When you run your own business, it’s easy to let work completely take over your life. That’s only natural when you love what you do, and when every employee and client is depending on you. However, it’s vital to your health and the longevity of your business that you avoid getting burned out and take time for self-care.
While dedication is crucial to success, especially for entrepreneurs who aim high, burnout is a real threat. Burnout is defined as a state of chronic stress with effects like trouble concentrating, increased illness, mental symptoms like depression or irritability, and extreme physical exhaustion.
We’re all guilty of working too hard on occasion: bringing the computer home on weekends, or scheduling a conference call while on a family vacation. The consequences can be steep, though. If you push yourself too hard, for too long, you may find that your body forces you to take a much longer break to recover. In other words, it’s better in the long run to prevent burnout by taking care of yourself today, rather than pushing yourself toward a breakdown later.
This October, in honor of National Work and Family Month, we were inspired to highlight not only why you might need to take a break, but also how you can do it with minimal guilt so you can enjoy some time with family, and keep your business thriving.
Why take a break?
Taking a break doesn’t just feel good, it is good for both mental and physical health.
One study, sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, concluded that men who take vacations were “21 percent less likely to die from any cause and were 32 percent less likely to die from heart disease.” Other studies have also indicated that women who don’t take vacations are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression as those who do.
As a leader, you’re responsible for providing motivation and inspiration to your team. Of course, inspiration can strike at any time, but it’s more likely to strike when you’re not constantly focused on dealing with a crisis.
Physically removing yourself from that “urgent mode” at the office gives you time to think about the big picture. That’s valuable time you can use to come up with innovative approaches and creative solutions to everyday problems, and strategize about how to improve your operations overall. Sometimes, the best ideas are the ones that come when your mind is relaxed.
Achieving work/life balance
While internalizing the need for vacation is a step in the right direction, you also need to know how to take a vacation. That’s harder than it sounds for the high-achieving workaholics among us. (Staring at your computer while the rest of the family spends the day at the beach doesn’t count!)
Here are a few ideas to help you vacation, guilt-free.
- Align your vacation with customers
Predict downtimes of your major customers and suppliers. If you know that there is a certain time of year that customer demand will be lower, take advantage of that. For some businesses, that may be the end of the year, but for others this is actually the busiest time. B2Bs for example, are sometimes less busy at the beginning of a fiscal quarter, after the end-of-quarter push. For freelancers, this time might be when their customers are between projects.
- Empower your employees
In general, empowering your employees is extremely important for the health of your business. It is critical to appoint a specific person or people to take charge while you’re away. Make sure they have the information they will need in your absence. Additionally, provide documentation; no one needs to pick up the phone to ask you. Delegating and documentation can free you to spend more time thinking big, and less time on day-to-day responsibilities, long after your vacation is over.
- Give yourself a vacation buffer
Start clearing your schedule a couple days before you go away and don’t take on any new projects. Make sure you have time set aside upon your return to catch up on emails, address issues that arose in your absence, and to get back into the workday groove in a calm, thoughtful way. This will help you hold on to the mental benefits of going on vacation in the first place.
- Really take a break
When you leave the office, try to mentally leave the office, too. Don’t take work with you on vacation. Trust that the employees to whom you’ve delegated will fill in the gaps during your absence. Know that you will come back happier, healthier, more inspired, and ready to take any and all challenges that will cross your desk. You refreshed attitude will have a positive effect on all those around you. Both your team and your family will thank you.
When planning your vacation, it’s important that you check out for long enough to clear your mind. Long weekends are nice, but they don’t always provide the break you need. Try to take a whole week off, and enjoy some time either with family, or all to yourself, for maximum mental refreshment, productivity benefits, and the long-term health of your business.
Parts of this article originally appeared on the Fundbox business blog.