The home office is conducive to overworking and letting down your guard, errr...boundaries. If you work in an office outside your home, it's easier to draw the line between vacation time and work time. In that case, work is somewhere you "go" AND something you "do." When working from home, "work" is more of something you "do."
So, how do you take some time off during the holidays and steer clear of the home office down the hall from the festivities? Preparation, my friend.
If you know you're going to take some time off, decide just when that is. How many days? When will it start? When will it end? Will you have a "stay-cation" or get on an airplane? Do you need to take your laptop, netbook or just your smartphone?
Once you've decided where, or if, you are going, you'll need to prepare your office, clients and business operations for your time away.
If you have an assistant (virtual or otherwise), let them know of your plans. If you want to be reachable, let them know how they can do so. Over communicate so there is no confusion. If you have clients who would need to know you are away, be sure to clue them in as well. Again, let them know who they can contact in your absence, so there is a sense of continuity. You know, making them feel like they are taken care of... like you always do!
It seems like a small thing, but be sure to set up a vacation message on voicemail and an auto-respond email message. If you feel it will help, indicate how long you are on vacation, when you'll be back and when they can expect you to return phone calls and email. You can also indicate if you will have "limited access" to email and voicemail if you'd like people to know you will still be in touch periodically. (One word of caution for POP3 or other email in your Outlook program: Make sure your email provider allows you enough "out" messages to auto-respond during your time away. You do not want your email to be shut down in the process of vacation; sorta negates the time off concept. Right?)
You know where you're going (or not going) and for how long. You've also notified the key players for your business and set up all your automated communications. Now, it's time for that much deserved time off. Here's a couple tips to make sure you're taking time off and not just "playing vacation."
Unplug. No, really. Shut down your laptop, put it away. Clean off your desk on your last workday, so you're not tempted to dive back in. Resist the temptation to plug yourself in.
Check in briefly. If you must, and cannot sleep without checking in, quickly do that at regular intervals. If you have a smartphone, this can be done quickly in pockets of downtime.
Remember to enjoy your time off. Even when you love what you do, we all need a break from it. If you're stressed and close to burnout, you're not doing anyone any good. Taking some regular time out to unplug and clear your head can do wonders for your well-being and your business. You just might come back to a fabulous idea after all that fresh air, family and fun activities. You know, like a good afternoon nap after a big slice of pie...