Vacations are like a project
There's a before-vacation and an after-vacation period that needs to be carefully managed.
After years of taking vacations, and that too thrice a year, we have to do a lot of planning.
So how do we make sure everything works when we're away?
How do we make sure we don't get tempted by e-mail and work while on vacation?
In this episode Sean talks about
Part 1: How to handle the recurring elements of a business—newsletters, podcasts and membership sites
Part 2: Finishing of projects
Part 3: How to handle coming back to work.
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This is 3-month vacation and I'm Sean D'Souza
Right after Renuka and I got married, we decided that we're going to go to many places and we did go for a honeymoon because that's what I was told, you don't go for your honeymoon, and every time you have a fight, that's the one thing that comes up. Anyway, we went for a honeymoon and then a year passed and we didn't go anywhere, and the second year passed, then we did a trip to Australia simply because there was some kind of discount on Qantas, but then the years ticked away and then we moved to New Zealand and we realized that 4 and 5 years had passed and we weren't going anywhere. That was a real problem because inherently, the reason why I quit my job in India in the first place was because I couldn't go on vacation whenever I wanted to.
Even when I got to New Zealand, it was a problem because every time I went on holiday, I'd be very hassled about someone else taking my work, that I was not getting paid, and so holidays or vacations became a very important part of our life. What lots of people don't realize is that a vacation is also a project and you have to plan if you want to make it successful. One of the things that you have to plan is what you do before you leave and what you do when you get back. This episode is dedicated to the vacation.
In this episode, I'm going to cover recurring elements like the newsletter and the podcast and the membership site, and then from there, we'll go to the next thing, which is how we get closure before we leave, and then how we hit the ground running when we get back. Those are the three things that we'll cover today. Let's start with the first one, which is how we handle recurring responsibilities.
Part 1: Handling Recurring Responsibilities of a Business—Newsletters, Podcast and Membership Sites
At Psychotactics, we are mainly into consulting, training and product, which is really a complete business by itself. Consulting would mean speaking with clients one on one and I definitely don't speak with clients while I'm away. I don't make any exceptions to this rule. When I'm on holiday, I'm on holiday.
The second element is one of leverage, which are products, and again, we don't work when we're on holiday. We might take a trip that is specifically designed to do some work but while we're on vacation, there is little work. That just leaves us with the other recurring elements like newspapers and podcasts and membership sites. The newsletter goes out every week twice a week and the Tuesday newsletter, that is about an article about marketing, about business. The Saturday newsletter, that's the sales biz newsletter. It's our products, our services, courses. That has to be queued well in advance.
Let's start out with the Tuesday newsletter, which is the article-based newsletter.
Let's say we're going to be away for 4 or 5 weeks. Now what we have to do is we have to make sure that we don't just cover for 5 weeks but that we cover 8 weeks. The reason for this is very simple. Before you go on any trip, chaos invariably knocks at your door, so what you've got to do is make sure that your newsletters are being worked out before you leave, while you're away and then when you come back, because when we get back, it's not like I'm keen to sit own and write articles. In fact, when I'm away, I lose all momentum and then when I get back, I'm not really in the mood to write any articles.
What I have to do is in the 12 weeks that we're back, I have to make sure that somehow, I double the number of articles in some of the weeks.
Even so, I may not finish the requisite number of articles that I require while we're away. What we do is we run some of the articles from the archives, and they do this on TV shows as well. When the presenter is away, they just pull out old stuff and they run it again, and clients don't mind. They don't mind reading the same stuff again and that's what you've got to do. You've got to have a mixture of old articles and new articles.
If I can manage to get all that quota completed before we go, well the clients are going to get just new articles, but if I can't, then we have the old articles as well. With the podcast, we don't have such a big bank. We're only up to episode 42 now, but let's say we go up to episode 200 or maybe 100. At that point in time, it would make sense to recycle some of the older podcasts and this makes sense because articles and newsletters and reports and podcasts, they are not stuff that is like today's news and it's still tomorrow. It can be read again the second time and the third time and we can monitor how many people are reading the articles or downloading the podcasts. You get a good feel whether your re-run is actually a good thing or a bad thing and it is usually a good thing.
We also have to prepare what's going out on Saturday, which is the sales letter.
Sometimes, we will just send out sales letters while we're away, but often, we will give away stuff, like now, as we're headed to Italy, we're giving away the Brain Alchemy Masterclass. This is a complete course of a workshop that was held in Los Angeles. Even so, everything has to be planned and everything has to be within place before we leave and then it just goes out like clockwork.
That's the first thing. We have to make sure that all the articles and all the sales letters and any kind of promotion or giveaways all need to be in the system for before we go, while we're away and for at least 2 or 3 weeks after we get back. This is crucial because then, you actually enjoy your vacation instead of just rushing there and rushing back and then going right back to work.
This takes us to the second part of today's episode, which is finishing of projects.
Part 2: Finishing of Projects
We tend to do courses like article writing or copy writing or headlines. We also do books like web components or pricing and then we do things like training, which is workshops. All of these are considered to be projects and all the projects are complete before we leave, so when we look at products like the pricing book, well all of that was completed 2 weeks ago and that's done. We finished the article writing course, that's done. We had a Photoshop course for cartoons and that's done. Now we're headed to Washington, DC, where we're doing the info products course, and that's done. Once that is done, everything is closed and now we're going on vacation.
