Originally published on Inc Magazine’s Process Playbook column by Chris Ronzio
Taking time away from your business doesn’t have to be a summer off or a year sabbatical. Reboot yourself regularly, just like your favorite apps.
Earlier this month at Trainual, we notified our app’s users that the system would be offline for a few hours of routine, scheduled maintenance.
I’m sure you’ve gotten emails like this from the apps that your business runs on:
“During this scheduled period, access to your account will be temporarily unavailable while we roll out the newest enhancements to the system.”
We schedule downtime for the business when we need to upgrade our servers or migrate our database. We schedule time offline when we’re rolling out new features and we want to test them on our live production app before the world sees them.
But how often do we schedule the downtime for ourselves when we need to recharge?
Why don’t we take the time to reboot our systems and make sure we’re operating as optimally as our websites are?
I spent last weekend in San Francisco with my wife, totally unplugged. No kids demanding snacks or tearing apart the couch cushions. No work projects tempting me to open my laptop late into the evening. No plans to speak of, except to walk until our feet hurt, talk in full sentences, and sip coffee a little slower than usual.
If you’re a busy entrepreneur, you need routine, scheduled maintenance just like any good web application does. Here’s a simple process to force yourself into maintenance mode, and to get the most out of it while you’re offline.
Plan your downtime in advance.
When your favorite website or app is going to be offline for a few hours, they give you some advanced notice to avoid a customer support frenzy or twitter outcry.
In our case, releases are planned a few weeks in advance to give users time to prepare when we’re offline, but also to give our developers a timeline to commit to.
When you’re planning a true escape from your business, block the time on your calendar weeks — or months — in advance. This helps you commit to your time off as your calendar fills up around it, and it gives your team the notice they need to prepare.
Don’t go too far, so you can always get back.
There have been times when we released an update to our app and immediately found a problem. In those cases, we roll back the changes to the last version, and the damage is un-done.
Similarly, when you’re escaping for a quick getaway, pick a destination close to home so you don’t spend too much time getting there and you can get back early if needed. Quick staycations in your home city or short plane rides within your timezone make for a great break.
Let everyone know that you’re away.
When a website is down, a simple “under construction” page gives you the confidence that the downtime was planned, or at least it has been noticed and someone is fixing it.
When you’re away, a simple vacation auto responder sends the same message. Be sure to let everyone know that you’re away, and their expectation for you to reply will be much lower.
Avoid the temptation to be busy.
Have you ever installed an update on your computer and gotten a popup message like: “Chrome cannot be open during installation. Please close the program to continue.”
When you’re rebooting, you need to close everything else. So, avoid the temptation to schedule activities while you’re away.
Instead, catch up on sleep. Go for a walk outside. Spend some time in silence, with nothing competing for your attention, so that you get home recharged and you don’t need a vacation from your vacation.
Schedule more downtime than you need.
During our last release, we told users that we would be offline for five hours. In reality, the app was only down for an hour and 44 minutes, but we left plenty of time to handle any unexpected issues.
Do the same thing when you’re planning to unplug from your business. Schedule more vacations than you plan to take — you can always cancel a trip last minute if there’s an important project at work, but it hurts more if it’s your only vacation.
And, come back earlier than anyone expects you to come back, so that you can unpack and get a full night of sleep before you’re back to the grind.
Scheduled maintenance is a necessary part of running a business. Without it, our systems would crash.
Take the time to reboot yourself on occasion, and you too will see an upgrade in performance.