Lesson Learned: Why (and How!) I Took a Real Vacation This Summer

This blog post is sponsored by CIBC but all opinions expressed are my own.

This summer, I did something that according to a poll by CIBC is pretty odd for someone who runs a business.

I took a vacation.

Specifically, I stopped posting every single week, and gave myself a bit of a break to (gasp) take some weekends off and not think about my business. It’s something I’ve done a few different times in my business, but this was the first time it wasn’t triggered by severe burnout. 

Which doesn’t really sound like progress to celebrate, but it really, really was.

Today, I want to talk about why this was a big step, and why—as I’ve written about previously—leisure time is important. Also, I want to share the systems that made it possible to take that break without my entire business falling apart, or leaving me with a giant mess when I got back.

You need to take breaks

The business owners (myself included!) I know started their business because it was something they loved to do, and once they figured out it could make money, it seemed like a double-whammy of a great time.

But the trap I’ve fallen into is forgetting that once your hobby is a business, no matter how much you love it, it’s work. So I fell into this cycle of getting excited about work, way overcommitting my time to it on top of my full-time job, and then burning out pretty predictably.

I’m not alone on this based on CIBC’s survey results. According to the poll, 65 per cent of business owners reported working more hours than a typical full-time job, and more than half have given up hobbies and extracurricular activities.

Me, thinking about my past four years: “What’s a hobby?”

Which, as it turns out, is not a sustainable way to run a business in the first place.

You can only do so much

Even if it isn’t a sustainable approach, it does make sense to me, because whether you’re running your business full-time or as a side hustle, there’s only so many hours in a day, and not all of us can outsource as many things as Beyoncé. 

When you’re excited about your business, or you’re deeply committed to getting it off the ground, pouring extra hours into making it work feels like the right choice—and it can be for a while! I’m a firm believer that in certain seasons, tackling a ton of work can be the right choice.

But you need to recognize when you need to scale back, and actually scale back at that time. That’s the hard part, because when you’re so used to pouring everything into your side hustle or business, stepping back feels precarious—like you might lose all the hard work you’ve already put in. 

Systems can help

The thing is, even though it can still feel risky or unsustainable to take time fully away from your business, there are systems that can help. Even when I wasn’t posting, and was fully away from my computer, there were parts of my business running in the background on autopilot.

  • My email marketing runs on autopilot, so when you sign up for things like Zero to Investing Hero, you’d still get the lessons when you expected them, even if I’m nowhere near a computer.
  • I can schedule social media posts in Buffer or Tailwind well ahead of time, so I’m still sharing content.
  • My accounting systems are mostly self-sustaining, which is how CIBC’s SmartBankingTM for Business works. Once you put the time into learning the basics and setting it up (I highly recommend a separate business credit card for your expenses, and connecting that to your accounting software!) it’s all connected and will help you keep tabs on how money works in your business without investing a ton of time each month. 

Because this is a money blog, I’ll give you a more specific example of how a system like CIBC’s SmartBanking can work in the background for you and make sure you don’t come back to triple the paperwork if you do decide to reclaim some time for hobbies or even a full-on vacation. 

All my monthly business expenses are on my separate business credit card, which I’ve connected to my accounting software (CIBC SmartBusiness integrates directly with both Xero and Quickbooks Online, which both offer this functionality!). When the charge gets posted, it also goes directly into my accounting system, and the only thing I have to do to keep my books in order is attach a PDF of the email receipt at the end of the month.

Using systems to get rid of manually tracking everything gives me time back to do things like (checks notes) actually make it to the gym once in a while.

Your business needs you to have a life

When you don’t take a vacation, or maintain hobbies, or even just give yourself a full weekend off every now and again, you’re setting yourself up for a serious case of burnout. Whether it happens sooner or later, it will happen eventually, and recovering from that will take much longer than a two-hour break to grab dinner with friends.

The most sustainable thing you can do for your business is to automate the things that don’t need your full, 100% attention, so you can make the most of the time you do have to spend on your business—and then take a break with the time you’ve saved.