Small business owners are masochists. We arrive early, work late, put everything on the line, and think we are the only ones who can get the job done right.  And while these things may be key to success, they can also work against us. Burnout can be just as deadly for your business as not working hard enough, which means going on vacation should take on a new level of urgency.

The latest buzz would suggest otherwise. My personal hero Elon Musk famously endorses working harder and faster than anyone as a way to get ahead. And a recent TED Talk and a new book both identify grit as a crucial factor to success. But when does grit become burnout? Unfortunately, by the time you realize it, it’s already happened. And we all know what burnout can mean for the workplace.

Sometime in 2011, my wife and I were working tirelessly on our nascent business, CR Languages, when we began to see the signs of burnout. We were working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. And being as we lived together and worked together as husband and wife, conversations about work followed us everywhere. Fortunately, we realized that we would need to wait out the dog days of the recession to realize success, so we scaled back. We still work hard, but now we are working 12 hour days Monday through Thursday (most of the time). The change in pace shed a whole new light on our attitudes, our morale, and our business. Looking back, we accomplish more by working less. And three day weekends are amazing!

Okay, so hopefully by now, I’ve made the case for taking a vacation as a small business owner. Now you’re probably wondering how. Just like you did when you started your business, you just have to do it. Mark it on the calendar, tell everyone about it, and commit.

Just like you did when you started your business, you just have to do it. Mark it on the calendar, tell everyone about it, and commit.

But that’s not all. You have to enjoy your time off, too. On my first vacation as a business owner, I made a big, long to-do list of things that I would “catch up on” during my time off. That was a really bad idea. Not only did I not accomplish anything on my list, I didn’t enjoy myself because I was stressed out about not doing the things on my list. No, don’t do that. Just let go and know that the world will not stop spinning.

What else can you do to make your vacation a success? Here are some tactics I’ve come up with in executing my own 4 weeks off a year.

  • Put it on the calendar. We have our vacation planned a year in advance. It’s marked on the calendar in big red Xs and we know the dates by heart.
  • Plan ahead. If you can, ensure that you get your big looming tasks out of the way before the big day so that you can relax. I always make a point to totally organize my desk BEFORE going on vacation.
  • Set up an auto reply and change your voicemail. That way people know you’re away and won’t be expecting you.
  • Automate. This one is my favorite (I have a lot of future posts planned about automation!). Schedule blog posts to be released and promoted using something like CoSchedule. Automate invoices to be created and sent out (we use Xero). Try using something like Zapier or IFTTT to create a few automated tasks that will help you stay on top of things.
  • Plan to work on your vacation. Counterintuitive, right? Well, us workaholics actually feel better when we work. Plan an hour or two into your vacation to just sit down and indulge in that big ripe inbox.

Plan an hour or two into your vacation to just sit down and indulge in that big ripe inbox.

So, there you have it. The ability to adjust your schedule is by far one of the greatest benefits of being self employed. So go ahead, take a vacation. Not only do you deserve it, it’s crucial to your success.

Leave a Reply