Most entrepreneurs think of their lives in terms of daily commitments, and for good reason—you have a massive (and growing) to-do list, and likely function on the traditional model of the five-day workweek. Accordingly, entrepreneurs try to set schedules, make lists and focus on tasks one day at a time.
There’s a problem with this approach, however—getting caught in daily or weekly routines limits you from engaging in irregular or occasional activities, some of which could have a profound impact on your life, both personally and professionally. Because of this natural bias, it’s important that entrepreneurs make time for annual (or multi-annual) commitments to improve themselves and live fuller lives.
Annual tasks, goals and commitments
As an entrepreneur, you should engage in the following practices at least once a year:
1. Take a full vacation.
No matter how busy you are or how much you insist that you love your work, taking a vacation is important for your mental health. At least once a year, take a “real” vacation—that means spending several days away from work with no communication whatsoever (with special exceptions for genuine emergencies). Too many entrepreneurs take soft vacations, stepping away from the office but still getting distracted by emails and other responsibilities. Don’t do this; take time for yourself to relax, decompress and do things you enjoy. Doing so will keep you from burning out and will reduce your stress levels, boosting your productivity and happiness when you return to the office.
2. Travel abroad.
While you’re on vacation, or maybe during a business trip, travel to a different country. There are profound cultural and social differences between different countries of the world, and traveling abroad will introduce you to those differences. This is a rewarding experience, as it will expand your perspective and understanding of the world, and may even introduce you to new ideas. If you’re worried about the cost of traveling abroad, think again—it’s easier than you might think to find cheap flights, and once you get to your destination, there are always free options, like walking tours, to enjoy.
3. Edit your original business plan.
Your business plan serves as the foundation for your company, and when you first write it, you might imagine it lasting forever. However, your business environment changes more than you think—new competitors, new technologies and new information about your customers can all play a major role in how your business plan takes shape. Take time at least once a year to review your business plan and make adjustments as you see fit—you may be surprised how much information needs to be updated or changed.
4. Treat your staff.
It’s extremely rare for any business owner to find success on his or her own. More often, they rely on a talented, dedicated team of employees to help make their visions a reality. It’s important to build morale by rewarding your staff for jobs well done, but it’s easy to lose sight of their accomplishments in day-to-day activities. At least once a year, take the time and money to reward your staff properly—take them out to an appreciation dinner, or host a small office party to celebrate your achievements. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but it should show your team members how much you value them.
5. Rebalance your investments.
If you’re smart with your money, your business isn’t your only financial consideration. Chances are, you’re funneling money into other investments, whether that means investing in equities, real estate or ownership stakes in other small businesses. Every year, you’ll get a little closer to retirement, so it’s important to shift your assets from growth-oriented targets to more conservative, less risky targets. Doing so will help you hedge your bets for the future, and better optimize your financial assets for your needs. You may also take this time to consider your future with the company, including how to transition control.
Holding yourself accountable
It’s hard to keep track of these annual commitments, so mark your calendar months in advance if you have to. Since they only happen once or twice a year, it can be easy to procrastinate; it always seems like you have more time to accomplish them. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap of thinking—make time for these annual ventures, or you’ll miss out on all the opportunities they present.