Professional assistants work hard. Often very hard. 

VAs may have to serve many clients with different business needs. PAs and EAs may be serving several executives daily – and be expected to give each one their 100 per cent focus. 

When work is running at what feels like 120 miles an hour, every holiday is welcome. It’s important to have time to rest and relax. It’s good to have opportunities to travel, enjoy some sunshine or explore new places. 

However, taking a vacation is a bit trickier for the self-employed assistant. 

Employees are entitled to several weeks’ paid holiday every year. And they have the advantage of having colleagues who can help take care of things in their absence. 

For the self-employed, freelance and business-owning assistant, there are clients to consider. So, what’s one to do? 

Here are 7 Tips for ensuring a vacation really does mean time off the clock. 

Tip #1: Plan Ahead 

When self-employed or the boss of your own company, you get to choose what a holiday means for you. 

Will you take a break yet also keep one eye on work and tasks? Or will you take a proper holiday, whether at home or abroad? 

Whatever you choose, make sure you book time out from work in your calendar. Do it, whether you take just a couple of weeks a year or four and more. 

If you put it in the calendar at the start of each year, you’ll know you have a vacation or breaks to look forward to. And there’s flexibility to move things around if you want (but aim to avoid cancelling holiday time because of work pressures. Which defeats the object). 

When you know your holiday dates you can work around them.  

In the four to six weeks before a break starts, plan to get a little extra work done before that deadline. It saves that horrible feeling of panic and pressure 48 hours before your well-earned holiday begins. 

Tools such as online calendars or project management apps can help you to plan and keep on track with tasks. Make use of all that Microsoft Office and 365 give you. 

You can also plan what tasks will be required after your return, to save fretting about it when you should be relaxing. 

Tip #2: Notify Clients 

The savvy assistant will ensure that the right people are informed and prepared for when they will be away. 

Employees may have colleagues they can hand over work to whilst they are away. Planning that well in advance, and ensuring people know what needs to be done in your absence, makes sense and demonstrates professionalism. 

For the freelancer or business owner, communicating with clients at least several weeks in advance is sound practice. 

You can reassure them about what will be completed before your break. You can let them know the plan for when you return. 

A simple autoresponder note added to your email system will remind people who get in touch that you’re away. 

Tip #3: Use Automation 

A simple way to reduce the likelihood of work taking over from a virtual assistant’s holiday is to use automation. 

The more tasks you can automate, the more time you will save.  

For example, many social media posts can be scheduled. There are tools and apps for that. Email marketing software, from MailerLite to Active Campaign, allows you to schedule a string of newsletters or marketing messages for when you are away. 

Not everything can be automated, of course, but every little helps. 

And automation is not just for holidays. It can be used all year round for greater efficiency and to free up more time each month. 

Tip #4: Hire a VA 

One option the savvy assistant could consider is hiring another VA to take over their work whilst away. 

Sub-contracting in this way might be particularly attractive if you are planning to be away for a fortnight or longer. It means clients receive continuous service and will feel well cared for. 

Whilst there are advantages, there are downsides to weigh up before deciding to outsource.  

You’ll probably want to find an assistant who does similar work for similar clients. Unless you know somebody, that could take time. 

Another VA might need some training or guidance, to ensure they are up to speed on what’s expected and can carry out required tasks. 

And, of course, if you’re hiring someone they will need to be paid. This cuts into your income.  

It’s all a question of balance and what will create the best outcome. 

As your business grows, you may find you want to build a team of assistants. Your first recruit might well be someone who has successfully covered a past holiday. 

Tip #5: Be More Productive 

This is not just a vacation tip. It’s good advice throughout the year. 

The more productive and efficient you are, the easier it is going to be for you to take holidays – and enjoy them. 

Some assistants muddle by, completing tasks either with a bit of a struggle or taking way too long. They often know there’s a better, quicker way yet do nothing about it. 

The savvy assistant understands the value of knowledge and training. If they can learn a way to save 30 minutes a day, it will save them two and a half hours every week. That’s a gift of more than 100 hours a year. 

That’s the equivalent of a fortnight’s holiday. 

It’s why I encourage professional assistants to get training. It allows them to do more for less. The range of courses and programs available includes my Tomorrow’s VA – The Hub and Essential Office for the Savvy Assistant

When you know how to do tasks with confidence and ease, it lightens the load. It means you can get things done ahead of time and not worry about last-minute deadlines. 

Tip #6: Make a Wishlist  

This tip ties in with booking out time in your calendar for holidays.  

When you begin thinking about holidays, they are more likely to happen. You can dream. You can visualise yourself on the beach, in the countryside, on the hills, by the coast or soaking up a laid-back city atmosphere. 

Start making a list of places you would like to go. Then pick one for the year. If there’s a longer or more expensive trip in mind, you can begin to plan and save for it. 

Tip #7: Switch Off 

When so many professional assistants are under pressure every week they work, this is easier said than done. 

If you’ve decided a holiday is a holiday, the first thing to do is stick to that. 

Think about whether you really need to take your laptop. If you’re taking your smartphone with you, consider switching it off – at least for most of each day. And avoid the temptation to check emails (or worse, respond to them). 

A holiday is meant to be about rest and relaxation. You’ve earned time for yourself, without daily interruptions.  

