Problem: Relaxing on vacation never truly feels relaxed when you own a company
Solution: Vacationing every 1 to 2 weeks for 24 hours
This is a game-changer.
I just returned from a vacation where I didn’t actually start to unplug until the end of the vacation. 😩
It was only as I wrote a vacation debrief in my journal that I realized my body, mind, and soul don’t really know how to vacation very well.
When you own a business you may feel that, if you’re not making progress, things are either falling apart or soon to be.
Relaxing on vacation means you’re taking your finger off the pulse and that can be a very scary thing for anyone who likes to have control over their business (i.e. 99.9% of all successful entrepreneurs).
I work with a business and personal development coach who I speak with three times a month. We talk about how I can continue to become a better version of myself every day. As soon as I returned from vacation, we jumped straight into the debrief.
After talking through the story of not really relaxing and feeling unfulfilled from the vacation, he introduced me to the concept of Freedom of Time – a principle pioneered by Dan Sullivan (one of the godfathers of business consulting).
What is the concept of Freedom of Time?
The idea is that on a quarter-by-quarter basis, you as an entrepreneur have more control over your time. Whether that’s in or out of work, you are the most effective version of yourself when you decide to be.
Rather than forcing all days in the workweek to be equal, Dan suggests there should be three different styles of day:
Free Days – A day that is completely free from business
Focus Days – Extraordinarily focused just on the activities that make the most sense
Buffer Days – Preparation, practice, improvement, and rehearsal
The analogy that my coach used when explaining this principle to me was the life of a professional athlete. Free Days would be when they let their bodies rest, Buffer Days would be the days that they train, and Focus Days would be when they compete.
The idea that every day should be a Focus Day is what had been instilled in me. Show up to work, see what long list of to-do’s I had, prioritize them, and go as hard as I could.
What’s wrong with how we’ve been structuring our weeks?
The fundamental flaw with the current method is that not all to-dos are created equally.
The administrative tasks that we must accomplish take a different mindset, and can interrupt days where you’re spending most of your time working directly with clients, doing activities like sales, coaching, and managing your team.
For me, having to do finances or administrative tasks in between client sessions makes me want to NOT do them.
The admin stuff takes me out of my zone of genius/excellence, and then I have to go into another call with clients where I need to be 100% there for them.
By consolidating these administrative tasks like accounting into a “Buffer Day”, you can put yourself in the mindset of tackling admin tasks and not have to jump out of that mindset.
The result of doing things the old way is that you will experience burnout very quickly. If the objective is to always work in a “flow state”, then you really need to separate out tasks and take breaks to keep your mind sharp.
What does a great Free Day look like?
Going back to my conversation with my coach Joey, let’s say that “Vacationing” is a muscle 💪
If you only take a vacation every 3-6 months, you’re not exercising the muscle very often are you. So when you go to lift the heavy weights (say, take a two-week vacation), you are not going to be able to lift it very well, are you?
Instead, by taking a Free Day every two weeks – one that is fully for you to do whatever the hell it is YOU want to do and NOT work – you are forced to exercise your vacation muscle more frequently.
For example, you could go for a hike. Take yourself out to a nice lunch and watch a movie. Play with your kids. Explore somewhere new. Wander the halls of a museum. Read a novel in the park. Play or learn an instrument. Play hours of tennis with a coach.
Let your mind go wild here!
In addition to exercising your vacation muscle, there are so many other incredible outcomes of taking a Free Day:
1. Your clients begin to understand that you are not available to them 100% of the time
2. Your team is forced to make decisions on their own
3. You walk into work the next day excited to get started
4. You have more productive Focus Days, and actually accomplish more than you thought possible in the remaining four days of the workweek
5. You become closer to having a company that can run without you 🥳
6. When do you take vacation, you are already a seasoned professional!
What are the best practices for taking a Free Day?
- Schedule it mid-week on a Wednesday. Take one every other week.
- Let your team and clients know ahead of time that you are transitioning (link this article so that they can understand it!)
- Block out 24 hours in your calendar every two weeks, from 6am to 6am the following day
- Create an autoresponder that activates the night before at 5pm saying something like:
- I am currently out of the office taking a Free Day / Buffer Day. I will not be checking any correspondence today. However, tomorrow I will be back in action and will answer any questions you may have. If you are interested in learning more about Free Days / Buffer Days, click here (and link this article)!
- If you are just starting this, you may need to do some thinking about what it is you really want to do on your Free Days. Create a list of 10 things you have wanted to do, but haven’t because of “Lack of Time”.
Now you have a great starting point!
What does a great Buffer Day look like?
A Buffer Day is really set up for administrative tasks. Things that I do on a Buffer Day include:
- Reading business books
- Financial budgeting
- Creating new standard operating procedures
- Working ON my business rather than IN my business
- Taking courses
- Paying bills
- Doing taxes
- Planning out vacations
- Implementing new pieces of technology
- Creating videos for social media
You can really design these to fit your needs. For me, these are the activities that prevent me from giving my clients full attention and not fully completing a task.
What does a great Focus Day look like?
“The reason people can’t focus is that they haven’t sold themselves on what it is they are doing.”Dan Sullivan
By “sold”, Dan explains that most people haven’t established the purpose, ideal outcome, or tested the upside/downside of the project they are working on.
Being very clear on what you are doing really makes the most impact. Delegating your non-essential tasks to others who are experts, and removing distractions is a formula for success.
For me personally, my workday starts well before work.
I put myself in the right mindset by creating space and time for myself (link to morning routine article). This allows me to be truly focused when I do turn on my laptop and start working.
Then it’s a matter of time blocking so that I know exactly what needs to get done that day. Going back to a piece of advice that my coach gives: “It’s not real, till it’s in the calendar”.
Blocking your action items into actual time blocks is what I have found to be the most effective solution to focus and access a flow state.
Wrapping It Up
Splitting your week into Focus Days, Free Days, and Buffer Days is one of the best things you can do for your business and your sanity!
It takes some time to get used to this new way of working, but you will soon find productivity and relaxation in abundance.
Next time you take a long vacation, you will know exactly how to switch off and enjoy your time away (and be sure to read our article on creating a vacation protocol for more)!
This article was very interesting. Such great insight and could be applied to every area of life. It's a pleasure working with Gray and I wish him much more success.
Thanks, Addi, it's a pleasure working with you as well.