What will you do over the Christmas break? Switch off completely, or periodically check emails and maybe even use the time to catch up on work?

Yes, the Christmas period is a good opportunity to get ahead for the new year – but the bottom line is, you need time off. As the owner of a small business like Fresh Clarity, this has taken me years to understand, and even longer to put into practice.

And I’m not alone. A 2019 study by Opus Energy found that small business owners work at least 45.5 hours a week – more recent research by Bizdaq puts that figure at 50.5 hours. Opus also found that more than half of the business owners they surveyed work a six or seven-day week.

Those extra hours add up to at least 17 days’ overtime every year. Subtract that from the legal minimum of 28 days’ holiday (including Bank Holidays), and you’re left with just 11 days off in a 365-day year. Not much of a reward, is it?


The stress of leadership

I get it. I really do. Running a business is an amazing achievement, but it’s also a huge burden. You have employees to recruit, manage and pay. You have customers to find, retain and service. You have contracts to juggle, systems to set up, suppliers to manage. And you have big decisions to make on a daily or even hourly basis.

But it’s always been your dream to own and run a business, so you keep going. You think if you can just put in the extra hours and stay on top of everything, there’ll be no nasty surprises.

Ironically, almost 30% of those entrepreneurs actually started their business to have more control over their workload and time. And it’s impossible to achieve a sustainable work-life balance with just 11 days off each year.

So where are we going wrong? Ultimately, we’re scared that if we let go of the reigns, even for a day or two, everything will come crashing down. But if you have a team you can trust and strong systems and processes in place, that’s very unlikely to happen.

Here’s why taking time off this Christmas and beyond is vital – and some small changes you can make to make your business run more efficiently without you.


The benefits of time off

First and foremost, you need to recharge your batteries. You simply can’t keep going and running on empty. Without a break, you won’t be able to make clear, rational and inspired decisions, or bring your best self to the table. Giving yourself time off is just as much of an investment in your business as anything financial.

Secondly, it’s essential for your mental health. Putting in too many hours for too long can only lead to one thing; burnout.

Depression and anxiety have been soaring in the working world, especially during the pandemic when the lines between work and home have become blurred. Taking time off is an essential act of self care that will benefit your business, as well as yourself.

Thirdly, studies consistently show that taking time off actually increases your productivity. Research conducted by Alertness Solutions found that taking a holiday can increase your performance by 80% and reaction times by 40%.


Staying engaged with your business

This in turn leads to greater engagement with your business. When you’re more motivated and productive, you have better ideas, make sound decisions and above all, actually enjoy working in your business.

In the years that we’ve been supporting small business owners, we know all too well that falling out of love with your business is very real. It’s almost always the result of owners who’ve put in so much time they now resent their business and have forgotten why they event started it.

If you’re among the one third of business owners who wanted more control over your time, remember that the only person that can make that happen is you. No one else is going to tell you to take time out, so don’t let overtime become the norm. If you want a better work-life balance, take it. That way, you’ll make sure your business works for you – rather than the other way around.


Tips for reclaiming more time

  1. Delegate to trusted employees. If you’re not great at delegation, try giving them additional, manageable responsibilities gradually to test the water. It’s tempting to do everything yourself, but it’ll be impossible to grow your business that way. If your team are already stacked, consider using a Virtual Assistant while you’re away.


  1. Automate as much as possible. That includes everything from invoicing and payment reminders to follow-up sales emails and social media posts. The trick is to find the right systems; keep an eye on our blog for next month’s rundown of the best business apps!


  1. Reduce your availability. Whenever you’re away, set an Out of Office outlining who to contact for different queries in your absence. Make it clear to your team that you can only be contacted by phone in certain circumstances, then switch off your notifications.


  1. Set time boundaries. If you find yourself working overtime or while you’re supposed to be having a break, get strict with your time. Give yourself one hour to do something, set your alarm and make a promise to switch off once it’s done.


  1. This is probably the most important tip of all. Think about any parts of your business that you’re not an expert in. HR? Accounting? Marketing? Tenders and bids? Whatever it is, don’t spend all your time trying to figure it out – the benefits of outsourcing it to someone who can help with far outweigh the cost.


That’s it from myself and the Fresh Clarity team this year! We’ll be back with more advice and tips in the New Year, but in the meantime, if you want to make 2022 the year you finally reclaim your work-life balance, let’s talk.