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August 19, 2016

The value of putting distance between you and your business

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Your business is your baby. Whether you’re the founder or the current MD, this business is a hugely important part of your life and very much the centre of your routine, your schedule and your core goals as an individual.

But occasionally, it’s healthy to take a step back and to put some distance (both mentally and geographically) between you and your company.

Everyone, however, driven, needs a break. And with summer holiday season well under way, here are the important reasons for taking a well-earned sabbatical from your business baby.

A break from the grind

As the founder and owner of Inspira, I know all about the pressures of running your own business. So I was very glad to step back recently and take a wonderful family holiday on a remote, and exceptionally beautiful, Scottish island.

This island is the ideal retreat. It was a 7-hour drive from home, so both a physical and mental distance away from my business. It’s miles from anywhere and there’s no Wi-Fi, so my holiday was mercifully free of emails, tweets and other online chatter and distractions.

What does this kind of remoteness give you, as a business owner? In a nutshell, it gives you time to think. It’s an opportunity to relax, away from your day-to-day responsibilities, and to think, reflect and consider what’s going on in your business.

Finding the time to think

In the fast-paced world we live in, taking time out gives you space and clarity to see what is and what isn’t working – and where changes can be made. As Nancy Kline so eloquently described in her book Time To Think, we all need a ‘thinking environment’ to help us be objective about our situation.

Most of us don’t give ourselves the time to think – we’re just rinsing and repeating the same actions and processes, whether they’re effective or not. We get stuck on the wheel of ‘doing’ and don’t put enough time aside to truly think, analyse and create change in our business lives.

It’s very difficult to grow your business if you don’t proactively make time to think. And when you do find time, it’s important to be focused:

  • Look back at what you said you were going to do – have you done it? Was it successful?
  • Consider what you’re going to do next – what are your priorities? What’s the next step in your business journey?
  • Think about how you’re going to make these things happen – what are your timescales? Who’s responsible for which actions? What’s it going to cost?

Create your own ‘ideas factory’ and list down all the best ideas you’ve had for the business. And really act on putting time aside for this. Thinking time doesn’t always mean a holiday – it can be a structured away day for the whole team, so everyone’s involved can come together to work on the business.

Team building days can be hugely productive for this and there are plenty of events companies out there who can facilitate this. Even if you’re a small micro business, time away is invaluable to take stock and assess if there’s a better way forward.

Work with your own business coach

You don’t have to do your thinking and ideas creation alone. Working with a mentor or business coach is a great way to put some drive behind the process and open yourself up to new ideas.

Employees tend to respect a boss who’s happy to work with a business coach. It shows you’re open to support and objective ideas and having a mirror put in front of you and the business as a whole. As an outside third party, a business coach can help point the way to the answers you cant see (or are choosing not to see).

Putting distance between you and your business helps recharge the batteries and, ultimately, become more productive. And with a business coach on board, you get real support in changing your behaviour – cutting back on long working hours, reducing stress and anxiety and finding the triggers that cause these feelings.

You get to recognise the pitfalls and get the help you need to overcome them.

Find another outlet for your skills

Another brilliant way to put distance between you and the business is to get involved in charity or philanthropic work in your local community.

By using your skills and experience, you can make a big difference for a not-for-profit organisation, or a community-based project that you’re interested in helping. It helps you to find solutions in unfamiliar environments and to get the little grey cells working towards something that’s outside your everyday business routine – not to mention the value you’ll add to the charity or project.

Sometimes the better future might even be to exit the business completely. By stepping down and selling up, you get time to plan for your own future – not just the future of the business.

Maybe you have a terrific new business idea you’ve been itching to build into a start-up. Or maybe you’re ready for retirement and a quieter life. The key is to have the time and the space to consider your future – and to come to a decision that’s right for you.

Busy doing nothing

Lastly, remember that sometimes you really do just have to do nothing. No business talk, no strategic planning and no getting bogged down in the company.

Sometimes you just need to do nothing, spend time with your family and friends and simply relax. Families and children grow up fast, so there’s real value in being there for them, experiencing the important things in their lives and sharing those fun little things that make a difference. Memories and shared moments are special – and when you’ve got your work/life balance right, you’ve got the time to enjoy them (while your business takes care of itself).

Think about the future

Putting distance between you and your business really does add so much value for you as a business owner.

If you don’t learn to let go and delegate you will always be the artisan, not the strategist, in your business. It’s taking that time out to think that opens up your ideas, shows you new pathways and allows you to create better strategies for the future.

Time away helps you step back and identify your strengths and weaknesses:

  • It gives you space to think, to relax and to become better at what you do.
  • It empowers your business, creating a culture of trust and openness.
  • You come back refreshed, reinvigorated and full of brand new ideas.

You’ll only achieve these things if you allow yourself to step away and reflect – and with the sun shining, now’s the perfect time to take that break.

If you want some good holiday reading for the beach, I’d highly recommend taking a copy of Nancy Kline’s Time To Think.

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