In SPI 467, I talked to Kristen at Bearfoot Theory, who took a months-long sabbatical from work at the end of 2020—four months disconnected from her business!— and managed to make money even while she was away. We all need a break from time to time, and for those of us who own and manage our businesses on a day-to-day basis, it can be a real challenge to even think about stepping away for an extended time. This can feel overwhelming and stressful and trust me, I've been there. Finding a healthy work and life balance has not always been easy for me.
After a vacation to Hawaii a couple of years ago, I realized I had a near-impossible time disconnecting completely from work. I even took all my podcasting equipment with me to record an episode while I was there. (Not cool, Pat.) This kept me from fully relaxing and enjoying the precious time I had away with my family.
Since then, I've put a good deal of thought into how my next vacation can be different. Today, I'll take a deep dive into the strategies my team and I have created to set the business up for success when I need to step away, unplug, and recharge.
- My own struggles with unplugging from work
- Books that have inspired the way I manage my working time
- The importance of SOPs and how they can keep work running smoothly, no matter what
- Why your team is the magic ingredient to ensuring your business runs without you
SPI 468: When I've Failed at Work & Life Balance
Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it's all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host, he's had a lucid dream once in his life and has yet to ever make it happen again, Pat Flynn.
Sometimes we just got to take a break and if you've ever felt overwhelmed, if you've ever felt like you were drowning in the work that you were doing, or just life in general, it's important to walk away for just a little bit sometimes to take a breath, to take a breather, and maybe that sometimes is going to be just a walk during the day, or maybe it's going to be a whole month off to just escape and then come back with even more energy.
If you listened to the previous episode with Kristen Bor from Bearfoot Theory, that is episode 467, you will have heard her story about how she took an entire month off near the end of 2020 and all the amazing things that happened to her as a result. How much more clarity she had, a lot more things that she could do to just bring more energy back to her business, and even though she walked away from her business for an entire month, she actually made a lot of money. In fact, more money than she ever had before.
Which is the dream, right? The ability to walk away from business for just a little bit of time and come back to it even stronger and see that the business, not just didn't crumble, but actually was able to thrive.
We did talk a little bit in that episode, again make sure you listen to the episode if you haven't already, about how she did this. But I wanted to explore a little bit more deeply today in our follow-up Friday episode here on the Smart Passive Income Podcast, about how we can make sure and ensure that when we approach these breaks, we're doing it right, and how we can get over the fear that we might have about walking away from a business and potentially having it crumble.
In most cases, we often think about the worst case scenario of things and then we start telling ourselves that that's what's going to happen and that story that's just completely made up begins to start to be something that dictates what it is that we do or what we don't do. And that's not cool, right? So, I wanted to share a story with you to start with. And this is a story about Hawaii. I love Hawaii. I have a couple kids with Hawaiian names. No, we are not Hawaiian. We just love it so much. My wife and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon.
But we continue to go back. And so we went back in 2019, back when we could travel. And I remember specifically thinking, okay, for this week, just one week, I'm going to unplug as much as I can. In fact, I want to unplug entirely. It was vacation during the summer and of course the business was running and I had multiple businesses, the Switch Pod was just thriving right at this time. So, I had a lot of things to think about, but I knew it was going to be important for me to walk away and to escape for a little bit with the family and just be fully engaged with them. And if I were to grade my vacation in 2019 in Hawaii in terms of how well did I unplug, I would probably grade myself a C. It's a pass. I did unplug, but not entirely. And that's not okay because it didn't really serve the purpose of what we had talked about in the last episode with Kristen or with this idea of stepping away fully so that you can come back with even more energy. In retrospect, I'm trying to think about why I didn't unplug.
Part of it is just because of who I am in nature. It's very difficult for me to not think about the things that I'm most excited about, and I'm always excited about my business. Part of it perhaps is trust issues with the people who are in the business. And that's not fair because I did set up the business in a way for me to walk away. And it's almost unfair to feel like I always have to be watching over people and making sure that things are okay and that there's no fires going on. I mean, literally, I remember waking up, looking out the window, feeling the cool tropical breeze in the warm sun, it's like a perfect combo, and then checking my email. Not cool, Pat, not cool.
There were times where we were on excursions. We went through an amazing aqueduct system in the Big Island and it was beautiful. That entire time, because it was completely engaging, I did not look at my phone. I did not think about my business. I was with my family entirely at the time. But of course, later that evening, going back into the hotel room, pick up the phone, just check to make sure everything's okay. And that's not fair to the team. They've been put in place to be responsible for certain things and it's almost feeling like, well, do I not trust them enough?
And of course, if there is an emergency of any kind, this is the first fail-safe here, is that if there's anything that's like absolutely a 911 red alert emergency, they have my number. And this is something that I've told my assistant Jess and even people on my team now, if ever I do step away, now I know nothing's on fire because I haven't gotten a message about it.
And so I'm less likely to now check my phone or to check email or to work on something while I'm there. Another issue that I had was actually brought equipment to record a podcast episode. Yeah. To Hawaii. There was an episode of the podcast not too long ago that featured Stu McLaren, an amazing person when it comes to how to create membership communities and paid communities and such. And the only time that he was available was when I was on this trip.
