You need a real vacation. We know, we’re preaching to the tired choir here. But as a small business owner or a solopreneur, you really do need to take time off to recharge and refocus. Even Tom Brady has an offseason to eat some avocado ice cream every year, so you too can be the GOAT with some you-time built into your calendar. Need more convincing? Downtime actually boosts your ability to perform at the high level your business requires, and can improve focus and creativity as well. If these qualities are must haves, it's time you took a business vacation. Americans, especially, just work too much. Research shows that small business owners work 50+ hours a week, usually closer to 60. Not only that, they spend extra time just worrying about the business even during “off hours,” to the tune of 17 full extra days outside of work. And when you do take a vacation, it’s not a real vacation! While more Americans are taking a vacation recently compared to previous years, according to the Wall Street Journal, they aren’t really unplugging from work. Surveys showed that over half of vacationers admitted to staying in touch with work. That’s not a vacation. That’s just working with extra sandy steps. So how can you take a true vacation away from your small business? Here are some practical strategies to help you unplug. Set A Culture Of Vacationing By Shutting Down (Temporarily) American workers often feel guilt over taking a vacation, even when these vacation days are so coveted that they are often negotiated upon hire. Those of you who are your own boss who can technically take off at any time may feel the guilt even more. But you know who doesn’t really feel that guilt? Most Europeans. When workers in France, for example, decide to take two weeks off, their bosses will probably say “Two? Why not four?” This is because Europeans have the idea of vacations built into their work culture. In Switzerland, everyone knows that nothing really gets done in August because that’s prime vacation time. Employees don’t mind when coworkers go on holiday, bosses don’t stress, and clients just understand that requests might be slower during this time. While you can’t control all of America, you can control the culture of vacationing within your small business. Make expectations clear that you will be taking 2 to 4 weeks off sometime during the year, and that you should only be contacted in case of world-shattering emergencies. Want to go even more European? Plan a business vacation that includes everyone (but you don't have to take them anywhere with you). Shut down your entire business for a few weeks at the same time each year—a great option if you have defined slow seasons. Like Switzerland, perhaps your culture is for everyone to go on break during August. By having the entire company pause, that not only contributes to the company’s culture, but allows for an entirely guilt-free vacation for your employees and yourself. When the business is closed, you won’t be worried, right? And if that seems like a radical idea, it’s not. Small businesses, including restaurants in ski towns, still shut down for a week or two during the off-season. Some tech companies also shut down during weeks when it’s likely that their employees will check out, too, including the week between Christmas and New Years and sometimes even the 4th of July. Plan Ahead, But Don’t Vacation In Fear Every article out there on this subject will tell you to plan for your vacation far in advance, and that’s good advice especially for solopreneurs who always fear losing clients with even a day off. It’s a great idea to tell your clients months in advance of a scheduled vacation. It’s a great idea to bank extra work leading up to your break as well, to tide your clients over during the break. And of course it’s a great idea to financially prepare and budget for time off without income coming in. But if planning ahead was all we needed to do to take a guilt-free vacation, Americans would have figured that out by now and the stats would be better. Yet still, 82% of Americans admit to working on vacation. Are we to believe that these 82% just forgot to plan ahead? Nay. All the planning in the world won’t alleviate a mindset of constant work. When you’re addicted to coffee (or whatever else), it’s hard to go cold turkey. Likewise, if you’ve been addicted to work for years, it will be hard for you to unplug. Like anything else, you need to train your mind to vacation guilt-free. The great part of this training? Forcing yourself to take more vacations. Planning ahead will alleviate some fear and guilt (if you have a trusted co-worker or second-in-command, that helps, too). And remember, you’re good at what you do. Your clients will be waiting for you. Business Vacations Made Smarter, Not Harder Planning your work and budget to allow for a real vacation is smart. So is planning around natural work cycles. Are there weeks or months in the year that your clients also go on vacation, or business naturally slows? If you’re a solopreneur, is one client contract coming to an end? Take these opportunities to recharge before hunting for new business. Another smarter way to go? Subcontracting. Freelancers and solopreneurs may be able to hire someone to cover their work for a few weeks, which can alleviate worries about losing a fussy client. You can also partner with another solopreneur to cover your offtime and you can cover theirs. As long as you can vet the quality of the stand-in’s work beforehand, this can be a great option. But maybe don’t take it as far as that one programmer who outsourced his own job to China for years. Earn Back Time On Daily Tasks By the way, before you start planning, also consider the possibility of simply reducing the time it takes to do the tasks you do each day. Back in 2015, small business owners reported that they spent an average of 80 full days per year on bookkeeping tasks, for example. That’s 2 weeks of paid vacation! Here’s where to look for time-savers: Older, slower equipment. While owning equipment outright is a wonderful feeling, if it’s older or requires manual inputs or continual tinkering to work properly, you might be able to save time by tapping into a new machine. As a bonus: faster, reliable equipment may also let you increase production. If you need a loan to help you score new equipment, Lendio’s application process is pretty speedy, too. Automating processes. Are there tasks you can automate? For example, if you’re responsible for invoicing, expense tracking, and the financial side of your small business, find an app that will do it all for you instead. Lendio’s accounting software—which is FREE to use—can shave hours off the time it takes to do all of these tasks, including automated invoicing so you can still get paid when you’re not at work. Ready To Pack Your Bags Today? Finally, a word of hope: it gets easier. If this is your first foray into vacationing from your business, it can seem like you're abandoning the business you built for a little R and R. But relax. Ease into vacationing with a test run of just 1-2 days off initially. Take note when you get back: what did you forget to plan? You're crafty. You'll come up with a great way to cover those bases next time, too.