Ways to help switch off include enjoying the beach; swimming in a pool or the sea; walking through the countryside or along the coast; reading a book; meditation or gentle yoga; taking a siesta or watching the world go by. 

How good are you at setting aside time for holidays? Where do you love to go on holiday? And do you ever give yourself permission to fully relax? 

Let me know in the comments below. 

P.S. I am thrilled to share that I made it to the Grand Finals of The VA Voice Awards – the deadline runs until 30th April so there is still time if you wish to vote for me. 

The session was well structured and the explanation was very clear. It was amazing how Shelley managed to squeeze so much info in just one hour and a half! Colin’s support and contributions were also very valuable, and so were “Virtual Veronica”‘s. Thank you for a most interesting and useful training session at the Miss Jones Virtual Summit!

Laura Carizzo- Royal Norwegian Embassy in Argentina

I haven’t used PowerPoint in 20 years, this has really boosted my confidence.

Lyn Parker

Course is packed with so much valuable information in a easy-to-understand and follow language, even for a complete beginner. I can respect the fact that sometimes it’s very hard for an expert to break the information down to basics. but Shelley has done it brilliantly. I was sure that I knew quite a bit but Shelley has proven me wrong even at the very beginning of the basics of PowerPoint. Lessons are short and precise which allowed me to easily transfer the new skill into practice without being overwhelmed and to carry on adding on more with each lesson. I had so many ‘Aha!’ moments and for most of them I couldn’t believe I used to pay graphic designer to do it for me, now, thanks to Shelley, I am looking forward to creating, designing, converting my presentations all by myself!

Iva Freeman – Vertex Human Capital

Shelley was very thorough and knew a lot of tip’s for using Teams, thank you 🙂

James O’Connor – Cavannah Homes

Very informative, constantly getting everyone in the meeting involved, loved every bit of it!

Dylan Teal Hopkins – Cavannah Homes
Fantastic and informative training and great to see all of the exciting functions with Microsoft Teams.
Laura Rigby – The Apprenticeship College
Shelley was really clear in her teaching and went at a pace that was helpful to us. We covered all we needed to know to get us started, as a small team, using MS Teams. She was also very helpful in the run up to the session, with check in calls and ensuring our platform was set up correctly. I would highly recommend Shelley to anyone wanting to learn to navigate their way around MS Teams.
Leigh Dowling – Innuous

Microsoft Teams One to One Training Session

Shelley was approachable, easy to work with, and agile with answering questions to apply the session to my specific needs

Melissa Marshall – Present Your Science

A course on Outlook had been on the top of my list when Shelley asked VA’s what they wanted to learn.

It was a real case of ‘so that’s how you do it’ or ‘I never knew that’. I have to say that I learnt so many great tips it has definitely improved the way I work in Outlook and my inbox is looking colourful and organised and I can’t wait to share this knowledge with my clients.

Jacqueline Leake – JLeake VA Services – Outlook

A great course with lots of examples and step by step instructions. I can now confidently create infographics and as a bonus, I learnt a lot of new PowerPoint functionality that will enhance all my PowerPoint work and save me so much time.

Jessica Bailey – Integral Resource

I really like Shelley’s courses. She has a clear and easy to follow teaching style. In ‘How to Create Fillable Forms’ I’ve learned about the functions of the Developer ribbon which will mean I’ll be able to create a bespoke Returns Form for a client who has an online shop

Freya Henderson – Virtual Office Orkney

Shelley was really clear in her teaching and went at a pace that was helpful to us. We covered all we needed to know to get us started, as a small team, using MS Teams. She was also very helpful in the run up to the session, with check in calls and ensuring our platform was set up correctly. I would highly recommend Shelley to anyone wanting to learn to navigate their way around MS Teams.

Sarah Clements – Inuous

Absolutely superb course, easy to follow and to refer back whilst putting it all into practice! I was unaware of the extent you can customise a presentation and it’s just made me want to know more – what’s next Shelley?

Denise Williams

I thought I had a pretty good grasp of Outlook until I did this course! In her videos, Shelley is clear and concise, and the language she uses is straightforward and jargon-free. Each module is broken down into manageable chunks, which helps keep your attention and means the course is easy to fit in around other commitments. I’ve created email templates and implemented rules that are already saving me time, and as all the other things I’ve learnt start to become second nature, the positive impact on my efficiency is fast becoming clear. This course has been incredibly beneficial and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to strengthen their skills and boost productivity.

Pip Doleman VA

I thought I knew Powerpoint really well, but I wanted to specifically learn how to use Powerpoint to create better infographics, easily and quickly. Shelley explains everything in a very logical and clear way, so I understood everything the first time I heard it. The most useful thing I learnt was that Powerpoint can do so much more than I thought it could. By also using the short cuts that Shelley showed me I am much quicker than I have ever been and I thought I was already quick!

Susan Marot

Shelley Fishel of Tomorrow’s VA has a wealth of experience in Microsoft Office. I met her in person 2 years ago at the PA Show in London. I also saw her in action in a fab workshop and knew she was the whizz that everyone had told me she was. I have since bought a lifetime access to her HUB and all the courses in there are a MUST if you are a VA on a mission. The courses will give you confidence in all the Office 365 components and will catapult you to dizzy heights

Alex Hughes