Americans have a work problem. We work too much, and we struggle to disconnect, even when we’re on vacation. In one 2017 Glassdoor study, the average US employee only used half of their paid time off each year. Even when they do take time off, 2 out of 3 Americans report working while on vacation.
If you’re a small business owner, you know that this struggle is amplified by the fact that you’re in charge of it all. The problem is that truly taking a break and unplugging from work for a while is necessary not only to your mental health but the success of your business. Huffington Post highlights 9 scientific reasons to take a vacation, which include the fact that when your brain is relaxing or daydreaming, it’s actually working behind-the-scenes on solidifying important information you’ve learned and finding solutions for complex problems. It also says that bosses who take vacations usually come back more focused and motivated.
So how can you take advantage of the benefits of a vacation without letting your business fall apart? Here are 5 crucial tips.
1. Take Advantage of Slow Periods
One easy way to relieve a lot of the stress of taking a vacation when you run a small business is to do it during the off-season. If you have a month or two during the year when business is particularly slow, take advantage of that and plan your vacation during that time. This scheduling will make it much easier for your employees to pick up the slack, and you’ll feel less on edge.
If business is pretty consistent year-round, plan your vacation around commonly celebrated holiday seasons. That way, your clients are already expecting things to move a bit more slowly and may even be on vacation themselves. November, December, long weekends like Labor Day and Memorial Day, and even summertime are good options.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate
Many small business owners get stuck in the trap of doing everything themselves because they don’t feel confident that other people can complete tasks the way they want them done. However, by not delegating tasks, you’re not only holding yourself back from taking such much-needed time off—you’re also preventing your business from growing.
Start by delegating small daily tasks well before your planned vacation so you can get used to trusting someone else with your to-do list. Some of the best tasks you can delegate to help your business grow include managing your calendar, responding to emails, bookkeeping, order fulfillment, website maintenance, data entry, and marketing. Doing this well in advance of your vacation will also help employees get a better sense of how you like things to be done.
3. Personally Hand Off Clients
It might be tempting to simply set up an auto-responder and go, but you should take the time to personally hand off your clients before you leave. Let them know you’ll be going out of town, and introduce them to the person who will be handling their concerns and requests in your absence.
This method benefits both you and your clients. You won’t be receiving dozens of emails and phone calls from clients while you’re on vacation, and they’ll feel cared for because you took the time to hand them off before leaving.
4. Streamline Your Processes and Stay Updated With the Right Tools
Implementing the right tools and apps will go a long way to ensure your business runs smoothly while you’re gone. It will also help automate processes, freeing up your employees’ time to focus on growth. Two big areas where tools can vastly improve your processes are invoicing and project management.
The best invoicing tools will automatically bill your clients and keep track of unpaid invoices so your employees can send reminders. This process makes sure you get paid on time even when you’re out of the office. An excellent project management tool will keep work running efficiently while you’re gone and let everyone know what they’re supposed to be working on. It will also give you the ability to check-in sporadically and see where your projects are at while you’re vacationing.
5. Allow Yourself to Disconnect
Just because you can check-in doesn’t mean you should. Try your best to truly disconnect while you’re on vacation—otherwise, what’s the point? One Deloitte study in 2016 found that people check their phones 47 times per day on average. If you’re doing that, you’re not unplugging, which means you aren’t getting the benefits of taking a true break.
If you can’t leave your phone behind, at least turn off all notifications so you aren’t tempted to look at your phone constantly. Block notifications from your various work-related apps and email on your phone so you aren’t distracted by work. If there’s a true work emergency, let your colleagues know they can get in touch with you by calling.
If you do need to check-in once in a while, pick a time of day to do so, and set a timer so you don’t spend too much time on work. Planning your work check-in time 30 minutes before a dinner reservation or the start of a tour is a smart way to force yourself to shut everything down within a reasonable amount of time.
Being passionate about your business is a wonderful thing. However, don’t let yourself get so wrapped up in your work that you’re unable to disconnect and spend time with your family, or yourself, for a few days. Creating a well-rounded lifestyle that includes both work and time off is the best way to build a sustainable business that grows well into the future.