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WORK-LIFE BALANCE

The Foolproof Way To Determine When And How To Take Time Off

Four tips you need to know before taking time off.
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There are hundreds of articles about when and how to take time off from your company. Inc. in particular loves this topic; some columnists who choose to take August off, while others think that summer is the perfect time to hustle.

Since I am a harried working mother who runs a company with her husband, I write often about work-life balance. I share my own experiences, as well asthe experience of others, and rarely offerstep-by-stepguides to success (mostly because I believe that we define our own successes in life). However, today, my friends, I present you with thestep-by-step, fool-proof way to determine when and how you should take vacation.

Step One: Take a three-day weekend.
Anyone can afford to take one day off. Start with that. Better yet, add an extra day to a federal holiday long weekend. Then write down your state of mind after taking that three-day weekend. How refreshed do you feel?During the work-day that you took off, were you able to stay off of email? If not, start practicing that first. If you're totally refreshed after a three-day weekend, take a bunch of them. If not, it sounds like you might need some more time off. If that's the case.....head to step two.

Step Two: Identify your busy season.
The reason I hate posts about taking summer off is primarily that for some, summer is a busy season. If you're a back-to-school brand, for instance, you are hustling like mad during summer. If your networking is primarily done at rooftop cocktail hours or on the golf course, then you need to be working hard during the day to free up time to do just that. Everyone has a busy season, and they may be different for different people at the same company. Know your busy season...and try not to take off time during it. Okay, now that you've identified the time that's likely the best to go on vacation, head to step three.

Step Three: Determine your time-share circle.
Have you ever experienced a time when you need to get something done at a company and every single person you needed was on vacation? That's happened tome at my own company, and it was very frustrating. If you want to feel free to enjoy your vacation and not be stressed about being away, make sure that others who impact the company in similar capacities are not on vacation at the same time. Communicate early and often about that. No matter your level in an organization, it's important to communicate with your boss and your circle when you plan on taking time off. I do not go on vacation when my COO does, and that takes thoughtful planning and collaboration. But it makes my vacation infinitely better because people need me a lot less if she's there and has my back. I've now been able to completely shut off. And that's because I've accepted step four, which is all about a mindset shift.

Step Four: Abandon the idea that you are essential to your business.
I remember one time when I was a cocky young salesperson at Radio Disney. I was the top seller and on top of my game. When I got a little snarky with my boss, she looked at me and said something I'll never forget: "Everyone, even me, is totally replaceable." As a leader, it may feel like the business can't run without you. But in reality, the business MUST be able to run without you. A business that is dependent on any one person is not a business; it may be a consultancy, but it's not a true business. If you take the precautions noted in stepsone through three, you should be able to have the vacation of your dreams.

If you have any thoughts on this, feel free to leave a comment. Although, if it's between August 23 and August 31st, I won't answer you. I'll be in Paris...on vacation.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Aug 7, 2014




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