Why Entrepreneurs Need Sick Days Too

Last year, to mark my one-year anniversary as a full-time entrepreneur, I wrote a blog post outlining some of the top business lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Although I’ve got some new lessons I could add to that list as I celebrate my two-year anniversary, I realize how much I’m still growing and improving at the items I originally outlined.

In fact, there’s one lesson I seem to struggle with most – embracing my freedom.

Despite freedom being one of the big reasons I decided to quit “working for the man”, I still have trouble giving myself permission to take time off.

And, I’m not just talking about taking a vacation. This also includes giving myself a sick day or two.

Last week, I was forced to learn this lesson in a big way as I suffered a nasty cold that utterly crippled me.

At first, I tried to work through it like I normally do. After all, since I have location independent business, I could still work in my jammies while sitting on the couch in a mountain of tissues, right?

Not this time.

When I had to end a conference call because I couldn’t stop coughing, I realized it was time to throw in the towel.

Business Owners: Take a Sick Day

If you’re a business owner or leader in your organization, you’ve likely experienced this before. You think that by soldiering on through your work while you’re sick, you can prove that you’re the tough guy and show your dedication to the job. Or, you feel that the show can’t go one without you.

Sometimes, this works. But other times, it completely backfires.

You suffer. Your work suffers. And everyone around you suffers.

Not to mention, it will probably take you twice as long to recover and you might just get the people around you sick.

Running a Business While You’re Sick

I can’t say that I have this all figured out, but I learned a thing or two after being sick most of last week. So, if you happen to pick up the nasty cold or flu that’s going around, perhaps you can learn from my mistakes and how I coped with it.

1. Stop before it gets worse.

If you feel that you’re starting to get sick, take preventative measures. Take your vitamins. Drink more water. And, by all means, stop working a little earlier than you normally would.

I wish I had done that. If I had, I might have been able to nip my sickness in the bud and get back to work that much sooner.

2. Keep your clients and colleagues informed.

When I finally decided to stop working, the first thing I did was email my clients, vendor partners and team to let them know I would be taking a few days off to recover, but was available if they had an urgent need.

And you know what? I didn’t receive one phone call. In fact, I received a number of kind emails wishing me well.

It helps to have an amazing roster of clients. But, I also discovered that most people completely understand and just want you to get better.

3. Lean on your team.

When I asked my friends on Facebook how they cope with being sick, several of them mentioned the importance of having a team of support.

Although I’m still working on building my team, I definitely saw the value of having people in place that could help move projects forward without my involvement.

If you have a team, trust them to do the job! And, if you don’t, focus on building your support network so you have the right people in place to help you when you need it.

4. Give yourself permission to rest.

Once you let people know you are taking a sick day or two, actually stop working!

The first day, this was easy to do because I felt so miserable I could hardly think. As I started to get a little better, this became more difficult. But, I knew that if I jumped back in too early, I would just get worse.

I forced myself to take it slow so I could get better and get back to giving my clients my best effort. It also helped that I gave myself a big enough window to recover so I didn’t feel like I had to get back to work sooner than I was truly able to. That made a huge difference too.

I’m still getting over the remnants of this bug, but I’m much, much better than I was a week ago.

Thanks to this cold, I realized how important it is to take time off when you need it. After all, one of my guiding principles this year is to rest well.

Perhaps if I get better at that, I won’t have to worry about getting sick in the first place.

What about you? How do you cope with running a business while you’re sick?

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  • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

    I have a quick story: In 2007, my team and I flew down to Atlanta to conduct a satellite media tour in the parking lot of the Home Depot headquarters. You well know how that goes – we got up super early and prepped and then our expert began doing morning show interviews. Our production team had set up two tents in the parking lot – one for the expert and the cameras and one to serve as the green room. I was sitting in the latter – headphones on – watching him interview and then prepping him for the following TV program.

    It was pretty windy out, but it wasn’t interfering with the sound quality so we didn’t pay it much attention. Suddenly a gust came up and blew the tent side down. As that happened, the big B&W monitor I was watching fell off the TV tray it was sitting on and landed on my foot.

    I had a compound fracture which one of my AEs quickly covered with a garbage bag so I wouldn’t see the bone sticking out of my foot. Our client went to Walgreens to buy an ice pack and bandaids (we still laugh about that today). Finally, after about an hour of wobbling around and getting so sick, I had to throw up in the bushes, the CEO’s wife took me to the emergency room.

    They patched me up and sent me home on crutches. But that’s not the end…

    We had a HUGE new business pitch two days later. I was still taking pain medication. I was still trying to get used to using the crutches. And, instead of sending my team without me (to be fair, the prospect said they wouldn’t come to us, even though they were in the city and they wouldn’t see us without my being there), I went to the meeting.

    We didn’t win the business.

    What that taught me is sometimes you just have to take a sick day.

    • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      Whoa. That is quite a story, Gini!

      First, the foot story is absolutely crazy. What are the chances something like that would happen?! That’s just nuts!

      Second, I can’t believe the prospect wouldn’t budge on the meeting location or your ability to be there. That just shows that they wouldn’t have been a good client anyway. Can you imagine how difficult they might have been??? It’s stories like this that help us get better at detecting who will be a good fit and who won’t. Or, as you said, when you should just take a sick day.

      It’s funny – sometimes the things that make people great entrepreneurs (work ethic, persistence, etc.) can be the very things that cause us trouble!

      I just hate that you had to learn this lesson is such an incredible fashion, Gini!