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  • Deb Zahn

Getting Over Your Over-Worked Consulting Self and Taking a Real Vacation

Updated: May 16

A few months after becoming a consultant, I was working on a project led by a more seasoned consultant. I was lucky! He was a big deal, and other consultants were eager to work with him.


I threw myself into the project. I was eager to impress him. I loved the client. Plus, I was still trying to get my confidence back after a rough start of not getting business.


Fast forward a few months. I was heading out on a much-needed, pre-scheduled vacation with my family.


“Don’t worry,” I told him. “I am available if you need me. Just text me, and I can step away to call you.”


“You need to get over yourself,” he said.


Uh…what?


“Take a vacation and ignore this project.”



I continued to assure him I would be available. I couldn’t stop myself.


“Don’t be offended by what I’m about to say, but this project can survive without you,” he said.


Ouch!


He then told me a story that changed what I do to this day.


Forced Boundaries

Before consulting, he ran a big agency for over a decade. He oversaw a multi-billion dollar budget. He had a huge staff under him.


He worked constantly. He didn’t take time off. He worked when he was sick. He knew the agency could not function without him.


Sadly, it all took a toll on his health, and he had a major health crisis that stopped him in his tracks. He was forced to stop working and recover. His life literally depended on him letting go.


He said he was 100% positive that everything would come crashing down without him.


And then it didn’t.


Things weren’t exactly as he wanted them, but there were no major crises.


He said that at first it was terribly humbling, to realize that you aren’t as indispensable as you thought you were.


And then he realized that it was freeing. He didn’t have to work all the time and neglect his health and life.


His job was still demanding and stressful, but he started exercising and spending more time away from work. His health got better. His life improved.


And everything at work was just fine.


“If I could step away from that job and take time off, so can you,” he said.


Letting Go and Adjusting

He was right. I took my vacation. Almost everything went smoothly, and what didn’t was handled by others or truly could wait until I got back.


As lovely as that was, it did make me adjust my concept of myself and my importance. I had to find the sweet spot between embracing the freedom of not always having to be on and not devaluing myself.


It wasn’t always easy to find that spot.


When I worked in jobs, I kept hearing how essential it was to make sure your boss could never live without you. So that’s what I did. And my health and life suffered because of it.


My assumption was I had to do the same thing as a consultant. Make your clients need you every waking hour for as long as you can!


Aside from doing your clients a disservice by trying to make them unnecessarily dependent on you, this is no way to have a sustainable consulting business that supports a sustainable life.


For the last decade, I have taken many vacations and days off without getting sucked into work or even checking in. I don’t check email, and I tell people not to text me.


I don’t do it willy-nilly. I plan ahead when I can. I ask for help and get back up when I need it. I don’t overload my schedule with too much or unnecessary activities so there’s no give when something unexpected comes up.


And guess what?


Everything has been just fine. It has not diminished my success as a consultant one little bit.


Rather, it has made me a better consultant.


When I get out of Dodge and take in more of what the world has to offer or even just crawl into my introvert’s cocoon to recharge, I come back refreshed and able to bring my best to my clients. I do better work. I’m more creative. And I carry more attentiveness and joy into my interactions.


So…See Ya in 2 Weeks!

With that…next week I will be taking a 2-week vacation. After 2 weeks off (really off), I’ll be far more palatable for human consumption and ready to reengage. :)


Now It's Your Turn

When are you taking off?


Or do you feel like you are too bust and never have time to do everything you need to do.


But is everything you're doing now really worth it? Worth your time and energy?


One way you can free yourself up to take time off is to eliminate activities and people that don’t add any or enough value to your life, you consulting business, or your clients.


Are you in regular meetings that could be done by email or don’t need to happen at all?


Are you spending time or not setting boundaries with people who just suck away your time, energy, and focus without doing anything helpful for you, your business, or your clients?


Are you reaching out to people for business even though you know that it likely won't yield a contract?


Are you wasting time doing proposals and bidding on projects that you aren’t a fit for and will likely never get?


Are you getting sucked into social media vortexes that steal your time and focus?


Are you still doing business tasks that could be deleted, delegated, or automated?


If so...


It's time to purge!


Get Your Time and Energy Back

Getting rid of those things will not only serve your consulting business, but also bring more balance to your life, including creating room for taking time off.


So ask yourself: What can you say no to that frees you up to say yes to what you want more?


Not sure?


Download the free tool to make to help you decide what to stop doing and follow through on those choices.




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