Unplugged: 3 Steps to Really Take a Vacation for Entrepreneurs

The best time to take a vacation is when you don’t have time for it.

You know it. You know that’s how it’s supposed to be – theoretically, at least. But knowing something in theory and actually applying it in the real world are two very different things. If things were that simple, you would have taken far more vacations that you actually ended up having – which is close to non-existent. As an entrepreneur, it’s far easier to blame the conventional mantra (it’s just the way it is) than to really take the time to examine if there’s a way to do things differently.

Answer: there is. You just have to find it.

Of course, buried under a never-ending list of things to do, you probably have barely enough time to catch a breather, much less take a proper break. Particularly if you’re a small business owner, doing multiple tasks is usually the norm. There are taxes to file and bookkeeping to catch up on. Inventory of stocks and launching of a new product or service that’s right smack in between hiring new employees and training your team.

Your lunch sometimes consists of sandwich for takeaway, and you eat it at your desk while trying to plough your way through your email. The idea of going away for a few days – or much better, a year – may sound too far-fetched to contemplate, but it’s by no means impossible. Here’s how you can manage to pull it off.

  1. Plan for it.      

You plan for your meetings and brainstorming sessions. You plan your work week and what your load will be like at any given time. So why don’t you make a proper plan for your vacation? Here’s what you need to remember: unless you’re really intentional about it, your dream holiday will likely remain like that – just a dream. If you’re serious about your much-needed time off, start drafting a plan for it. Don’t continue falling into the trap of saying you’ll go on vacation “someday.” If you’ve been saying that for the last five years – and you haven’t done it yet – then you should know by now that it’s not an effective strategy, is it?

But what about your company, you might argue.

That’s the point of making a plan: so you can work on the details. Announce to your team and business associates that you’ll be going on a vacation so they in turn can set their expectations and manage their workload while you’re away. Unless you want to use your precious personal time on the phone and in front of your laptop – which, of course, you don’t – make it clear that you’re unreachable unless it’s an emergency.

  1. Learn the art of delegating or postponing.        

You’ve always been hands on in your business, and there’s often a sense of urgency in many of the things that need to be done. But unless you want to spend your foreseeable future chained to your office, you have to start initiating changes. And one of the most important things you can possibly learn is how to properly delegate or postpone tasks. To delegate, assign an employee to take on the tasks that you normally handle. Choose someone you trust, so you won’t fret whether or not the work is getting properly done in your absence – because you know that it is. To postpone, determine the tasks that can wait until you get back, and then stop worrying about it.

After your vacation, you might realize the logic behind delegating and postponing and choose to do that even when you’re not away, which can only be a good thing because it serves to free up your time. That way, you can finally concentrate on your business and not in it.

  1. Know the need to disconnect.           

Just about everyone is guilty of this: the almost compelling urge to still be constantly connected even while taking personal time off. A word of caution: don’t. Your vacation is your time to relax, unwind, recharge – not to keep being stressed about those files on your desk or the red marks on your fully booked calendar. Sure, you might be on the beach. But checking emails on the beach is still checking emails. And ask yourself: do you even get to enjoy the breathtaking view while you’re glued on your phone?

Do yourself a favor and know what it means to really disconnect. Refrain from checking your phone as much as possible and don’t connect to the Internet if it can be helped at all. Why? Because saying “just for 10 minutes” may very well lead to a few hours. And remember that you only have a few days or a week. The last thing that you want to happen is waste your time on work; you have more than enough opportunities to do that when you get back.

Has it been such a long time since you’ve taken a vacation that the idea seems so alien to you? If a few days doesn’t cut it for you at the moment, then try a few hours to begin with. Taking an afternoon off to have your favorite massage or indulging in a two-hour lunch break with your friend is much better than saying you’ll go on that week-long grand vacation when you’re not busy anymore. Waiting for an ideal situation before taking action is an exercise in frustration; it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever get that moment when everything is perfect and you can finally take the break you’ve been putting off for years.

Work with what you have and then take it from there. After you’re used to having a few hours to yourself regularly, you can scale it to a day, and then a few days at a time. Until you finally get to your week-long break – or even longer, if you can already manage it.

Do you take a break from your business? How do you do it? Share with us your experiences in the comments.