When my husband and I went on our first vacation after I started my first business, I took work with me. We were joining some friends in Spain and had rented a house together for almost three weeks. It was only our second vacation, EVER, without children. We were excited. We had plans to see Madrid and travel across Northern Spain. But, I had work. It weighed on me. It was always at the back of my mind reminding me that there was much to do.
At first, I was able to put work aside and just enjoy our time. Slowly, however, the weight of some of the projects started to get to me. Finally, about halfway through the trip, I couldn’t take it anymore. Everyone was planning a river trip. My stress level was high. My husband carefully suggested that maybe I’d like to stay “home and work since he could tell I was stressed.” I agreed. I worked for six hours straight. They played on an ancient Roman bridge. At first, I was elated to have accomplished so much. It was not until later that it hit me; I missed out. I missed out on a fabulous adventure. I missed out on a great bonding time with my husband and friends. I missed out.
Now, fast forward several years. Our next real vacation. We would be in Peru with limited access to the internet. A perfect time to unplug, right? I spoke with my Marketing Director and Training Manager and set up a plan for while I was gone. I was very clear with our employees what the lines of communication were to be, delegating authority to the two women. I also told my Marketing Director that I would call in three times during my absence to see if there was anything that required my immediate attention. There wasn’t. The two of them had handled every situation. They kept track of everything in a log as a point of discussion with me for when I returned.
I learned a lot with that experience. I had invested time not just in building the systems and infrastructure that every business needs, but I had also invested time in mentoring people. This helped them grow and stretch in ways that expands them. It allowed me to offload items that can be handled by someone else. It also allowed me to take a break and recharge. Because I had empowered both women to make decisions in my absence, through mentoring and delegation, I was able to take time to take care of me. So, with the next vacation, I didn’t even check in.
Now, I have new business ventures. One of the first orders of business is to make sure that I spend time mentoring people such that they feel empowered to make decisions in my absence. Because now that I realize how important it is for me to unplug for a bit, to keep myself, my marriage and my family strong, I plan to maintain the fine lines of work/life balance.