How to enjoy vacation when you own a business

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When you own a business, taking a “real” vacation may seem impossible. While you appreciate the notion that time away keeps your mind fresh, helps your creativity, and prevents burnout, you may not always embrace it. Even when you do take time off, the temptation to check your phone or review your email magnifies as soon as you step away from the office.

Make relaxation and enjoyment a priority.

“What if the business needs me while I am gone?” “What if I miss an opportunity?” You can quiet, or even silence, this questioning with one simple decision.  Make the choice that enjoying time away from work to rejuvenate and to create lasting memories with your family is a non-negotiable part of your overall life plan.  As a leader in your company, your actions also fuel the company culture. Your example inspires employees to maintain a balance between work and personal life, too.  And that pays off for everyone!

With this commitment in place, set up a process like you would for any business problem. Focus on the steps to achieve your goal and put them in place. This may feel like the effort is too high for the return, but once you create a system for successful time off, you will look forward to the break and reap the benefits.  Addressing the potential distractions in advance will help you let go of anxiety and be more present with your family.

Position yourself for a stress-free escape.  Here’s how:

  • Put your vacation(s) on the calendar at the start of each year. Build your work schedule around this time off.  If you have a slow season in your industry, you may consider the time of year you go to make it easier to step away.
  • Avoid last minute work overload. Take the weeks leading up to your vacation to complete high priority items and hand off or pause other projects.
  • Empower your employees. Cross-train and give trusted employees sufficient authorization to make decisions for themselves.
  • Inform key employees what situations warrant contact and create a contingency plan for emergencies. For example, if your staff needs to reach you they should call or text, not email. Much like you may with your children, set a “code” that if they call three times, it requires immediate attention.  This way, you can relax knowing that silence means everything is under control or can wait for your return.
  • Let top clients know about your absence in advance. Provide an alternative contact or proactively schedule meetings to occur after you return.
  • Set clear expectations in auto-reply out-of-office email and voicemail messages. Indicate what the person should do if they need something sooner than your return. Add one to two days on to your actual return date to minimize commitments when you get back.
  • Sign any necessary checks before you leave (if no authorized signer will be in the office)
  • Straighten up your desk and leave a Top 3 priority list on your desk for when you return.
  • Remove easy distractions. Turn off audible email reminders and phone notifications. Drag all of your social media and work-related apps into a folder and move it to the last screen on your phone.
  • If you absolutely cannot let go, set limits for your engagement. Schedule 15-20 minutes a day when you will check messages.  Use a timer to enforce your boundary.

Be kind to yourself upon your return

Manage re-entry anxiety by carving out time to cleanout emails and identify any key new actions. Block your calendar for the first day you are back at the office. Let people know you’re still on vacation and close the door.  This will give you a chance to settle back in and get organized before the deluge of requests start pouring back in.  If you really want to extend the relaxation of your time away, block off at least an hour a day for the rest of the week to give yourself some breathing room.  You may even choose to keep that habit in place all year long.

Don’t leave your enjoyment to chance.  Commit to downtime for your sanity, your long-term productivity, and your family. Follow these steps – or find your own – to make it happen.

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