I guess…
I feel like I work all of the time. I was literally in labor and still sewing pillows and dropping them off at the post office while I was on my way to the hospital to give birth to my second child! Being focused and having ambition are great qualities, but if you never take a break, you can get so deep into work that you fail to look up and see what is going on around you! Today I have set work hours, and always take Thursdays off to be with my kids. Not only does this give my brain time to get away, but when I go back to work the next day I have fresh eyes and a new perspective on what needs to be done!
The longest I’ve ever gone without 2 days off in a row was 8 months. It happened last year and my fall season fell into the winter-prep season which snowballed into the holidays and moving to a new state. I was the grumpiest person to live with and every muscle in my body ached from the sheer stress of it all. I would go out on 4 hour bike rides just to escape for a little bit. I will never, ever do that to myself (or my partner) again. If I don’t take a vacation every month, I become physically and creatively drained. I pull ideas up out of me instead of letting them come. All of my work feels meaningless and rushed. I flirt with depression and failings of failure, no matter how many orders come in. This year I’ve made it a huge part of my business plan to schedule in monthly vacations.