So, I took this equipment and I set it up and it was actually I made more of a big deal than it had to be. I actually turned it into an entire video series of how I was able to record a podcast on the go. So, here I was, late at night in the hotel room while the kids were asleep, creating a video showing off all my equipment and the equipment that I used to record this.
This does not sound like a vacation, does it? Not cool. And then again, in retrospect thinking about it, definitely wish I had done it differently. Because the truth is I could have got Stu later. The truth is nothing was going to break because I have this amazing team that's behind me. And it wasn't fair to my family. Wasn't fair to my family. And even though at the times when I was working was when the family was napping or doing something else or asleep or whatnot, still not cool for me, mentally.
Because I have to take a break. This is what the biggest realization from Kristen's episode was, was that she didn't have to take the sabbatical, but she needed to take the sabbatical. And she only knew that for real when she came back and realized, "Wow, all these new opportunities opened up as a result." She was able to learn a new skill that she could then bring back into the business. She had more joy and had a lot more energy to go back into it.
And for me thinking about this particular trip, and this is not the first time where I went on a trip and still did work. I could have come back with more renewed energy like we do every single year when we hit New Years and we have this renewed energy because it's a new year. New year, new you sometimes. And I think that we could take that approach when we take these little sabbaticals. Whether they're one day off or a month off.
I know Michael Hyatt, somebody who I admire greatly, who has inspired me to build a team, who's inspired me to treat my business in the way that I do, and have family be a part of it as well. He takes a two month break. Yet his business has way more team members, makes a lot more money, and so it's not impossible.
So, I want to give you some resources to help you, because in the episode with Kristen, we didn't talk super deeply about how to go about doing this, but I want to make sure that we understand if we need the roadmap on how to actually get the business to a point where we can take four weeks off, for example, then what do we need to do?
Well, there's a book by a man named Mike Michalowicz who will be on the podcast very soon. He is the author of Clockwork, but he's also the author of several other books too. One that you may have heard of before called Profit First. And his book Clockwork is just as important, if not even more important, than Profit First. Because in addition to Profit First, we have to think about our mental health first, in my opinion, right?
So this book, it actually challenges you, and it challenges you to consider how you might be able to form your business or mold your business in a way where you can take a four week sabbatical or just take time for four weeks off where the business will continue to run and even thrive. I know Kristin read it. A lot of people who are in my accelerator program read it, we all read it together. And it is a book I highly recommend to you too as well. And Clockwork, the idea behind it is to be able to understand the moving parts of your business and how to keep things ticking like a clock, even when you're not there.
And this involves a couple of other things that I want to talk about. Number one is creating systems in your business. The way to start removing yourself from the work that you do, yet still have those things happen, or to have the ability to do things more efficiently, is to literally learn about the systems. You create systems by understanding the things that have to be repeated in the business that you have, whether it be you recording a podcast episode and having a system behind that, recording YouTube videos and having a system behind that, managing your finances and having a system about that. Whatever it is it might be.
From team meetings and the governance of your business, to the finances, to the content that you create, to the products that you create, to the systems to create an online course that you can create multiple. You save time and you save money, but also, you create your ability to have what's called standard operating procedures, or SOPs as they're known. And SOPs are great because they become the formula for how, not just you, but how anybody on your team can get a certain task done.
And SOPs are something that can be made a little bit rough, right? Here's just the checklist of all the things we need to do when we create a podcast episode. Or they can be formalized and systematized even more. You can put them into a tool like Trello or Monday.com or Notion. And those tools allow for other people to be involved and to even see these lists, these to-do lists, these systems. To be able to go down the line and have them done. And this is something that helps ensure two things.
Number one, that every time something is done, it's done the same way. This is why McDonald's is the way it is. There's a specific standard operating procedure for when you buy a McDonald's franchise, you do it this way. This is how they keep things the same, no matter what. You can get your chicken nuggets here, they're going to taste the same as the chicken nuggets there. And yes, you might still also get Pokemon cards to go along with them too, unless they're out.
And the SOPs, these systems, help you when it comes to hiring. So even if you're a solopreneur, creating a system for yourself then allows you to go, "Okay, person who I just hired. I want to have this done. This is how to do it. Just go down the list. There's no confusion anymore."
I would however, recommend that if you're going to be working with a team and you give them an SOP that you've created for something, to empower them also to help make that SOP even better, to help make the process faster, more efficient, and done with more quality. Because these people who you might hire might actually be better and faster than you were. And that empowers them and gives them responsibility and makes them feel more a part of the process as well, whether they're contracted or employees too. So that's SOPs.
But as we finish up here with this conversation, let's talk about your team. Because your team is really the magic behind how you can create these things in an automated fashion. Yes, you can just have tools. You can have systems, you can have software do a lot of this for you. This takes me back to when I first started my business online, back in 2008. Helping people pass an architectural exam. I had a system in place, very much inspired by Tim Ferriss and the four Hour Work Week. No, he does not have four hour work weeks. But it's just this idea that you can build systems, that you can have a team, that you can have software, that can remove yourself from your business, so that potentially you could have a four hour work week.
