Why Business Owners Should Be Strategic About Time Off

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Article Summary: Most of us need a little time off to recharge the batteries, clear our minds, and get energized. The same is true for business owners—they just need to be strategic about time off. In this article we talk about some strategies to be strategic and make the most of your vacation time.

  1. You don't necessarily need to leave town
  2. Set priorities for your time off
  3. Make your vacation an opportunity
  4. Prepare your team for the time you'll be away

Not only is it good for your own mental health to take the occasional break, you'll quickly find out who your best employees really are as you prepare the to keep the ship sailing while you're away. Keep reading to learn more about taking a strategic approach to time off.

Who doesn’t love vacation? A study by Project: Time Off found that 95 percent people surveyed claimed that using their paid time off was very important. And yet for the first time in recorded history, more than half of Americans (55 percent) left vacation days unused.

We want to take vacation, but for small business owners, it’s not that easy. As Venture Capitalist Barbara Taylor puts it, “If your business can’t run without you then your don’t really own a business, you own a job.” The pressure to keep things running like a well-oiled machine keeps business owners from taking vacations.

Yet all business owners know the negative impact of stress and burnout. Getting strategic with vacation planning can help promote a healthy lifestyle while helping you realize your business goals. Let’s take a look time off, how it affects us and how to do it right.

The Shrinking Vacation

People’s fondness of vacation is nothing new, but the shrinking vacation has been a developing trend over the past few decades. One study from Oxford Economics with Bureau of Labor Statistics found that average working Americans used to take almost three weeks of vacation a year (20.3 days) in 2000. By 2015, the number dropped to 16.2 days. Nearly a week of vacation has vanished. This is true despite low levels of unemployment and in careers with high job security. Compare this to Europe where workers commonly use 30 vacation days.

The reasons for this trend are too complex to tackle in this article alone, but one fact is simple: time off is beneficial. Studies done by the American Psychological Association and a Canadian study of 900 lawyers had extremely obvious conclusions: vacations reduce stress. A more serious conclusion was discovered via the Framingham Heart Study, in which men who skipped vacation for several years were 30 percent more likely to have heart complications compared to men who took their vacation. And women were eight times more likely to develop heart disease if they took vacation every six years instead of twice a year.

Is Time Off for Everyone?

Let’s reexamine this idea, “If your business can’t run without you then your don’t really own a business, you own a job.” In year one or year two of your life as an entrepreneur, time off should be the farthest thing from your mind. After all, if extra vacation was the motivation behind starting a business, it probably won’t last long.

With that said, the negative effects of burn out — exhaustion, fatigue, depression and negativity — certainly will have a more negative impact than not checking email for a few days. Barbara Taylor followed the above quote by noting how most successful owners she knows “have built an enviable life outside their business.” This includes four weeks of vacation a year, or more, and time spend “unplugged.”

The key is to stay refreshed so you can stay focused. This could mean daily walks or meditation, exercise or spending time with friends and family — instead of vacation.

Under30CEO asked 14 entrepreneurs, “Should entrepreneurs take time away from their business?” If so, why and and how often. The results were overwhelmingly one-sided. Only two respondents replied “no” and offered serious caveats. Avery Fisher from Remedify said he took two months of vacation last year (significantly more than the average American), yet he was focused on gaining perspective while not losing focus on his business. The other no response said what works for him is to balance family and business. This work-life balance is often enjoyed by successful entrepreneurs.

Take a look at the "yes" answers:

  • Yes, make it a priority
  • Yes, go before you're ready
  • Yes, to recharge
  • Yes, plan something to look forward to 
  • Yes, but you don't have to take a formal vacation
  • Yes, take one major annual trip 
  • Yes, create time for yourself
  • Yes, take 10 minutes everyday 
  • Yes, to expand creativity
  • Yes, to avoid burnout

As you can see, there's not a universal solution on how to take time off. Find what works best for you and execute it.

A Plan to Be Strategic About Time Off

There are thousands of vacation ideas and even more ways to avoid burnout on a daily basis. Let’s take a look at how to be strategic about time off. And be proactive instead of reactive when comes to managing stress.

You don’t need to leave – Do airports stress you out? Can’t forget the food the poisoning you got in the Bahamas? Don’t leave. It sounds obvious, but many business owners don’t see the value in staying home. But as we’ve discussed, a simple “staycation” can positively impact your health and your business.

Get your priorities straight – Perhaps your staycation isn’t about relaxing to prevent burnout. There are an endless amount of factors that can weigh on business owners. Maybe you need more quality time with your spouse or kids; maybe you’ve been annually putting off your annual physical. Whatever the case, clear your mind before returning to the grind.

Make your vacation an opportunity – Some vacationers simply give the globe a spin and pick their destination at random. But business owners can think strategy before looking up flights. Visit a manufacturer overseas, or find a conference that could boost your network and reach. Find inspiration by visiting with refugees looking to rebuild their business in a new country. The world has an endless amount of knowledge; tap into this resource and round out your entrepreneurial skills.

Test (and prepare) your team – There will inevitably come a time when your team will have to deliver in your absence. Don’t let it happen unexpectedly. Time off can be used as a way to establish protocols and make sure they’re followed. It’ll be much easier to fix things when you’ve planned your absence.