How to Plan for Maternity Leave (or Time Off) in Your Business

October 8, 2019

Apple Podcasts

When you’re a busy business owner or entrepreneur, the idea of leaving your business baby for any reason can be an overwhelming thought. When it’s for maternity leave, a holiday, stepping back for school holidays or to tend to other priorities in life, an extended break forces you to think about what you’re going to do to prepare and ensure that the business runs without you.

At least, it certainly did for me. 

In the weeks and months leading up to the birth of my first REAL baby, I’ve needed to put additional time and effort into setting up my business baby to run without needing my 24/7 attention. 

Here are a few things that I did to prepare. 

1. Make a plan

Sounds obvious, right? Without a plan, you won’t know what you need to prepare. I’m all about setting 90-day goals in my business (something I may cover more in a future podcast episode), and ensuring that everything that I do is focused on achieving those goals. So, I’ll have a revenue target, then set up promotions and targets and then make sure everything I do on social, on the podcast, etc ties in with those things. 

In addition to doing this, you need to establish how you want your time off to look. Is it complete-time away from the business? Will you still be checking in? Knowing this will help you when deciding how to set everything up in advance for that time away. 

2. Scale Back

The second thing I did (and I recommend every other overachiever like me does, too) is to think about whether the plans you’ve set are, in fact, realistic. I realised after setting a game plan and starting to dive into the work for my plan that I had set myself up for either over-work or disappointment. It’s important to realise that in some seasons, you need to scale back. Scale back and prioritise the most important things. 

3. Hire

Ahhhh, team. I have always loved the thought of it, but the reality of actually bringing people on to look after my business baby? Well, it frankly scared me to death. The impending arrival, however, really forced me to start thinking more seriously about getting help. 

Honestly, this has been one of the hardest parts of the business for me. My advice is to hire earlier than you think you need to, be realistic about roles and what people can do and create systems and processes so that you can easily train new hires

4. Batch like a mofo

Batching is the process of working on similar tasks together in bulk, and it is the reason why I am most likely at the beach whilst you’re listening to this very episode. It was recorded weeks ago whilst batching. Work out what you need to create, and then set aside time to do it in bulk, ahead of time. 

5. Set firm boundaries

It’s easy to have the best of intentions, and then get sidetracked by shiny objects. It’s important to set firm boundaries on your time, and stick to them. This often means saying ‘no’ more. 

6. Automate

Automation is the process of setting up automated systems to replace the things you would otherwise do manually. In preparation for maternity leave, my focus has been on automating things like sales funnel, email delivery and more, so that could ‘set and forgot’ them. It also meant pre-scheduling social media posts, podcasts and more so they would all go out automatically. 

They are the key things I have done to prepare for maternity leave away from my business. I hope they are helpful for anyone else wondering how to juggle their business baby when considering time away. 

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Transcription

In this episode, I’m going to talk to you about how to prepare for time away from your business. Whether it’s to have a baby like me or simply just to have a holiday, I’m going to break down exactly what I did to prepare.

I’m actually recording this episode way ahead of it actually going live. It’s going live for those of you that are listening in real time around the 23rd of September 2019. Hello, if that is you! 

And if it’s not, and you’re listening a little bit later, well, it’s a little bit later. I’ve wanted to talk today about the reasons why I am batching my podcast episodes, far ahead of time. 

And more specifically, what I want to talk about is how I have prepared for time away from my business, which essentially is my baby, right? To have a real baby to basically take time away from my business baby to take maternity leave, and to basically enjoy myself and prioritize things in life other than business. 

Whether you are a mother to be or whether you just need a bloody holiday, I think that this episode will be really useful for all of the other people that are similar to me, basically doing all of the things in their business and completely overwhelmed at the thought of what would happen if you took a little bit of time away. 

Let’s break down the process that I used and the things that I did to basically achieve exactly that. 

