Creative Commons License photo credit: cdedbdme

Sometimes, it is easy to think that the communities we manage will face dire consequences if we are not around for a while. And that thought leads to a fear of being away.

That’s understandable, but it’s not accurate or healthy. You don’t want to build communities that depend on you for simple existence. It says more about you if you are able to step away and have the world not end, than it does if you step away and it does.

This takes different forms for different communities. If you run a forum, you probably have moderators who can handle most issues. Even if you don’t have moderators, and the community is small enough, what’s the worst that will happen? So, your members may have to look at spam for a couple of days. Or some porn link. They are going to have to do that whether or not you are away because that stuff will stay up until your visit. This, among other reasons, is why it is important to set reasonable expectations with your members.

If you run a bigger community or run community for a large company, you likely have other people who help you manage the community. Train them, utilize them and trust them to be successful through the example that you have set. When you come back, review how they did, correct any issues and get better. The value of having a staff or a team is undermined if you are required to always be present. It doesn’t work – the system will break.

I’m not saying to be irresponsible or that you being on your community is not important. But, what I am saying is that you need to understand how that fits on the scale of important things in your life and make sure they are all getting time. Once you come to that realization, build a system and trust it. It’ll be good for you and your community.

Stepping away and turning off for a bit has personal benefits. It allows you to refocus on what really matters in your life and to spend time with those who mean the most to you. To make plans and figure out how to execute them. To relax, to get healthy – whatever it is.

But, it also has professional benefits. There is value in being relaxed and, perhaps most importantly, time away helps you to see the bigger picture, to consider where you are, where you want to be and how you get there. If you are constantly in the trenches, doing the work, it can be harder to find time to ponder the landscape. Taking some time away allows you to reflect on it.

I mean really stepping away, too. Not “oh, I’ll check Twitter just once…” Disconnect.

If it has been months since you last did that, I’d encourage you to make some plans and get away for a while.