On the Importance of Self Care

This past weekend I vended at the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival (HMB). It was a wonderful event, but even wonderful things can be exhausting! The couple of weeks leading up to it were pretty packed too, with lots of prep for the event itself, but also with just the usual melange of stuff that life throws at us. Several times leading up to HMB I found myself wishing I could take some time off. 

I've worked for myself long enough now to know that when I start wishing for a few days off, it usually means I need to take a few days off. To be clear, every time I fancy a vacation or a couple of slow days I don't automatically schedule in time off from work. Rather, I'm talking about when I find myself coming back over and over again in my head to the simple thought "I need some time off," I know I need to take heed of this. Often, to not listen to these wishes of my mind and body, means getting sick or just getting so run down that the work I do produce is done inefficiently or poorly. 

When I talk about these small breaks with some of my fellow handmade small biz owners, they often look at me incredulously and say something like "I wish I could take days off." I'm here to say "Yes you can!" I know there are probably a thousand and one reasons ringing through your head about why it's just not possible, but I encourage you to find a way to make it possible.

In mulling over the thought threads for this blog post I thought about creating a bullet-point list of things to do to prepare you for a few days off, but then I decided I'd just write about what I do, and how I go about making the days off possible. For each and every person it's going to be different. We all have different personalities and styles along with businesses that require very different levels of involvement and dedication. 

Here's what I do to make time off a reality. . . 
To start, I often don't plan this kind of time off ahead of time, or at least not much. It is usually in response to that internal voice I mentioned above that insists I need some rest. Usually I take at least three days off, but not more than 4 or 5. I want the time off to feel more refreshing than just a weekend, but not so much that I fall too much behind on work. 

I usually set an intention to keep up on one aspect of the business, and usually this is the aspect that causes the most stress if I fall behind on and that's EMAIL. Now, to clarify, this means I am only staying on top of the email coming in to my inbox. I am not generating any new email by reaching out to wholesale customers, applying to new events, or anything that would take my initiative to make happen. I am simply staying on top of what can quickly become an avalanche if not dealt with daily. 

The second thing I do is keep a running list of the things that pop into my head regarding work and my everlong to-do lists, while I'm taking a a few days off. Doing this is my way of mentally setting aside work to make room for the time off. 

Thirdly, I make sure that the days off are not planed when I have a bunch of deadlines on things due. I've accidentally done this in the past and basically ended up having to "cancel vacation" to rush back to my studio on the second day when I realized that three orders had to go out that day. For example, I REALLY wanted to take these days off last week. But I knew if I did that I'd be ill-prepared for HMB. So I promised myself the days off this week, and in that way also rewarded myself for all of the hard work put into HMB.

And, lastly, I don't plan a whole heck of a lot for this time. I might start a new weaving project, or fix something broken at home that's been long neglected, or cook some real meals. I also don't plan many trips. For me I find that the time is most rejuvenating when I'm able to slow down and simply go with the flow for a few days. Sometimes that flow isn't very productive, and sometimes that flow is lots of little projects at home. It's usually a good dose of solitude though, something I often crave when my life gets a little too busy. For me, I flourish in the lack of plans because my life is, for the most part, pretty planned out on the daily in large part to keep Tangleweeds thriving. (You might be the kind of person who wants a lot of plans during a few days off, cause it may keep you from worrying about work.)

I think the last thing I want to say is something I should have led with at the beginning: you NEED to take time off now and then as an entrepreneur. It will never feel like the "right time" and you will always have too much to do for the time allotted. My taking time off does not mean that I completely cleared my schedule and am blissfully without obligations regarding Tangleweeds this week. No, it simply means I prioritized the importance of some time off to rest and recover. . . and to possibly spend the whole day in my PJs =)

Thanks for reading this week! I'll be back next week with my next Tangleweeds Giveaway. . .