The number one thing, guys, when you’re thinking about taking time away for a baby for a holiday I don’t know, whatever it is that you want to do is to actually make a plan. And that is the first thing that I did when I was a few months out and I kind of went okay, cool. What do I want this to look like in a few months when I do have this time off? Now it seems really obvious to make a plan, right. But what I found personally, at least for me is that I kind of did actually leave this a little bit too late. I always set 90-day goals in my business. And that is pretty much how I work. I will at the beginning of a quarter or just before set up what I want to achieve in the coming three months. 

I might actually do a podcast episode or release something around this in the future because it is an absolute game-changer in terms of planning every single asset, asset facet of my business. I kind of deep these for the 90 days preceding these current 90 days, but I didn’t really take into account my maternity leave. I should have really been planning back then. Learn from my mistakes, make sure you kind of complete this process well ahead of time. When I’m completing that process, essentially what I’ll do is I’ll set things like revenue targets for my business, and then from there, I’ll set up promotions and launches and things that I’m actually going to do in order to achieve those targets. 

And then I make sure that absolutely everything that I do on things like social media, in my podcast with the content that I produce with the people that I collaborate with, I make sure that it all completely ties in with what the overall goal is.  

When it was coming up to maternity leave, for me, it was essentially the exact same process. What is it that I wanted to achieve? And then what did I need to do behind that in terms of promotions, launches, content, social media, all of that good stuff, to actually achieve what that goal was? In addition to doing that, that’s the business side, right. 

I’m a business-minded person, sometimes to my own detriment. What I also had to do specifically in these circumstances, what’s actually also think about what it is that I wanted to achieve in terms of my time off? How did I actually want it to look, did I want to have complete-time away from the business, did I still want to kind of check-in or what I still need to check-in, and when I actually sat down to complete this exercise, it really helped me clarify what it is that I would need to do in order to achieve what my vision was right. For me, that kind of was a conversation between Jules my partner and myself about who the primary care of the baby was going to be. 

I also had to think about what sort of work I actually wanted to do when we decided that he was going to be the primary carer. And for me, that really meant that I wanted to batch and I’ll talk about that in a second. But I wanted to really get out of the way, all of the hard stuff before I took maternity leaves, anything that was content creation that really used a lot of different kinds of brain muscle, I suppose, product creation, all of that sort of stuff I wanted to have done in advance, that any work that I did over a period of time that I was hoping to do latter work wasn’t going to be really intensive, it wasn’t going to stress me out, it wasn’t going to be too much or too hard. I highly recommend that you guys do that if you’re looking to take a maternity leave for a break. The second thing that I recommend doing after you’ve completed that exercise, and this is really relevant for people who are maybe overachievers or perfectionist, like I am, and that is realizing that less is Okay you don’t actually need to do as much during the time that you’re looking to have off as you would normally achieve. 

Now for me, what I needed to do what I had planned for the second half of 2019 was to actually achieving that would mean in terms of time resources, and exactly how much work I would need to do, for example, in the lead-up. 

What I actually realized is that with the plans that I have, and I always set myself big goals, I was either setting myself up for overwork in the lead up, and that’s no fun, all of the disappointment because it was really unlikely that I was going to get everything done that I wanted to. And I think for me, what that really meant is that in some seasons, you really need to realize that it’s okay to scale back. And for me, this is that season. 

One of the biggest things that I did is I moved a big launch that I was considering that represents I’m going to say too much about it, but it’s a little bit of a change of direction is something I’m passionate about, I had that on my list of things to do, essentially, while I was away and actually doing that would have been much work, and I wouldn’t have been able to give it my full attention. 

It meant pushing that back. I never do that it was really hard for me to do, then I thought about what would be the things that I could achieve that would move the needle the most in terms of what my second kind of half of the goals were. And it meant prioritizing a few different things. 

For me, it was automating some of the products that I have available, and moving some of the smaller things that I had on the right off of the forward rather than trying to do the big, scary, audacious goal at a time when I was looking to scale back. When it comes to realize that sometimes you need to scale back. The other thing that I will say, and this is absolutely been the experience for me is that it’s really important to not add to your plate. I made my plan, and then I scaled back.

