10.27 imageFor my first two years in business I worked nearly continuously. It’s not that I wanted to. It’s that I didn’t know how to manage my time and my clients well enough to take a vacation. Learn from my mistake by implementing these 6 steps.

  1. Identify your vacation “window” well in advance

It sounds obvious, but perhaps the hardest step for me as a freelancer longing for vacation is to identify a window of opportunity well in the future. You see, I enjoy spontaneity. If the mood strikes, I might fancy a vacation next week…but the freelance lifestyle doesn’t exactly allow for that.

In order to make sure I get some vacay each year, I sit down with a calendar (and The Mister) around the first of January. We discuss possible vacation windows, settle on two or three, and then I mark them off my calendar in red ink. By planning in advance, I can manage my time and my client load to accommodate some much-needed R&R.

  1. Keep your vacation window holy

Once you have marked off your vacation windows in red, do not schedule work within that timeframe. You will be tempted to do this — mighty tempted. But you must keep your vacation week holy. You must have faith your freelance world will not crumble if you decline work for those few days.

  1. Notify your editors or clients about a month in advance

If you regularly work with editors or clients who assign ongoing work, let them know you’ll be going on vacation. This allows them to better manage Keep your vacation week holytheir workload, and they will thank you for it. You may need to say “yes” to a heavier workload right before you leave for vacation in order to help out your clients, but in return they probably will defer certain assignments until after you return, so you can pick up right where you left off.

  1. Set an out-of-office autoresponder

Before you shut down your computer for the last time before hopping on a jet to Bora Bora, be sure to set up a professional out-of-office reply for people who may email you. Remember, prospective new clients may send you a note, and you don’t want them to sit around wondering why in the heck you’re not getting back to them. A simple, “Thank you for your email. I am out of the office from DATE to DATE and will respond to your message when I return,” is sufficient.

  1. Refrain from working while on vacation

You will not want to relax and enjoy your vacation. Instead, you will feel a near-irresistible urge to check your email on your phone, use your iPad to review drafts an editor put in your Dropbox, and generally engage in work activities. This is normal, but you must resist the impulse. The purpose of vacation is to relax your mind and recharge your creative energies. Although it will be hard to refrain from working, it will get easier over time.

  1. Buy some books

I know many people love their e-readers (The Mister sure does), but I want to encourage you to get away from electronics as much as possible while you’re on vacation. The blue-spectrum light emitted by electronics does bizarre things to our brains, and we freelance writers spend our days bathing in that stuff.

While you’re on vacation, why not indulge in some quality time with good, old-fashioned bound books? Lie by the pool and read a trashy novel. Your neural pathways will thank you for it.

As always, I encourage you to enjoy the freelance lifestyle to the fullest possible extent, and that includes making time for vacations each year. With a little advance planning — and a healthy dose of willpower — you can enjoy time away from work on a regular basis.

Where is your favorite vacation destination? Tell us in the comment thread!

Wishing you well,