Totally unplugging from your business isn’t easy, especially if you run an online business that’s generating cash every hour of every day of the year. I’ve made a personal commitment to unplug from my business more this year and here’s what I’m doing to make it happen.
Want to read instead of watch? Here’s a rough script I used for this video.
How to Unplug from Your Business for a Few Days
Depending on what type of business you run, it might or might not be easy to take a day off from your business. If you’re a consultant, a graphic designer or a web developer, you can probably just stop working for a few days and it’s not a big deal to anyone, because nothing bad will happen if your current project is delayed by a few days. If you own a retail store that has set hours and you don’t have a big staff, it can be more difficult to take time off. This is also true if you have an internet business that has a steady stream of income.
In the past, it’s been particularly difficult to totally unplug because if MarketBeat is down for an hour or two during business hours on a week day, I could lose thousands of dollars. If MarketBeat was down for 24 hours, I would lose about $16,000. So, of course my natural inclination is to keep a close eye on the website and make sure everything is working like it’s supposed to infrastructure-wise and make sure we’ve setup all of the campaigns that our advertisers are interested in running. If all of our servers are running fine and our advertisers are happy, our subscribers are happy, then other stuff can usually wait a couple of days. The challenge is that until recently, no one has been able to do these things but me, so whenever I traveled I would always have to bring a laptop “just in case” something happened.
One of my goals for this year is to be able to totally unplug more. I used to believe in the idea of being a super-hero entrepreneur that did everything themselves and didn’t have big overhead, but that only works as long as you are willing to work all the time and drop whatever you are doing to handle work emergencies. That strategy worked well early on and I even got to over $2 million in revenue with my first half-time employee, but that strategy doesn’t really scale beyond that and ultimately it’s just not healthy.
So, this year that’s changing so that I can be a better husband to my wife, a better father o my children and more mentally and emotionally healthy individual. My family and I just spent three days in Minneapolis and I didn’t bring a laptop with me. I brought my phone and a small iPad so I could watch YouTube in the evenings. I didn’t do any work while I was there and was able to focus solely on my kids. The way that this ultimately happened was I ended up putting someone else in charge of all of the key aspects of the business when I was gone. If there was a work emergency, Will, Rebecca or Ryan would have to deal with it. We did have a minor emergency, one of our websites was down, and Will was able to fix it without me even thinking about it. Turns out the hard-drive was full on the server, so he just logged in, deleted some stuff, rebooted the server and everything was fine.
My goal is to continue to take slightly longer breaks where I unplug and stress test the business to see what breaks in my absence. So, to start out I unplugged for one week day and two weekend days. Next week from when I record this, I’ll be unplugging for two weekend days and three week days when I go to a conference. Pretty much the same thing will happen in March. In June my family and I are planning on taking a 7-day trip where I plan on totally unplugging as well. So, when I take these trips, I’ll be able to review what happened when I wasn’t there to handle it and take steps to make sure whatever ball dropped doesn’t get dropped next time.
A couple of tips for whenever you take off a few days from your business. First, don’t bring your laptop. If you bring your laptop, there’s going to be a temptation to work. Second, make sure someone else is in charge when you’re going. You can worry less if you know someone else is worrying about your business for you. Third, make the person who is in charge understand what are the key things in your business that need to happen when you’re gone. Fourth, turn off notifications on your phone. It will be difficult to unplug if you are constantly getting slack messages and email notifications. Fifth, set hard rules for email. I’m not one of those delete your email app guys, but I do think you need to set hard rules for email. My rules are that it’s okay to check email and forward emails to employees, but if there’s anything that I need to respond to or take action personally, it can wait until I get back. Sixth, set an auto-responder message so that people know you’re gone and probably won’t be getting back to them for a couple of days. Those are my tips.
You know, if you’re young and unmarried, go ahead and work whatever hours you want. When I was single and in my early 20’s, I was working full time, pursuing a seminary degree half-time and worked on building MarketBeat all at the same time. It worked, because I had plenty of free time back then and I could choose how to spend it. How you spend your time necessarily needs to change when you’re older, don’t have quite as much energy and especially when a spouse and children comes into the picture. If you make the commitment to get married or have children, you are necessarily making a commitment that you will be there for them first over your business or any other competitions priorities in life. That’s just the reality if you want to have a healthy family life, so design your business in such a way where it doesn’t require your constant attention, because if you put your business first and give your family the left over time, that usually doesn’t work out super well for anyone.
Hopefully this video has given you some ideas on how to unplug your business and keep you personal priorities where they should be. If you have tips on how to unplug from work or better keep work life balance, please share them in the comments below.