What I found, especially as I was getting closer and closer to the looming due date is that all of these additional tasks were finding their way onto my list. It was gradually getting longer and longer with a list of things that would be nice to have wrapped up and completed ahead of time. I needed to really be strict on myself and realize that it’s not going to be possible to achieve everything and there really needs to be cut off in terms of the tasks that are on my plate. 

The question really, for me as I’ve gotten more into kind of taking off the to-do list and not adding things to it has been asking myself that if the baby for me came to tomorrow, what would be the most important thing to do and to achieve that particular day. That’s really allowed me to prioritize the things that really need to be done. post these break and the things that can probably wait until later so that might be helpful for you as well. 

Now the third thing that I did to plan for my time off is to think about hiring and I have mentioned this on a couple of episodes before. I have always loved the idea of the team. 

But the actual reality of bringing people on to look after my business has actually scared me to death. What these impending kind of arrival has really forced for me is to think about most seriously getting hope because it is absolutely not sustainable to do everything yourself. 

This has actually been a harder process than what I had originally anticipated. The reason behind that is that I just have not given myself enough time to really get things set up in the way that I would ideally like to. My advice around these is not to do what I did. And to think about hiring far earlier than you think that you’re going to need to if you’re in a similar position to me, where you don’t have a big team around you, and you are looking to bring people on to help you. 

You really need to also be realistic about what it is that you can have other people doing your business if you don’t yet have the systems and processes set up to train them in order to do those things. For me the really big priority. In the time leading up to my own maternity leave has been creating systems and processes that I can use to easily train the people that I need to help me because I don’t know if this is you, some may relate Some may not but a lot of what I have in my business and the things that I do actually just in my brain, or at least they were until very recently, and I have gotten absolutely pedantic about documenting everything that I do. 

That is a great thing. The downside of that is that everything at the moment takes three times longer than what it originally would because what I do is I’ll complete a task, I will film a video of me completing that task. 

And then I’ll make a checklist of every single item to do with the completion of that task. For example, everything that goes into the launch of an information product. A lot of things go into the launch of an information product.

 And that checklist and the number of videos that I actually need in order to have someone help me with that has meant that I haven’t actually gotten to the point where I can have someone help me with that particular aspect of my business prior to going away and taking a break, even though I have the systems and processes set up. 

But what I will say is that if you’re looking to take time off, make sure that you plan this for every aspect of your business well in advance. Excitingly, side note, if you listen to this podcast episode, and do you think it would be pretty damn cool to work for The Stevie Says Social Team, I’m looking at hiring very, very soon. Keep an eye out for a position description there. 

What I will say is to think about this stuff months before you actually need to because you really need to not just have someone come on and have magically know what to do within your business, that’s never going to happen. And you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. 

What you need to actually start doing is documenting everything that you do that when you actually have someone come on board, they can help you out. Now I have successfully done this in aspects of my business one, for example, is podcasts, and my lovely podcast edited will be listening to this podcast episode. And, that has been really, really helpful in terms of not doing all of the things associated with that myself.

The fourth thing that I have done in terms of preparing for maternity leave is batching, batching like an absolute MOFO force. batching for those that aren’t familiar with it is essentially just the process of working on really similar tasks together in bulk. And it’s the reason why you’re probably listening to this podcast episode, despite the fact that I recorded it a while ago, and I’m probably at the beach. Although to be honest, I’m probably sleeping after a sleepless night with the baby, let’s be honest. But what I’ve really done is batched all of my content and all of the hard things in my business that really would have been time-intensive to do on a break. I’ve batched all of that ahead of time. For me what that looks like was being really clear on things like launches and promotions that were coming up, then getting really clear on what sort of content I wanted to create on that. 

