This past year has felt like it’s been ten years. 

As the world continues to persevere through one of the scariest and most troublesome times, a lot of us are looking for a much-needed break. For small business owners, however, the idea of a break is a myth. There’s never a shortage of things to do, and with a pandemic, the to-do list is much longer and more pressing. The stress and demands associated with paying bills, keeping staff employed, and focusing on tactics to increase sales and revenue aren’t going anywhere. 

But, finding a way to unwind, be with our bubble, and preserve our mental and physical health should be our top priority. Giving ourselves the time we need to detach will help us recharge our batteries and hit the ground running in 2021. 

It’s true that this holiday season will be very different from those in the past, for various reasons. But my hope is that one of those reasons is because we all truly unplug and focus on just how important the present is. 

Here are some tips that will help you take a break from work this holiday and get that necessary breather. 

1. Check Off the Low Hanging Fruit

Segment your to-do list by creating two columns – one for things that are more long-term and one for items that can be accomplished quickly. If there is anything pressing and will get in the way of relaxation time, plan to complete it before you clock out. If there are tasks you know you can’t wrap up, save them for after the holidays. 

I know it’s hard for business leaders to create stopping points for themselves, but this is the year to figure out how to do so. Promise yourself that you won’t think about the things you’ve decided to handle post-holiday, and put that list out of sight for the time being so you aren’t tempted to look at it. 

2. Don’t Be Accessible 

I’m sure this one scares you to read, but being less accessible isn’t a terrible thing. Obviously, you should craft an “out-of-office” email so that if anyone does email you, they’re made aware that you’ve logged off for the time being. Make sure that you clearly state how long you’ll be unavailable in your OOO email and when you’ll return their inquiry.

Do NOT feel obligated to respond to these while you’re out. Whatever it is can wait till you’re back in the office, and if you respond, you’re just telling that person that you have no boundaries. Is that the kind of message you want to send?

Also, eliminate work notifications by disabling your Slack and work email from your phone. It’s so easy to grab our phones and look for things out of habit, but if you’re really going to unplug, it’s a habit you need to break. 

3. Make Plans

I have yet to meet a small business owner who enjoys total spontaneity, but I’m sure they exist. While some folks prefer seeing how each day pans out, others find comfort in a loose plan, or at least some ideas, of how they’ll spend their time off. Not fully knowing how you’ll be spending your time off can create blocks of free time that just end up tempting you to check in with work. 

Instead, plan activities with your family, as well as some time to spend alone, doing whatever it is you always want to do but have no time for. You can work on puzzles, watch movies with the family, bake cookies, or make forts with your kids. Take a bubble bath, start that book you’ve been meaning to read or get back into a hobby you’ve neglected. Immerse yourself in the things that used to bring you joy when you had more time on your hands. 

4. Neglect Your Devices

We live in a world consumed by technology and most of our jobs require that we use technology in some way. If a phone or laptop is nearby, it’s a constant reminder that work is just a click away. 

While taking time off, be conscious about how you use your phone or laptop. Once they’re on, it’s tempting to read emails or respond to texts or calls. Refrain from checking in with your colleagues on social media, and as mentioned earlier, disable notifications.

5. Give Yourself a Buffer Day

A buffer day is a wonderful way to combat the freak out most of us are having over the thought of not working for a few days. Just assuming that you’ll hit the ground running your first day back, without missing a beat, isn’t realistic. Plus, it sets you up for a ton of stress and anxiety that you just don’t need. 

Before you put up your out-of-office email, block out the morning on your first day back to answer emails, and have catch-up meetings with colleagues. Knowing you have this time blocked out will allow you to enjoy every last minute of your break.

6. Commit!

None of these tips will work at all unless you’re truly committed to unplugging. It’s key that you make a promise to yourself that you’re going to follow through on this. If it helps, think about your family and those that you love more than anything but aren’t able to spend as much time with because of your business. Think about how happy they’ll be to see you more and have your undivided attention. The time you spend with them, undistracted, creates memories that will stay with you your entire life. If that’s not reason enough to take this break seriously, then nothing is. 

I genuinely hope these six tips help you create new patterns this holiday season that put your health and well-being first. Remember, you, your business, and your family, need you to be rested and rejuvenated. Give yourself what you deserve this year and truly unplug.