We’ve all bought into the dream.

You know the one. With the attractive pictures. Of you (or me) sipping a pina colada, resting on the beach, while cash pours into our bank accounts because we run an auto-pilot home business on the Internet.

We’ve all realized it isn’t as rosy a dream to live through.

Reality bites. Early. Web entrepreneurs discover that there’s a ton of work to put in first, before that dream of relaxing on the beach comes true. And so, some of them give up and abandon the dream. The rest of us put our head down, nose to the grindstone, and prepare to give it our best shot.

Everyone Needs To Relax

You may enjoy the work you do. Or some parts of it, at least. The rest becomes a “necessary evil”. But hey, someone’s got to do it.

As you grow more successful, outsourcing the bits you no longer enjoy becomes an option. And then, things become much more fun.

It’s fortunate that I found the work I love to do. It’s also no accident. It happened intentionally. In little steps. Saying “No” to one thing after another as I found it wasn’t as much fun or exciting as it first appeared.

But even if most of my ‘working day’ is filled with things I enjoy doing, it’s still necessary to take some time off to relax. To tune out. Turn off. Shut down. And do something different.

As we near the end of every year, we tend to look back on the past 12 months to evaluate and assess what sort of progress we’ve made. Surely you do something of the kind too. It’s only natural. The period of introspection and analysis gives us some valuable feedback on how we’ve been performing, plus a healthy dose of motivation and direction for what we plan to do in the year ahead.

This year, a question I’ve added to my checklist is:

Did you take enough time to relax?

And my answer was a resounding “Yes”.

Here’s why that’s such a good thing.

Why Relaxing Matters

Running a business, even an online business that’s not too big, can be a roller-coaster ride.

Exciting highs. Heart-breaking lows. And as we juggle responsibilities, fit all we have to do into a crowded and shrinking work day, shifting and adapting to a constantly changing playground, battling the effects of recessionary trends or hungry new competition, we experience stress.

If it keeps on accumulating, we start to feel the ill effects. Sagging enthusiasm. Frequent tiredness. Fading optimism. Bleaker outlook for the future. Even serious health problems.

Relaxing frequently has never been more important. Here are some reasons why.

* De-stress: Functioning under a constant burden of stress is like trying to fly an airplane with the wheels unlocked and the flaps down. There’s more ‘drag’ and greater resistance against which much of your energy is wasted.

* Get Creative: Your best ideas often pop-up when you’re most relaxed and in free thinking mode. While working under adverse conditions may provide an adrenaline surge to meet deadlines, it really isn’t a great way to spur creativity.

* Evaluate and Assess: Relaxing from time to time lets you spend some time reviewing your performance and seeing how well things are going. Do they need adjustment? Is some part out of balance? Are you doing what needs to be done? Should you delegate stuff? These answers are easier to find while you relax.

* Celebrate: Taking time in your hectic schedule to break away from work and rejoice in what you’ve accomplished can be a forceful drive to achieve even more. If you can’t do this daily, shoot for at least once a week. And if you can’t find something big to celebrate, why, revere the small ones!

* Rejuvenate: A short ‘vacation’ from the hustle and bustle of your typical work-day can help ignite the passion and excitement that got you started and fired you up in the early days, when running a business wasn’t so much a chore as a joyous adventure. Capture that spirit, in a small way, through relaxing breaks from the routine.

How Can You Relax While Running a Business?

So you’re convinced that you need to relax. But you’re (very reasonably) concerned about how to go about it. I mean, someone’s got to mind the office, right?

Well, yes. But the nice part about running an Internet based business is that many components of your routine can be handled through a combination of automation and outsourcing.

No two businesses are exactly alike, and you may have unique needs that won’t fit a mold. But if you look hard enough and critically enough at your current processes and systems, you’ll realize there are some which are repetitive enough to automate – and others that are well-documented and streamlined enough to hand over to a helper.

Take inbound email, for instance. You can set up rules in your email client that handle specific messages with standard sequences. A query from a customer can be routed to be automatically dealt with by a software script that replies to the email with a set of frequently asked questions, and a link to use in case the answers aren’t in it.

A complaint or request for assistance can be routed to a help desk manned by outsourced employees or assistants who can respond using pre-defined templates. So even without you in the office to deal with email, most queries get handled promptly.

You can replicate a similar system across various activities and responsibilities that keep you tied to your desk all day. Definitely this takes some planning and action. You will have to analyze your present system, document the way you handle specific issues, and see if they lend themselves to either automation or outsourcing.

Sooner or later, your online business will reach a point where this becomes necessary if you are to scale and grow. Or even if you are to find much needed respite from the daily grind in the midst of managing your successful business.

Being proactive about seeking out and identifying areas for optimization, and then putting systems into place that will leave you out of the picture, can help you take relaxing breaks without compromising the efficiency of your business in any way.

Dr. Mani

Photo courtesy of Lost in the RP on Flickr.