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8 Tips for Taking Time Off While Building Your Small Business

By Kathleen Allardyce 🔹

Many small business owners think that taking time off is important to keep workers operating at top efficiency. However, many of those owners don’t apply that belief to themselves. According to a survey conducted by FreshBooks, nearly 40% of small business owners reported that they haven’t had at least seven days off in a row for a year or longer.

The reason 50% cited was that they feared they would lose income if they took time off because they don’t have people who have the right skills to back them up. In addition, 85% of respondents to the survey said that when they do take time off, they continue working to ease their anxiety about being away.

It’s a real problem. Taking time off and truly unplugging from business responsibilities can have significant benefits.

  • Taking time off improves your mental wellbeing. Rest and better sleep help to unclutter your mind and improve creativity.

  • Your body condition improves because you reduce your level of stress hormones, which helps your immune system build resilience. You’ll be less prone to get sick.

  • It may sound too “new age,” but pondering life’s big questions is most successful when you have space and stillness.

How can small business owners take time off without guilt? First, recognize that if you never take time off, you’ll get burned out. You’ll be less productive and creative, making it difficult to keep your business healthy and growing. You can get depressed, experience a cognitive decline, and even end up with heart disease. Second, review the tips for taking time off discussed below, and determine how you can be comfortable taking a real vacation.

8 Tips for Taking Time Off as a Small Business Owner

1. Start Planning Early

If you wait until the last minute before you plan to take time off, you’ll stress yourself and your employees. Create a vacation schedule for everyone in your organization to get all of you in the mind set that everyone needs a vacation and that they will happen when you have a plan.

If you’re a one-person company, you’ll be able to give your customers notice in advance. You can also plan to set deadlines so that you’re not expecting to complete a big deliverable during your time off, and you may be able to take on more work right before your time away to compensate if necessary.

If you have employees, set your vacation plans with plenty of time for employees to understand your strategy while you’re away and can prepare to fill in where possible.

2. Plan Time Away During Slow Periods

If your business is cyclical, don’t try to plan a vacation during your busy time. Consider when you’ll have the most coverage while you’re away. This means you’ll need to juggle your schedule, your employees’ schedules, and your family’s schedule. It can be tricky, but it can be done.

3. Start Small

If you haven’t taken a vacation in the recent past—or ever—don’t start with a two-week absence. Start with a half-day away, then work up to a day, then a long weekend, and work up to longer periods of absence. 

Until you’re completely comfortable, you might also consider what many call a staycation. If you’re close to home, you’ll feel like you can respond quickly in case of an emergency. Once you and your staff can function well for a short period of time, you’ll be more comfortable taking a vacation that involves being out of town and maybe even out of touch.

4. Designate a Leader

Designate one staff member as the leader or second in command while you are away. Your designee should be made responsible for ensuring that work is getting done just as it would be if you weren’t on vacation. You should provide the leader with a list of common issues that might arise and how to handle them.

And, rather than each person declaring an emergency and calling you while you’re away, the leader should be the conduit for any communication with you. If your staff can’t come up with a solution to an issue as a team, the leader would be the one to contact you with a description of the problem the team faces, what they’ve tried to resolve it, and what they need from you.

5. Prepare Your Staff

As a small business owner, you may not have anyone in a management position on staff. But, that doesn’t mean that your employees can’t take on a position of “lead.” Think about the things that might happen while you are gone.

For example, the most computer-oriented staff member could be the computer lead if problems arise. Make sure that person knows things such as where supplies are, how to tend to printers that need ink, and who to call for tech support.

6. Let Important Customers Know You’ll be on Vacation

Odds are, your customers take vacation, too. Therefore, telling them you’ll be on vacation won’t be a surprise. Let them know when you’ll be away by doing things such as adding a note to your email signature announcing your vacation for a week or two before you leave.

You can call to touch base with important clients and to ensure that they won’t need to contact you while you’re gone. If you have a staff member who you’ve identified as the leader while you’re away, let your customers know who they can contact if something does come up.

7. Consider Closing

Closing is a viable alternative, especially if you don’t have staff. You may assume that the world will come to an end if your customers need to wait a week to hear back from you, but that’s not typically true. If you have ensured that there are no deadlines during the time that you will be gone, you’ve already prepared your customers to be self-sufficient until you return.

8. Set Vacation Boundaries

Decide how much contact you need with your business while you are away. Ideally, you can go on vacation without doing any work tasks until you return. If that isn’t feasible, set your boundaries to give yourself as much free time as possible. For example:

  • Can you check in with your staff once a day, or check your email once a day and only respond to emergency emails?

  • Can your designated leader compile a list of issues that arise during the day and send you one email from the team? At that point, you can decide which things you must become involved with and ask the leader to keep a tally of outstanding issues that can be addressed upon your return.

Make these decisions before your vacation and ensure that your team, and customers who need to know, understand your schedule. This will give you the best chance to disconnect to the greatest extent possible.

Next Steps

You may be convinced that if you take a vacation, you’re letting yourself down, along with your team and your customers. But, all the experts say that you’re actually preparing yourself to be even more creative and to support your team and your customers at a higher level.

Test out the experts’ advice. Find out for yourself how you benefit from time away from your business. Use the tips above to plan your vacation, and you’ll find that it is not only possible, but will give you a much healthier work/life balance. You’ll also have much more energy to put back into building your small business.


About the Author

Kathleen Allardyce is a freelance writer who serves forward-thinking companies that want to use effective content marketing to increase leads, convert leads to customers, and grow their business.


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