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Wellbeing / Work life balance

How to take extended leave from your business

A recent challenge as a soloist has been preparing to go on maternity leave. This involves taking extended leave from a majority of my business for a minimum of four months which brings many challenges.

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The practicalities of extended leave have proven far greater than simply going on holiday for a month or so as explored in my previous article on strategies for scheduling holidays.

I have been facing the following challenges:

  • Designing how my business will look and operate during my absence.
  • Finding solutions to ensure that key business activities will be maintained, even though I am not doing them myself.
  • Being willing to let go.
  • Having the courage to trust that my business will continue to thrive with less direct input from me.

Maternity leave is not the only situation that would prompt a soloist to explore taking extended leave from their business. Perhaps you have dreamt of taking a long holiday or you need to take time off to care for an elderly or sick relative. Or maybe you’re facing some other major life event.

Here are five important lessons I have learnt along the way:

1. Start planning early

If you have advanced warning of your need for extended leave, you can start planning early. This minimises stress and ensures you create the plan that really works for you.

Consider what your objectives are, both for the business and the reason you are taking leave. How do these objectives relate to each other?

"If there are activities that will remain your responsibility, aim to complete as much as possible ahead of time to relieve pressure."

What does your ideal solution look like? You can figure out the logistics later.

Is there anyone who has walked this path before you? Ask for ideas, lessons learnt and inspiration – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

2. Be thorough

As soloists it is easy to take things for granted, such as the knowledge we hold about our business, our clients, our expectations and procedures. Be thorough in documenting or sharing these things with the people who will be supporting your business. Don’t be cagey as it’s better to give too much detail than not enough.

3. Start handing over early

If you are outsourcing work, start the handover process early. This ensures you are available to iron out any crinkles before you go on extended leave.

My coaching clients have transferred to the new coaches I have contracted one month before I go on leave. This ensures I am available to support both the coaches and the clients during the transition. It also ensures I will feel confident and relaxed once I am on leave as I will know everything is running smoothly.

4. Get ahead of yourself

If there are activities that will remain your responsibility, aim to complete as much as possible ahead of time to relieve pressure.

I have been writing extra Flying Solo articles to be published whilst I’m on leave. Also I will be writing two months worth of fortnightly newsletters and am confirming materials for my monthly Coaching Club three months in advance.

This ensures that these key things will occur regardless on when my baby arrives and allow me to not spend energy on them whilst I am in the early stages of adjusting to motherhood.

5. Create boundaries

This has been especially important for me as whilst on extended leave I will still be at home, near the phone and computer. Boundaries I have set include:

– Taking maternity leave from 36 weeks pregnancy, as if I worked for a company.

– Creating a daily limit on how much time I will spend on the 10% of activities that will still remain my responsibility.

– How I will assess new work and opportunities that come to the business whilst I am on leave.

– How and when my contractors can contact me.

Have you ever taken extended leave from your business? What lessons can you share with others?

Alternatively, have you considered taking extended leave? What challenges did you face?

I look forward to reading your thoughts and ideas.

Note: Since submitting this article, Linda gave birth to Hannah Skye on 11 July 2008. It’s a good job Linda was so well organised as her baby arrived six weeks early! Mother and baby are doing well. Congratulations to Linda on behalf of everyone at Flying Solo.

Linda Anderson

is a Certified Professional Coach dedicated to helping people live bold and rewarding lives. Linda has an energetic and direct style of coaching which suits people who like to be challenged.

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