But no. He's even said that name has gotten him in trouble because it's not actually about the four hour work week. It's about the systems that you put into place. But in addition to software like I had when I built my business, people could buy my e-book or audio book to help them pass an architectural exam. It would then get automatically delivered to them because of the system and software that I was using and then money would come into my PayPal account.
So, literally it was completely hands off. Still requires maintenance. There's nothing as 100%, fully, for life, automated, passive income. But it's definitely great when you can set these things up ahead of time and have these systems in place. Now there's going to be some cases where there's going to need to be people involved and this is where a lot of us feel trapped. We're building a business to get out of a trap only to put ourselves into a new trap because we are so involved in everything. And Clockwork will help you begin to understand how you can develop systems and a team and people to take yourself out of that process even more.
It's to a point now in my business where I can record a podcast episode, just like this one right here, and I can share it on Dropbox and as soon as that happens, a member of my team gets notified, they then edit the show, which then it gets put into another folder that then notifies the second person who's in charge of the podcast to then put it on our Buzzsprout Host, to then put it on a podcast page on our website, with the player and everything and everything's done. My only thing that I need to do is record these episodes or do these interviews. Everything else is taken care of.
Now that's something to work toward, but that wouldn't happen without my team, or without the people who you might be able to hire as a contractor who can then be a part of this system, right? But again, the beauty of this is when you have an SOP, a standard operating procedure, you can share it with others and you can have them get better at it. Or if somebody gets fired or laid off or you have to let people go, you can bring somebody else new in and they can just pick up right where you left off.
But it's this idea of removing yourself. And part of removing yourself is making others responsible for things. And that's where I've really started to see the business flourish, even as I take myself out of it. And this happens because certain team members are now stepping up and they're feeling responsible. And when they feel responsible, things get done. As long as it fulfills that commander's intent. Yes, here's how to do it, but see how you might be able to do it better, but this is the intent of the work that you're doing, let's get it done.
It's great because they can even get it done in a shorter period of time and get some more time off. It's not about how much time they're working. It's about the work that they do and how it adds to the value that we're offering our community. So, this is just a brain dump of things that come to mind as we listened to Kristin in episode 467. And this episode, I hope, gives you some at least strategies and starting points for what you can do to start to minimize the amount of effort that you're putting into the business, but maximizing your efficiencies, putting your work into the parts of your business that should be just you, and having other teams, software, tools, and of course systems in place to help you get to the point where you can take time off and the business can continue to run.
That is how you begin to start having passive income. Passive income is not something that you start out with. You can't go to the beach, open up your laptop in a hammock, like the cover of Four Hour Workweek, and begin to start making money. The business has to happen first, you have to solve people's problems, you have to create something, it's going to be very hands-on, especially if you're a consultant or coach or doing it hands-on as a service. Later, you can start adding team members, systems, standard, operating procedures to take yourself out of it. And then you can take those breaks that you need.
Business is about seasons. It's never going to be a straight shot from A to Z. It's never going to be perfectly at a certain mileage per hour, it's going to be seasons. So, there are going to be times where it's going to be all you. There's going to be times where it's going to be others supporting you. There's going to be times where you're going to need to work with them even harder to make sure that they're getting everything done the way it should be and that systems are put into place the way they should be.
And then there are seasons when you find that everything's working in concert, such that you could go to Hawaii and actually take time off and unplug without worry. And that's where that responsibility with the team comes from. It is not okay of me as the CEO of the company to worry if I've put that responsibility on somebody else. Something that they want to do, something that they're paid to do, that would mean that I'm not hiring for the right reasons. And I'm finally now at a point where I know that if I go on another trip, I can completely unplug and everything will just be fine, and I'll come back even stronger with even more excitement to bring to the energy with the podcast, the YouTube videos, the live streams, et cetera.
So, if you're going to take a sabbatical or you're thinking about doing this, no, you don't have to start with four weeks off like Kristen did, or what we talk about in Clockwork. What about a day? Start small and grow from there. And I just want to encourage you to, as you plan the rest of your year and each year, as you plan your future, to think about how you can bake in time for you. For your family, your loved ones, away from the work that is, yes, important. But unless you are at your best level, your work will not be at its best level either.
So, thank you so much for listening to this episode. I highly recommend you subscribe if you haven't already. Thank you so much. And I'm really, really enjoying these Follow-Up Friday episodes. They allow me to go a little bit deeper into a lot of the stuff that we cover in the midweek interview or midweek topic where I just don't want to distract or take time away from our special guests who we're just so honored to have on the show. So, Kristin, thank you so much for your inspiration. Looking forward to serving you in next week's episode. In fact, it's going to be a banger. I promise you. We have a special guest who's taken his passion and is making a goldmine out of it. And he's doing it in such a way where he's growing so fast. I uncover all those strategies and more, so make sure you hit subscribe if you haven't already. Thank you so much for all the support. I appreciate you and as always, Team Flynn for the win.
Thanks for listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast at www.SmartPassiveIncome.com.
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