Two years. To be precise: Two years, one month, and three days ago.
That's the last time my husband and I took a real vacation. I'm exhausted. I miss my husband. I miss myself.
All of these circumstances forced me to be honest and admit that the biggest obstacle to my grossly delinquent vacations is not actually my work. It's me.
I'm sure you can attest to how difficult it is to make time for a vacation--especially during those intense start-up years. And it becomes exponentially more difficult when you're talking about taking a true vacation, one that involves a calm mind, your devices being shut down, your kids with their grandparents. Plus, it's long enough for you to actually rejuvenate.
If that's not already difficult enough to obtain, consider that my husband, Khary, and I have an added challenge: Because he and I are CEO and CFO of our own family business, our absence leaves a double leadership gap.
But "all work, no play" is not only no fun; it can tank your business. That, coupled with my pent-up stress, forced me to get my mind right about finally taking a true vacation. I came to terms with some truths that I hope help you, too.
1. It helps to underestimate your importance.
Say it with me: "You. Are. Not. That. Important." Now repeat, and let that sink in. It is dangerous to be so essential to your small business's daily operations that things will suffer if you're gone a week. More likely, it's a case of separation anxiety and of your overestimating your importance. Your team is bright, capable, and talented, which is motivation enough to consistently resist the temptation to micromanage. (Who wants to be that person? Wasn't your desire not to feel the Man's foot on your neck a major motivation for shirking traditional Corporate America? So do unto others...).
Recognizing that's easier said than done, I suggest practicing with a staycation. Alert your staff that you are unavailable for a couple of days. Aim to stay disconnected. But if you slip up, use it to reinforce to yourself that your team will step up. If an issue is mishandled or there's an emergency that you wish the staff actually had interrupted you for, now you have the ideal opportunity to recalibrate, prepare, and ensure there is a common understanding of what constitutes an emergency worthy of disrupting your vacation.
2. You can survive without the Internet.
Overusing technology is an addiction. Period. If we don't struggle with the so-called hard stuff--drugs, alcohol, gambling--we often take false comfort in our more "socially acceptable" addictions, such as caffeine, money, power, and yes, technology. Rationalize all you want, but addiction is addiction. So let's just quickly admit that and get to weaning ourselves off our devices. Traveling to a lush location only to stay connected is not a vacation--that's remote work, kids! Crack is indeed wack, and so is selling yourself short by sneaking in time on email, Facebook, or whatever your digital drug of choice happens to be.
3. You may have to work hard to convince yourself. Here's how.
You guessed it: Time to put your money where your mouth is. Set the date for your next vacation. If you dare to miss it, find someone you will actually stay accountable to and pay a fine for every extra day until you take it. And I'm not talking chump change. Make it an amount that hurts. And no, this money cannot be used on your vacation! Donate it, or give it to the person holding you accountable (assuming he or she is not your traveling partner).
Ironically, after my husband and I finally planned a couples-only, fun-filled Martha's Vineyard getaway for this week, we were forced to cancel at the last minute because of, you've guessed it, business. I was devastated! But I reminded myself that even though this cancellation couldn't be avoided, there were others in the past that probably could have been. So we've already rescheduled for a much warmer island: Jamaica.
And because I like to practice what I preach, Amani Liberia (a nonprofit that teaches women how to create, market, and manage businesses through textiles and sewing) is the beneficiary of the very overdue vacation that we just had to cancel.