I Own a Business and Can’t Take a Vacation (Yes You Can)

When I first made the big jump and opened my own firm, I didn’t take a vacation for five years.

I always said fear is a great motivator, and I was afraid to stop working for an entire week.  What if my clients needed me?  Would the team perform at the same pace if I wasn’t there?  What if something went wrong and I wasn’t there to fix it?

Of course I realized the importance of taking time off; heck, I made sure everyone else on the team took vacations.  “You have to get away to make sure you’re happy coming back to work,” I preached.

It took me a while, but over the years that followed (and with the prodding of friends and family who openly declared me nuts), I figured out how to be a work-driven, enthusiastic entrepreneur and still take some time off.

As a business owner, especially if you have a small business, you just have to realize your approach to vacation might be a little different – you have to get creative.

Prep the team.  Before any vacation, make sure every member of the team has worked out a to-do list and understand what needs to be done while you are gone.  Also, set some ground rules about when it’s ok to call you and which issues should they should just handle.

Prep the tech. Yes, it’s important to completely unplug, but business owners just don’t always have that option. You can make it easy for yourself. Make sure you have the right tools and the right connections to deal with emergencies and avoid turning vacation into full blown panic.

Lots of long weekends. If you can’t take a traditional week off or ten-day vacation, you can successfully get away from work by taking multiple long weekends throughout the year.  No matter where you live, there is likely a great getaway destination within three hours by car. Quick plane rides work, too!  I like to hit the road on Thursday night, explore another town or put my feet up by a lake and not come back until Sunday – or maybe even early Monday morning.  Sure, I’m going to take a call here and there or juggle some email, but I limit it to the morning over a cup of great coffee. Then I’m off for fun.

Staycations work, too. It takes discipline, but you can get away in your own town. I like to sleep in a little on the occasional Friday, get in an extended workout and head out for a long, leisurely lunch at a restaurant I’ve not had the time to check out. I might not even leave my own neighborhood. Even if I work some on Saturday, I’ve had a wonderfully irresponsible Friday.

Even a couple of hours can make a difference. You would be surprised how a couple of hours can clear the head and reset the batteries. If I’m feeling a bit overworked, I will sometimes arrive at work early, ideally on a Friday, and tackle the work load. Then I commit to leaving the office by 2:00 or 3:00.  I might head home for a long, head clearing workout or head out for a late lunch, an early show or great conversation over beers at the local pub.

You really can take a week off. You just have to plan right and understand that your week off might be a little different from the norm.  After years of ignoring vacation, I committed to one ten-day vacation per year. I just make sure to prep the team, prep the tech and set reasonable expectations for myself. I can be happy working all morning on vacation if I first get up early and exercise.  Then I relax while making calls, answering a few emails and writing a bit, but I do it leisurely while looking out over the ocean, listening to good music and sipping on coffee. The rest of the day and night are mine. I’m still available for emergencies, but the right planning helps eliminate those.

Mix it up.  These days, I try very hard to explore all of the above options throughout the year.  You’ll be surprised how much it will feel like “traditional” vacationing and the degree to which you can properly recharge the batteries.


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