Do you ever feel overwhelmed, and you just need to step away and take some time to yourself? Maybe you still intend to work, but you just want some quiet time away from other people while you do so you can recharge and clear your head a bit. When that happens, what should you do with your professional website?
You might be inclined to leave your site alone for a few days to a week. But there are other options that can give you peace of mind and the temporary isolation you crave without costing you work.
Taking a Social Break Without Interfering with Business
As of yesterday, I'm on one of these isolation periods to sort some things out. I've been having an especially rough time since mid-January (not that the previous year was much better). Then last week something came to my attention, and doing what needed to be done was hard and left me feeling a million times worse. It got to be a bit too much.
Normally when life gets overwhelming, I just take some time off work as soon as I can. But even if the downtime feels good in the moment, it never seems to help with the larger issue. That's because what I need time away from isn't writing. It's people -- especially when they're constant unintentional reminders of what I need to forget.
So, until someone develops a pill that can give me selective amnesia, I'm trying something different.
I'm taking a "quiet week" -- no interacting on social media, almost no emails, ignoring my phone, not checking blog comments, staying away from Skype, etc.
That doesn't mean I'm totally unplugging. It doesn't mean I won't be working. I just need time away from the social side of things -- friends, family, colleagues, everyone. About half of my work will be finished early so I can spend more time sleeping, in nature, and trying to get myself back into some creative projects.
This isn't the first time I've done this exactly. But in the past it was always about me wanting to sink that time into a passion project with no distractions. And it's worked very well for that.
But taking this kind of social break can involve some preparation, including with your professional site. After all, the entire point of it is to connect you with other people. So when taking a break like this, you might want to take some precautions so you don't put off prospects, clients, followers, or subscribers. And that's what I spent this weekend doing.
Here are some of the things I did, and decisions I made, to make sure my professional website and related resources keep working for me even while I'm not actively monitoring them:
Blog posts are pre-scheduled.
With me just recently getting my client-focused blog back on track, I didn't want to take the week off from blogging. So I wrote and pre-scheduled this week's two posts. I also pre-scheduled posts for all other blogs due to be updated this week.
Actually, I took that a step further and scheduled posts on my client-centered blog for the rest of this month, as I mentioned wanting to do in my recent post on the changes I wanted to make to my freelance writer website.
If you bulk-write evergreen content for your professional blog and schedule it in a platform like WordPress, you can step away from the site while your prospects or subscribers still get the content they expect.
I'm ignoring comments for one week.
If you get a lot of comments on your blog, you'll have to decide how to deal with those. In my case, there are rarely comments on that particular blog, so I'm not worried about it. It's unlikely anyone would be affected there anyway. And on my other blogs, most commenters are auto-approved (unless it's their first one), so again it won't affect many, if any, readers.
If your situation is different, you might opt to approve them less often, or change your auto-approval settings while you're away so you don't keep people waiting in moderation.
Email auto-checks are being adjusted.
I have my email software check all of my accounts on-and-off throughout the day. But I don't intend to check any personal emails or site-related emails for my blogs this week. And I know if I see those emails come in, I'm going feel tempted to dig into the inevitable pile of messages.
So for this week I'm changing my settings. My site and personal accounts won't be auto-checked at all (I'd have to be weak enough to manually do it to get sucked down that hole). The only exception will be emails coming through my client address -- how current clients reach me, and what my contact form sends project briefs and quote requests through.
In other words, the only emails I'll likely deal with are responding with quotes, discussing delivered work with clients if they have questions or edit requests, and hashing out details on a couple of projects scheduled for the following week. That's it.
I'm also disabling email notifications and auto-checks on my mobile. If you want to cut email ties for a few days, make sure you check your settings anywhere you have access to email.
Email newsletters & social media updates are being scheduled.
While this blog isn't my professional site, here's a tip you can use on yours if you have an email newsletter -- schedule your emails ahead of time.
For example, there are daily and weekly subscriber emails to send when new posts go up here. I now send short manual updates to share posts. So I wrote them ahead of time, as I was writing and scheduling the articles themselves.
The only risk is if you mess up scheduling somehow or if you run into technical issues that prevent a post from going live before the email goes out. I haven't seen that happen in years though, so I'm comfortable taking that chance. Knock on wood.
If you stick with RSS-based blog emails (what I recently switched from), you won't even have to do that much. Your emails should still go out without any additional input from you.
You can do the same with some social media updates. In my case, I mostly share new posts on Twitter. So I'm simply scheduling post announcements using TweetDeck.
I thought about still posting job leads to Twitter, but I'm opting against it because using the social network at all during this week is very likely to suck me in reading updates that I'm trying to take a break from. But they'll still go up on the job board itself.
In your case, you might have updates that need to be dealt with in real-time. And that's okay. If you're trying to limit that time though, consider a once-a-day policy for a while, so you can post, schedule and respond without getting pulled into constant social media discussions.
Here are some other things you can do.
Those changes are going to go a long way to simplifying my life this week and giving me a relatively quiet existence. But there's more you can do to make sure a break doesn't negatively impact your own business too much, whether that's taking some time to recharge, going on vacation, or needing some sick time.
- If your break will impact clients at all, let them know as early as you can.
- If you can't take on all paid work, refer a trusted colleague or hire a sub-contractor to help out for a short period.
- If you plan to ease off email and it will take you a little longer than usual to respond, set up an auto-responder so prospects know what to expect.
- You can also update your contact page with a longer response estimate than usual (such as 48 business hours instead of 24, just temporarily).
- If there's no time to write posts ahead of time for your blog, ask a colleague if they're interested in guest posting. You can return the favor later if they need it.
- Another option is to check your older posts. If something is timely again, consider minor updates and a fresh publication date instead of writing a new post from scratch.
- While I don't particularly care for this option, if you need to automate social media updates when scheduled posts go live, you can use a third party service to set this up (rather than manually writing and scheduling updates as I'm doing).
- If you normally have your phone number on your site, but you don't want to deal with unscheduled calls during your break, remove it while you're gone. Instead direct people to email you to set up a call. (This has been my standard practice for years, and it's never been a problem.)
- If you maintain an availability calendar on your site, go ahead and update it to show your time that week is accounted for. All that matters on their end is whether you're available or not. It's no one's business who you've scheduled appointments and projects with, even if it's with yourself.
You probably won't need to do all of these things. Just decide on the type and extent of break you need, then tailor some of these suggestions to your own schedule and client expectations. There's no reason taking some "me time" has to mean giving up prospects or projects you'd otherwise love to take on. In a sense, you can be available... even when you're not.
Have you ever done something like this? Did you make any changes to your professional site, how it's promoted, or the contacts that come through it? If you have other tips, tools, or ideas, I'd love to hear about them in the comments. In the meantime, I'll be back with a new post in a couple of days. And, as of now, I expect to be back fully next Monday.