Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change


What it takes to go on vacation

What it takes to go on vacation

Last month, I took off a whole week off from work to visit my family, celebrate my brother's graduation, and enjoy my husband's only vacation all year.

But I gotta be honest: even writing that sentence makes me nervous. I want to give you a zillion excuses, reasons, and explanations. I want to point all the times I traveled and didn't take time off. I want to tell you how crazy I worked before we left. I want to tell you that I still answered work emails while I was gone.

I want to do all this because, for many of us, we feel weird, guilty, or unworthy of taking time off. It's a combination of our emotional attachment to work and producing AND the realities of what it means for our business.

Tomorrow in the podcast we're going to talk about the emotional stuff and how to give yourself permission to take time off, but today I want to talk about the practical side of it. HOW do you actually take time off? How do you step away from your business without it all falling apart?

The answer is: Systems.

Now, “systems” might sound serious, but they can be simple. Think of it like this: in order to take time off, you need to know what gets done in a normal week in your business, and either get it done ahead of time, or create a plan for catching up when you return.

For me, this meant that I wrote blog posts and emails and recorded podcast episodes ahead of time. I got all caught up on Starship posts and let them know that I wouldn't be in the forums for a week. I let all my collaborators know I wouldn't be working on our projects or replying to my emails while I was gone. I got all the recently ordered books out the door and created an email draft I could send to any new orders, to let them know their book would ship in a week. (Most items in the shop are digital products which are delivered automatically, which means I don't have to be online to make it happen.)

I knew what to do because I know what I have to do in a normal week. I have a content calendar that I plan about a month in advance and I have a marketing calendar (in the same doc) with important dates noted. I know the time I spend writing, emailing, answering Starship posts, and all the other tiny things that happen in a week.

But you can see how taking time off becomes completely impossible if you don't know what you need to do in a week to keep your business moving. If you've never looked at the underlying structure of your days and your business, you won't know what's important (and what can wait). If you just handle the urgent stuff that comes at you, not only can you not take time off, but you also can't grow or change or shift your business around.

Your systems might be:

  • What and how much product you make each week
  • How you handle incoming orders (labeling, printing, shipping)
  • When you do your numbers
  • How you connect with potential buyers (marketing)
  • Scheduling social media

If you're hoping to take time off for the holidays (which I heartily recommend!), start with this: list what you do in a normal week. Star the things that you want to be consistent with while you're away (like your communication with your customers: blogging, social media, email list) and the things you can get “ahead” on (production and working on projects). Note the things that can wait a week.

Now, make a plan with what you're going to add to THIS week, so you can take time off for the holidays.

A system can be that simple, and the more you pay attention to them and improve them, the easier it becomes to take time off, whether it's for fun or an emergency. Learn how to build these systems (and get time off) in Lift Off. It closes on December 31st, so if you're going to take the holidays off, sign up now.

Want to take a vacation from your biz? Check out my course with Stacey Trock of FreshStitches: Take a Break (without breaking your biz!)

In which I prove better systems lead to more time on the beach

Why systems?

Because I want a thriving, smooth, full-of-ease business.
And I want a life. A thriving, exciting, space-to-do-my-thing life.

Isle of Palm, SC

Having systems in place, allowed me to take last weekend off and drive 5 hours to the nearest beach (and the adorable Charleston). I didn't have to worry if things were going to ship late or students were going to get their details for the class they bought.  I could go, knowing that the important stuff was done and the immediate (seeming) stuff could wait.

Systems = Containers

Working on my systems  provide me with containers (this is Cairene's word, and I love it). Containers of time, containers of space, containers for doing all the tasks and processes. This (shipping) goes there (Wednesdays). This (spinning) goes there (afternoons).

I like to think of containers as the baskets I keep my yarn in (I probably got this from Cairene too). I can move them around, I can rearrange the contents, but the basket holds what I need it hold until I'm ready to come back from it. And it keeps my studio from becoming a yarn-covered mess.

When something has a container; a start time, an end time or a ritual to usher it in or out; it has a boundary. It isn't a sprawling never-finished mess of muck. It has a space, a time, and a little container to hold it when I'm done.

I need boundaries to start and stop or I would just be an endless loop of doingdoingdoing while nothing feels done. Without boundaries I would answer emails as soon as they come in and never get anything done. Without boundaries around my writing time, I'd let interruptions keep me from finishing a post.

The boundaries, the containers, the systems, they give me confidence.

Confidence that if I move this container over there, it will still get done.
Confidence that if I take this weekend off, everything won't fall apart.
Confidence that emails will get answered, yarn will get made,  posts will get written, orders will ship.

What kind of containers and boundaries do you have in your business?

Tell me in the comments!

Do you need to work on your systems so that you can (one day or NOW) take time off from your biz? Check out my course with Stacey Trock of FreshStitches: Take a Break (without breaking your biz!)

Summer Vacation – Day 6

This week I’m on vacation on the lovely shore of Emerald Isle. But because I love my work, the Boutique is still open with new yarns everyday and I’m still talking to customers via email. So I’m away but still checking in. Each day I’ll be posting a few pictures from the vacation, especially the yarny inspiration.

Today I recovered from a super-mild case of sun poisoning (ugh) by laying around inside: Marathon Scrabble games and piecing a quilt.

Cut & ready fabric

Sewing strips

What I did on my Summer Vacation – Day 1

This week I'm on vacation on the lovely shore of Emerald Isle. But because I love my work, the Boutique is still open with new yarns everyday and I'm still talking to customers via email. So I'm away but still checking in. Each day I'll be posting a few pictures from the vacation, especially the yarny inspiration.

Today (Saturday) we got up early and drove the 8 hours to the coast of North Carolina. We stopped at a…colorful fruit stand, unpacked in our gorgeous beach house and hit the beachFruit stand

View from the Porch
View from the living room

house at sunset