And then just doing it all in one go for podcast episodes, in particular, I have a really solid framework. And guys listen to the next few podcast episodes, because I’ll be talking, finally enough about podcasting. But I have a really solid framework around that. I can literally write all of my outlines and show notes and things in one go, then I can record a heap of podcasting one goes, then I can kind of hand it off to be edited and uploaded and all of that good stuff. And that is it. That is done then. And it’s not something that I’m thinking about every week while I’m trying to take a break. 

That is one example of how I’ve batched I’ve also done it with things like social media to a certain extent, I’ve done it with things like product creation, and it has been an absolute game-changer for me. And I know that if you’re looking to do a similar thing, it is going to be an absolute necessity for you as well. The next thing that I really kind of want to drill home is that if you’re preparing for time away, whether it’s a maternity leave, or whatever it is, you need to sit really firm boundaries on your time.

It can be really easy to have the best of intentions. You’ll set a plan, you’ll have a to-do list and you’ll have it all ready to go but that is when the universe tests you, I swear. That is when new opportunities come up and people that would love to work with you stop contacting you. You get potentially distracted by some of the shiny objects that I swear a sense to test you in these sorts of circumstances.  You really need to make sure that you’re mindful of your time. If you work with clients. For example, for me, that has been some consulting that I have been doing, I’ve really needed to make sure and this is on May, this is definitely not on the people that I work with. But I really have needed to be mindful of not letting the time that I would be spending on that sort of work really creep into the time that I was looking to have off. 

For example, when wrapping up, particular meetings, they would ask, when’s the next session, I had a really specific time when I wouldn’t be doing anything in terms of client contact or customer contact, but I wanted to help them out. And my meetings would start to extend into my maternity leave time, it’s really kind of scaling back on that being really clear and setting boundaries on your time that you can actually start to execute the things that are a priority for you. You can actually have that break. 

Finally, the last tip I have when it comes to preparing for time off is to automate. I don’t care what sort of business you have, whether your service-based product based on whatever it is that you do, whether you’re a local business, there are absolutely things that you can do. And you can set up now to make your life easier without needing to hire people to do those things for you. Automation has really looked like setting up things like sales funnels in the back end, that go out automatically, whether or not I’m actually there. It’s not me creating every single email in my email sequences, weekly, for example, things like setting up, evergreen welcome sequences for my email, evergreen funnels for things like my products. 

And yes, I’m getting a little bit more advanced now. But guys, if you can actually start to set this sort of stuff up in your business, it is the difference between you being there working every single day and exchanging essentially your time for income. I’m getting to the point where you can step away, I am doing, and you can have things running in the background. There you have it guys, they have six things I think it seeks I’ve gone through now that I have done to prepare for my maternity leave, and I recommend that you think about as well if you’re looking at having time off in your business. 

Let’s just run through them quickly again number one is to make a plan, which sounds really, really obvious. But if you don’t actually know what it is you want from your time off, I guarantee that you will end up having work creepy and I was very mindful of this and wanted to avoid it. Number two, once you have that plan, you might need to scale back if you’re like me, and you’re a complete overachiever. Number three is to think about hiring and to do these well in advance of the time that you need to because you need to set up systems and processes for those people that you’re having come on board to help you out in your business. Number four is to batch like an absolute MOFO. Once you have your plan for things like promotions, and launches, What it is that you’ve got coming up in your business, then you need to actually batch things like content around that in advance. You don’t need to do that in your time away. Number five is to set really firm boundaries on your time. Once you have your plan, do not get distracted by all of the shiny objects. And number six is to automate. Think about what you can do and what you can set up in advance to automate what you’re doing in your business ahead of time that you don’t need to be doing it while you’re away. 

Guys, they are the things that I have done. Hopefully, that is helpful for you. It is the reason as I said that I have been preparing podcast episodes a little bit ahead of time and you’re listening to them a little bit later on. I hope that it was helpful and if it was, I would love it if you would head over to Apple podcasts and number one hit the subscribe button. Go into it right now and also leave me a quick rating and a review. Now I have some time off now obviously with the bubba. I hope you going through and having a rate of those. And the nice ones they honestly make my day so head over and do that and I’ll see you next week.

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