Have you got a holiday away from your business planned this year? If the answer’s no, you’re not alone. A couple of years ago, pollsters ICM ran a survey that found over the previous 12 months a quarter of self-employed people did not take any annual leave. No one to delegate work to, too much to do, fear of losing clients, and an “always on” work mentality, are just some of the reasons why holidays and time-off can slip by.

One of the great appeals as a freelancer or micro-business owner is the chance to adopt a healthier work/life balance. Unfortunately, as the poll revealed, it doesn’t always work out like that.

With summer well and truly underway and (for those with school aged children) as we approach the seemingly endless summer school holidays, how do you make time for you, your family and friends, and recharge your batteries in the process?

Here’s five ideas to help you take some much-needed down time:

  1. Take a holiday
    Sounds obvious doesn’t it, but whether it’s a long weekend, a week, or two weeks, you must commit to taking time off. Plan when you take your main annual break months in advance so you can schedule work. Tell your clients ahead of time, and try not to work when you’re away. If it’s just you, can you delegate to a fellow freelancer in your absence, for example? If you must, set aside an hour every morning of your holiday to catch up with emails but after that, put away your phone/table/laptop and enjoy the break – you’ve earned it.
  2. Put free time in your diary
    You schedule meetings, work deadlines, but do you put in regular free time? Take a look over the summer months and work out when you can take afternoons or days off. If you have a holiday planned, this should already be in there (see point 1), but don’t wait until that precious two weeks to enjoy some down time.
  3. Don’t try and do too much with your free time
    You’re used to making the most of your time in work – billing hours to clients, being productive. Free time requires a different mindset.Don’t think about achieving, think about relaxing and enjoying the luxury of doing something completely different with your family and/or friends.
  4. Digital detox
    You can’t enjoy your family life, free time, and new found head space if you’re checking your emails, Tweets, and LinkedIn shares every five minutes. Digital detox is the new trend for escaping from your digital life. Once you start, it can be surprisingly easy. On holiday for example, if you don’t check your emails for two days, you’ll find as your holiday wears on it gets easier and easier not to look at them (if you used your automatic email response, no one will be expecting an email anyway).You can even get an app to help you detox which, when programmed, will disable your phone for a set time every day or even for a period of days, if you’re really feeling brave.
  5. Sign a contract with your family
    Tell your family what you plan to do with them over the summer – when you’re taking time off, when you’ll be free – and sign a contract to that effect. If they have expectations of you it will be harder for you to break your contract.

Don’t fall for presenteeism
Everybody needs time away from work and presenteeism (think the opposite of absenteeism) won’t help you in the long run. Plan your free time now and a relaxing summer should set you up for the rest of the year.

What are your tips for switching off from your business? Let us know in the comments.