Getting away from it all is challenging for small business owners, many of whom lack the confidence to trust that things will run smoothly in their absence. Less than 50 percent of small business owners take vacations, despite being aware of the toll this can take on their relationships as well as their physical and mental well-being.

Taking time off and unplugging from work is critical to leading a balanced life. Many business owners understand the short-term benefits, which range from reducing stress and the risk of heart attack to returning to work with renewed energy and motivation. However, they may fail to realize that the long-term impact of not taking vacation goes beyond compromised health and relationships: it can be counter-productive for their business.

The 4th of July is just two weeks away, which means summer is almost halfway over. If you have not taken a break from your small business, here are some of the reasons why vacations are essential and tips for taking guilt-free time off without feeling compelled to constantly check your cell phone.

Make Vacation a Priority

One of the reasons many people start a business is to have the freedom to manage their own time. Yet small business owners often seem to be short on time. In one study, a majority of entrepreneurs reported not having enough time as one of their top challenges. If you do not have the time to accomplish your day-to-day business objectives, chances are you will not make taking time off a priority.

However, even the most dedicated business owners must put their need to de-stress and relax before the needs of their clients and staff. During the course of any given day, you are making countless decisions and juggling an endless list of tasks. This can not only have a negative impact on productivity, but over time you may lose sight of what you have accomplished, what you aim to achieve, and why you started the business in the first place. Vacations offer the opportunity to step back, reflect on where you are, and refocus on your goals and objectives.

Be more vigilant about your time management and plan personal breaks and vacations well in advance. Enter the dates into your calendar, schedule around them, and resist the temptation to compromise your time off. Keep in mind that a vacation doesn’t have to be lengthy to be beneficial. Research has shown that eight days is the perfect amount of time to fully enjoy a getaway, and a manageable choice for small business owners who are concerned about spending too much time away from the workplace.

Of course, taking a few days off is better than nothing. Whether you are a solopreneur or in charge of a sizeable team, getting away for even a day will allow you to reboot and get a fresh perspective. Use longer breaks to re-establish a healthy rhythm, and commit to working smarter and maintaining a better work/life balance when you return to the office.

Prepare and Delegate

In order to have a truly relaxing vacation, you need to do the necessary legwork to ensure there is little or no business interruption while you’re away. It’s important to be proactive when communicating with clients. Tell them you’ll be taking a vacation a few weeks ahead of time so schedules, deadlines, or meetings can be adjusted accordingly. Be sure to share details about who they should contact while you’re away, and reassure them that your staff is well prepared to meet their needs.

Giving your team plenty of advanced notice before taking time off will allow you to set clear guidelines and delegate responsibilities. Meet with managers or team leaders to review what they’ll be working on while you’re gone. Assign work with specific directions and next steps. This will help keep them on track and give them an opportunity to take on new challenges. While this can feel like a gamble, your team will appreciate the vote of confidence and may surprise you with their capabilities.

Be clear with your staff about what they can expect during your absence. For example, you may want to let them know you will not be answering your cell phone or checking emails unless there is an emergency, or that you will be scheduling work check-ins at certain times of the day. To avoid being disturbed unnecessarily, plan for worst-case scenarios and prepare “In Case of Emergency” protocols. Designate a trustworthy employee to contact you only if a major issue develops.

Unplug as Much as Possible

Just because an entrepreneur takes a vacation doesn’t mean he or she unplugs from their business. Technology makes it easy for small business owners to stay connected during trips, and you may find it more relaxing to check your tablet or cell phone a few times each day. However, if this only adds to your stress and frustration, going off the grid could be the best way to stop thinking about business and fully recharge.

Choose the best option and set boundaries to help you stick with it. Maximize your downtime by limiting work check-ins to once in the morning before you head out for that day, and once in the evening before dinner. To alleviate worries about missing something important, delegate a staff member to handle your phone calls, voicemails, and emails, and alert you if anything urgent arises. You might also give your second-in-command a personal email address for emergencies and only check that so you will not get pulled into routine work matters.

There is no shortage of reasons for not going on vacation, but even a short break can make a big difference in your energy level, productivity, and motivation. Power down your laptop, switch off your cell phone, and trust that your business can run without you. Your team, your customers, and your business will reap the benefits.

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