Small business: How to take a holiday

Last updated 12:26 14/08/2014

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Earlier this year I was thwarted when I tried to go on holiday. All my mates were headed up the coast to my favourite surf spot for a four-day break. Utter bliss.

But a couple of weeks out I realised I would not be able to go. As a freelancer, you take the work when it's there. I was lucky enough to have work piling up. If I took the break, it would have meant missing deadlines, something no one in my position can afford to do.

So I cancelled. I was so disappointed, especially as they scored perfect waves and weather.

I vowed this would not happen again.

I've just come back from a trip north with my brothers and some pals. It took two months' prep to make sure I could get away.

It started with commissioning enough stories to run in the My Small Business section while I was away. I had to come up with the story ideas and commission the stories. Then I needed to leave enough time for my writers to produce the pieces and for the articles to be subedited and for me to source photos.

A week out I started preparing stories for the printed paper and the iPad and for the newsletters. I also told all my clients about my holiday plans and asked them to let me know if they needed me to do anything before I left. This prompted a flurry of work. 

It was a pretty frantic couple of weeks, working evenings and all weekend. More than once I genuinely wondered whether going on holidays was even worth it. It pretty much doubled my workload in the period leading up to my break.

And it's not like I could turn the computer off and walk away while I was gone. Despite my preparation, I still had to post my stories online each day and generally keep the ship sailing.

As anyone who has ever held down a job will know, email control on my break was vital. I don't have the option of ignoring emails while I go on a break - doing so would just mean I'd come back to literally thousands of emails to answer, a sure-fire way to immediately kill the holiday buzz. So while I was away I deleted everything other than emails that, had I not answered them, would potentially have cost me my job.

Phone calls also had to be managed, but I followed the same strategy as I used for emails: answer critical ones, ignore the others. People will call back if they really want to speak to me.

But the real secret to going away on holidays was to lie about when I left and when I got back.

I told everyone I was leaving a couple of days before I actually left, and that I was getting back a few days after I really did get home. This gave me a couple of days' grace either side of my break to get things ready and manage the re-entry process. It meant I wasn't bombarded with work as soon as I returned to the desk; instead I was able to ease my way back into it.

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These tactics proved extremely effective. Sure, I had to work for an hour or two each day, but mostly I could shut up the laptop and get on with having the time of my life. Best holiday ever!

- Sydney Morning Herald

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