How to Take Time Off in Your Private Practice

We are just coming back from having the month of December off and as we ease back into the saddle of running a business, I find it so relevant to talk about time off instead of the typical New Year's resolution fan fare.

Before the year ended I set aside some time to plan my 2016. The first thing I did was get out my calendar and block off my time off. I blocked off 4 months total. Eek! Does that make you freak out? I am freaking out a little bit, I must admit. But I want to show you how to do this because this is one of the biggest advantages of running your own business -you set your schedule. Don't worry we will talk about what it means in terms of your clients as well.

First you must know, this is newer for me. We tested the waters last year by not working one month during the summer. It was so amazing but I had to ease into it. So maybe 4 months isn't going to be your thing, but some time off is necessary, dare I say required if you want to sustain your practice. So it's fine to work your way up to large chunks of time off.

I also don't take time off perfectly. One month I still saw a few clients and I handled questions from my assistant who was training. But I decided to take a risk and share with you what I have learned before I have perfected the process. 

4 months really? Are you sure?

Yes. It can feel foreign at first to think about.  Why? In the US, we don't take time off like other countries. In Brazil, you have 41 paid days of vacation. That is 9 weeks of M-F almost. So how am I really doing this? I don't work Fridays anymore. So that right there is a month in total. I am blocking off the month of June and the month of December. Ok now we are at 3 months total. Lastly I have 4 random weeks planned off as well that coincide with my husband's teaching schedule. So 4 months, spread out and chunked together, fitting into my family schedule and allowing for some serious travel time. 

"But I am a therapist and my clients need me!"

I am too, I get it. My clients need a me that is taking good care of myself and they benefit from the opportunity of taking a break and coming back to dig in again. I don't take clients that would not fit into my practice. If you see clients that need intense support, it might change how you take the time off. Such as only work 3 days per week and giving yourself a 4 day weekend. This is something to consider when doing your business planning. 

The biggest lesson I have learned is : Preparation is key.

Have a back up therapist in place. You need to be able to turn off your phone. It isn't healthy to be on call for life. It's not realistic. Life happens and there will be moments where you just can't be available. Prepare your clients for this and have support for them in other ways. 

Put your time off in your informed consent. Let them know you don't work Fridays and you will respond to messages the following Monday. Tell them you generally take off 4 weeks during the summer and share the plan you have in place to support them. There is no greater accountability than putting it in paper and having it signed that you are going to do something. 

Set your fees to sustain time off. When factoring in the fee you want to charge for example $100/hr, remember you will be off, they will get sick, so be conservative. For example - calculate 40 weeks out of the year when figuring out your income goals. 

Get your processes in place. Set up automated email responders letting people know you are out of town. Write your blogs in advance. Use social media tools to still engage your audience when you are off the grid. 

The other big lesson I learned: You will never be prepared enough.

You will forget something and have to resolve it on your time off or just learn for the next go around. But if you are waiting for some magical perfect place in life to be able to take time off, it may never happen. Do your best.

 Some of you have no trouble at all with taking time off and I think that is frankly just awesome! I love my work but I am finding I love my work and life balance more and my life has been deeply enriched by being more intentional with both sides of the coin. 

I want to encourage you - look at your 2016 and just see...are you taking care of you this year?