Vacations aren’t meant to be stressful. They’re a time to unwind, relax and explore the interesting places the world has to offer. Most 9-to-5 workers take their annual leave for granted. If you’re a busy entrepreneur, you've undoubtedly faced stretches when you haven't been able to take off any time from work.
There are just too many responsibilities to juggle -- too many obligations to staff members, clients, or suppliers -- and too many intricate processes that must be managed so things don't go disastrously wrong.
Regardless of your commitments, you will reach a breaking point: Take a break, or risk burning out. When that time comes, you need to be prepared so your business can run optimally without you. Here are four ways to make it happen.
1. Communicate with customers.
The tasks you need to automate will obviously be determined by the nature of your specific company. But effective communication is a staple in any business, and as such it’s the perfect place to get started.
Have you ever received one of those generic, automated emails? It's typically something like, "Daniel will be out of the office all week and will be available to answer your questions on Friday.”
That’s an autoresponder message. Most of them don’t make much of an impression. In fact, autoresponders can be frustrating because they hardly ever help your customers solve the problems they actually need help with.
That’s where automation comes in. Automation can be applied to any repetitive task -- including questions that customers email you time and again. The secret to creating a great autoresponder email lies in anticipating these questions and making it easy for people to find the answers themselves.
Turn your out-of-office email into a mini FAQ page with links to relevant information. It could lead them to blog posts, social-media content, business documents or the website contacts page to help them follow up with an appropriate staff member.
2. Communicate with your team.
In an ideal world, we’d want to switch off our phones and enjoy some peace and quiet, an exotic meal or a beachfront view. Sometimes, though, communicating with our team is unavoidable -- even when we're on vacation.
Still, you don’t want to be glued to your inbox, waiting anxiously for any messages that require urgent attention. Here’s how automation and some careful planning can put your mind at ease:
- Brief your team that you’ll be available to talk only during a specific time frame, on a specific day. Be mindful of time-zone differences.
- Set up a Google Doc team members can use to record any issues they’d like to discuss with you. Insist these issues must be important.
- Set up a scheduling tool that works with your favorite calendar app. This lets your team members book time slots with you only during your specified "emergency" times.
You even can use automation software such as Zapier or IFTTT to automatically email you when someone has booked a session. You can configure these software settings to attach the Google Doc that contains his or her queries.
Presto! Crisis averted, and no need to spend hours making frantic back-and-forth phone calls. Just be sure to inform your staff members about these procedures before you jet off.
3. Streamline financial tasks.
Modern software makes accounting, payroll and other repetitive financial tasks relatively painless. Many platforms automate the most routine procedures: sending invoices, capturing transactions and generating reports.
Chances are you’re already making use of these automation features in your business. If you’re not, preparing for a vacation is the perfect time to get them working smoothly.
The best part? Once these platforms are set up, they’ll continue to do your financial tasks indefinitely. When you return from vacation, you can spend less time on the books and more time doing work you actually enjoy.
QuickBooks, FreshBooks and Pastel are among the dozens of options. Do some research and choose one that fits your budget, incorporates extensive automation and fulfills the majority of your financial needs.
4. Prepare for post-vacation backlogs.
Even if you automate your business to near-futuristic levels of intricacy, you’ll probably still face a backlog when you get back to the office. Important customers will demand face time, and you'll need to touch base with your team as well.
That leaves little time to focus on more boring -- but equally important administrative tasks -- that could fall by the wayside. Fortunately, there’s an entire industry that deals with just this sort of thing: virtual assistants.
Virtual assistants have gained popularity over recent years because they're convenient, efficient and increasingly affordable. While you’re dedicating time to strategy and implementation, they’re doing all the simple tasks.
Virtual assistants (VAs) can prepare presentations, transcribe meetings and edit memos. A VA also is the perfect person to sort out your post-vacation backlog. If you can anticipate and identify tasks that inevitably will slip under the radar, make a note and include them in a brief to your VA.
This detailed list of chores will help your VA work more effectively for you, the moment you're ready to get back to the office.
Everyone needs a break. But a vacation isn’t worth the effort if you have to work twice as hard picking up the pieces when you return. Automation is a lifesaver. It gets rid of repetitive tasks, enables hassle-free communication among staff members and customers, streamlines administrative functions and helps get your schedule back on track after some much deserved time off.
Implement automation in your business and you’ll have a well-oiled machine that runs just as smoothly when you’re on a beach in Hawaii as when you’re standing at the helm.