My family and I just returned from a two-week vacation to Thailand. We visited Bangkok, the country’s capital, and Chiang Mai, a beautiful expat haven in the tropical highlands of the country. We spent lots of time playing with elephants , as you can see from the picture above. It was an epic trip and we created lots of sweet memories together as a family.
However, the trip was also stressful in the sense that it was the first long vacation that I took since I became and entrepreneur and launched my consulting business last year.
Last year, I started a journey to reinvent myself and to expand what I did as a traditional college professor. I wanted to have more impact and to make more income. Click on the link below to read my blog recap of a podcast interview I did with Deirdre Breakenridge, where I shared my self-reinvention journey.
As an ambitious entrepreneur who has just started on this journey, the two-week family vacation has taught me a lot and made me realize how much I and my life have changed. In this article, I want to share my top five takeaways with you. If you are a beginning entrepreneur who is trying to develop a side hustle, you can probably resonate with the points below.
Completely Unplugging has Become Impossible
When you are on vacation, the last thing you want to do is to check work emails and spend time on work-related projects. I used to be able to completely unplug when I was on family vacation when I had my regular 9–5 job. I simply turned on my email’s out-of-office notification, informing people that I was gone from which day to which day, and people could reach out to alternative persons for things that need to be taken care of immediately.
Unfortunately, as a solo-entrepreneur, I don’t have the luxury to do that. I am my business and my business is me. I am the only person who takes care of everything. There are things and people that I have to be responsible for, many of which are time sensitive.
In addition, as I do have an active presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, I worried that if I completely unplugged for two weeks, I would have too much to catch up upon returning.
In fact, because I was checking my emails regularly, I was able to respond, in a timely fashion, to a media request from Pearson Education, a major education textbook company. I successfully booked an interview to share my experience as a social media professor and how I use social media as a teaching tool in higher education.
If I had waited two weeks to respond, I probably would lose this opportunity. Sure, more opportunities will come down the road. But, I cannot afford to lose the momentum as a beginning entrepreneur.
Work-Life Integration as opposed to Work-Life Balance
When we did the two-week vacation, I was also trying to meet a SXSWEdu deadline. I was collaborating with two groups of people to submit two proposals to SWSXEDU 2019. Because of the time differences between my collaborators and myself, I had to frequently get up as early as 4AM or stay up as late as 2AM to catch up on work and to have conference calls.
The funny thing was that even when I was not in front of my computer or smart phone, I couldn’t stop thinking. I could shut down my digital media devices; but I couldn’t shut down my brain. I couldn’t stop thinking about our SXSWEDU proposals or other content creation ideas that flew to me. My work has literally become a part of me, and I have become a part of my work. We have become integrated. I guess this is what happens when you truly love what you do.
However, instead of feeling stressed out about having the perfect work-life balance, I discovered ways to have better work-life integration. I have come to see work-life integration as a more accurate way to describe our digital lifestyles, especially if you are an entrepreneur.
I discovered was that when I felt a desire to do an Instagram story or write down an idea for a blog post for example, I should just give myself the permission to do it. I tried to not feel guilty about it.
The point I want to share with you all is, Learn to flow with your desire to work instead of fighting against it. In fact, this blog post was drafted while I was on this Thailand trip.
Starting a business or writing a book is a family decision.
I cannot agree more with Mark on this. The longer I am on my entrepreneurial journey, the more I see how much my entrepreneurial pursuit has changed me, my family dynamics, and my relationships with my husband and kids.
This makes it crucial that you communicate to your partner and children in advance that you are no longer on this 9–5 career path where you can switch on and off easily. Instead, communicate to them in advance that you may have to spend family time working and explain to them why this is the case and how much you appreciate their support and love them. If your family truly supports what you do, they will understand you.
As social media marketers, we all know how important it is to be consistent in terms of creating content in the digital space, should it be live shows, blog posts, stories, or podcasts. Planning content in advance is something I did poorly on this trip.
I didn’t prepare any content ahead of time. As a result, I didn’t produce any valuable content on LinkedIn and Medium, and I completely stopped blogging and my weekly Facebook live show. The only platform that I was able to keep up with was Twitter (mainly responding to people’s tweets) and Instagram (sharing pictures from our trip and doing Instagram stories).
Another aspect I neglected was that I didn’t let my audience know ahead of time that I would be gone for two weeks and I wouldn’t be as responsive as I normally do. As I didn’t turn on any email or social media notifications informing people that I was gone, I felt pressured to get back to people within 24 hours. This added stress to my trip to be completely honest with you.
Do What You Love
This sounds so cliche. But, if I were NOT doing what I love, I doubt I would have the determination to get up at 4am or stay up till 2am for many days in a row to participate in Twitter chats, to catch up on social media, and to do conference calls. Thank God I am doing what I love. Otherwise, I can only imagine how unhealthy this can be to one’s mental health, happiness, and personal relationships.
So, my humble advice for you is that if you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, it’s critical that you choose something you LOVE. Otherwise, you probably won’t travel too far on this journey.
Here are my top five takeaways from taking long vacations as a beginning entrepreneur.
✅Completely Unplugging has Become Impossible
✅ Work-Integration as Opposed to Work-Life Balance
✅ Communicate Better
✅ Plan Ahead
✅ Do What You Love
Which one of the above points resonate the most with you? What is your entrepreneurial journey like if you are just starting out like myself?