A lot of people take some of their work on vacation and that's really bad planning. That's terrible planning. If you're going to go on vacation and you're going to take your work with you, that's not really a vacation. That is just work in a different place. All those stupid ads you see where people take their computer and go to the beach, that's just fooling yourself. If you really want to have a break and you want to rest your body and you want to rest your mind, you have to switch off. We switch off completely. Everything is closed down. We don't deal with email. We get someone else to look at the email. We have a separate email address where if there's an urgent issue, which there never is, but if there is an urgent issue, they can write to us. All projects are completely closed, email is closed and I don't take any calls on my phone so that's that.
Also while we're away, we will meet with clients but only as friends. At first, we didn't meet with clients at all but over the years, we've gotten to know people and so we will meet them in a social setting. One rule is very clear, they're not going to bring up any work, not even the slightest bit of work. Even in Italy, we're meeting with a friend of ours. Last time when we went to Hungary, we met with a friend of ours. We went to Portugal, we met with a friend of ours. In Washington, DC, we'll meet with friends and these friends are also our clients but no discussion about work. That's very clear.
This brings us to the third part. In the third part, it is about coming back.
Part 3: Coming Back
When we get back home, the last thing you want to do is work. You're nice and relaxed if you've not been checking email and not been looking at any work. You don't feel like doing anything for a week, 2 weeks, sometimes longer than that. In previous years, we have taken vacations for as long as 6 weeks and that's probably too long because when you get back, you want to relax for another 3, 4 weeks. You're so much in that vacation mode that you don't snap out of it.
We found that 3 weeks away and 1 week travel is a great amount of time to be away. It's not too much and it's not too little. Supposing we were going to Sardinia, which we are, then we stop over at, say San Francisco. We spend a couple of days, then we fly to Sardinia. On the way back, we stop over again maybe at San Francisco, and then we come back. We break the journey as well. That takes about a week and then 3 weeks away, so 4 weeks away in all. When we get back, sometimes we hit the ground running and sometimes we don't. Sometimes we'll take a couple of weeks but we always have a list of what we have to do and when we have to do it before we leave on vacation, so that when we come back, we're not blank, which you usually are. You come back and you don't know where anything is on your computer and you don't know what you are supposed to do, so having that list while you're in work mode is really cool because you're completely alert at that point in time.
We keep that list and then we go away, and when we come back, everything starts to flow again until the next vacation. That brings us to today's summary, so what did we cover today?
The first thing you have to have all your newsletters, all your podcasts, everything in advance. On this particular trip, I haven't organized it as well as I should have, and so I'm slogging here doing a ton of podcasts this week but this is not a good situation to be in. This is not a situation I ever want to be in, so when we come back, I'm going to have to organize it a little better. The newsletters were ready but the podcasts were not ready and I've had to put in extra time just to make sure that the podcasts are ready. Now they are, this will last all the way to middle of June I expect.
With the membership site, www.5000bc.com, I can't show up there everyday so what I do is I have vanishing reports. I create these reports in advance. A lot of these reports also come from the articles themselves, so sometimes I will write fresh reports and clients know that and at other times, we take articles related to one topic like pricing or headlines and then we put them together in a book and they become reports and when we're away, those reports go week after week to the clients.
The second element is one of closure. We don't take any work with us. We make sure that all the projects, all the workshops, all the courses, everything is done, finished, and we will not check email on vacation. There are people that say they only work 2 hours on holiday. Well that's their choice but I don't think you can ever tune out if you check email, if you go back to work. You're always on alert and you really want to relax. You want to get down to a point where you're completely relaxed, just like a child.
Finally, we have a list of all the projects that we're going to do when we get back, because when we get back, we're completely blank, and having that list enables us to ramp up, if not hit the ground running. What's the one thing that you can do? The one thing that you can do is to train yourself to add a little bit more to your output, so if you get really good at article writing or you get really good at creating reports, then what's going to happen is you're going to put away some stuff and create a bank. When you're too tired or you have a medical emergency or you want to go on vacation, all of that information is going to come into really good use, and you don't get so stressed out and everything goes according to plan.
As for the concept of doing your own 3-month vacation, you might think it's very hard but remember that when we started doing the 3-month vacation, our business was not even 2 years old. We just started at the end of August of 2002, that was Psychotactics, and by 2004, we had decided that we were going to do this. You might not be feeling that brave but you can take 2 or 3 days off and when you do that, you don't want to check email and you don't want to have any projects and you don't want to have any work. That's when you're going to get a really good break.
The people who call themselves workaholics, they're workaholics only because they are permanently connected to their phones, their computers and their work. Once they're taken away from all of that, they become like kids again. People may call themselves workaholics today, but when they were kids, they didn't think about their studies while they were away. They enjoyed themselves, and the reason for that is that complete disconnect. You can have that disconnect and you should have that disconnect and that's the only way you can relax, but for that, you have to prepare. That's what we do. That's why we have fun on our vacation.
While I'm away on vacation, I'm not on Facebook and you can't get me on Twitter and you can't get me on email, but someone will be checking email so if you have something to say, please email me. I will get to it eventually. About the pricing book, if you've already bought Dartboard Pricing, I would recommend that you start reading the first chapter, just the introduction. That's 3 or 4 pages, and then go to book 3 because book 3 has the sequential strategy. Book 3 is not a very big book but it's a very powerful book. It shows you exactly how to build your business and how to price in a way that customers want to go to the next step and the next step and the next step. It's a really cool model so go to book 3.
If you haven't already bought the pricing book, that's Dartboard Pricing, go to www.psychotactics.com.ttc, that is Trust the Chef, TTC, and you will be taken directly to that page and you can buy it. The link is at the bottom of this podcast as well if you click on the little I button, which is the information button, you can see those links but you can also go to www.psychotactics.com/43 for all the resources, the transcript and the links to this page.
That's me, Sean D'Souza, saying bye for now. Bye bye.