As a small business owner, it can be incredibly tempting to work over Christmas. Even if you plan on taking time off, it can be very easy to “just quickly” check your emails in between a mince pie and the Eastenders’ Christmas special. And if you do, well, you won’t be alone.

A 2022 study by Mercedes Benz found that 17% of small business owners will be working on Christmas Day, with 43% working on Christmas Eve and 28% on Boxing Day. While for many businesses and industries such as hospitality and healthcare, this is standard, being able to have downtime away from your business can really have some great benefits.

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, with the demands of running a business, it's easy to overlook the necessity of stepping back, especially during a season that's meant for rest and connecting with those you care about.

The Importance Of Taking Time Off

The end of the year is a really good time to step back and take stock of all parts of your business and life. Entrepreneurs often fall into the trap of perpetual work, leading to burnout, reduced productivity, and potential health issues. Stepping away from daily responsibilities offers a chance to decompress, and just take well-deserved rest. It’s the key to maintaining a solid work-life balance.

It can be hard though, and most business owners will have some job or task niggling away in their brain when they are trying to take some time off. But a break from your business can also be a real help to reset your creativity. Being immersed in the day-to-day operations can often stifle new ideas and fresh approaches to challenges. It's during times of rest and relaxation that the mind is free to wander, explore, and conceive novel solutions and strategies.

It’s also a good way to get caught up on some sleep. We’ve talked on the blog before about the importance of sleep as a business owner, but taking the time to really recharge your batteries, have long lie-ins and just enjoy sitting around in your pyjamas can feel like a real welcome rest at the end of a busy year.

All these sound wonderful, and incredibly beneficial, but how do you achieve this kind of time off?

1. Start Planning Early

Kickstart your holiday planning as soon as possible – maybe even after the last festive period has ended! Try to select at least the week of Christmas and New Year as a non-negotiable period for time off. Inform your clients and customers about your plans well in advance. This foresight helps manage expectations and reduces the likelihood of last-minute work requests. For many a whole week may not be feasible, but at least trying to take the main “holiday” days off should be entirely reasonable for anybody doing business in the UK.

2. Use Automation Tech

Using technology to keep your business running while you're away can be really helpful. Using a simple tool to automate social media posts or switching on your “out-of-office” reply to emails can be invaluable. Platforms like Hootsuite, Buffer, and even your basic inbox settings are excellent for maintaining your online presence without your direct involvement during the holiday.

3. Delegate With A Virtual Assistant

Hiring a VA in the run-up to Christmas can significantly lighten your workload. Delegating admin tasks, customer queries, or content creation to your VA in the weeks leading up to your break can free up your time but also ensure that essential functions continue smoothly in your absence. It can also give you the space to focus on higher value tasks and give you the space and extra pair of hands you need to help you grow your business further in the new year as well.

4. Prioritise & Streamline

In the lead-up to your time off, try to focus on getting the most critical tasks finished. But equally don’t overstretch yourself. Try to avoid taking on new, extensive projects that can be postponed until after the New Year. Try to streamline your workload to include only essential tasks will make it easier to step away without concerns.

5. Set Clear Boundaries

Make sure to communicate your availability to clients, customers, and colleagues. By specifying the exact dates of your unavailability and offering alternative contacts for urgent issues. Firmly adhering to these boundaries is key to ensuring your time off remains undisturbed. It can be really tempting to try and make yourself available in order to not lose clients, but would you expect an instant response from a company if you emailed them on Christmas Day? Probably not.

6. Tidy Up Your Workspace

Before your break, take some time to clean up your physical and digital workspace. As well as giving you a clutter-free environment when you get back, it will make sure you’ve not forgotten any important tasks. It can also make you realise that some things can easily wait until after you’ve had a rest.

7. Plan for Your Return

Nobody wants to feel overwhelmed when they get back from a break. So before heading off lay out what you want your first week back at work to look like. Take into account that you may not be as up-to-speed as in a normal week, and set an easing-in period for catching up on emails and getting things back up and running. The key to this is to be kind to yourself!

8. Enjoy The Break!

It can feel incredibly counter-productive to just “be” over the Christmas period, however for many starting your own business was about making sure that you were in control of your time. As a business owner, you should be able to set your own pace, and your own hours and take off time to enjoy life as and when you need it.

So make sure to enjoy yourself this festive season, whether you are celebrating or not, or just looking forward to 2024.

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