Vacations can be wonderful. They refresh you. They give you much needed time to devote to family. They lift worries and brighten your perspective. There’s even evidence that vacations improve productivity.
Everyone should take at least one vacation every year. There! I have given you the standard good advice.
My obligation taken care of, let me get down to reality:
For many of us who own businesses, especially relatively new businesses, getting away for a nice, long, summer vacation is easier said than done. It probably won’t surprise you that the majority of small business owners don’t take vacations. According to one recent survey, 66 percent of small business owners don’t.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t feel like you’re on vacation, even if you can’t get away this year. There are any number of small steps you can take. Here are six things you can do:
- Schedule a day or afternoon off every week. It’s a rare business that the owner can’t leave for a day or an afternoon at a time. My father-in-law was an incredibly busy doctor, but for 30 years he took every Wednesday afternoon off, year round, to treat his mother to lunch and in the summer months pursue activities with his kids.
Pick whatever is the slow time in your business—maybe Friday afternoon or Mondays. Publicize summer hours if necessary. This time is just for family or yourself—hiking, lying by the pool, going on a zoo outing. For you and your family, it will feel like a vacation, even if it’s just an afternoon.
- Institute summer casual dress. Make summer a time when everyone in your shop or office can dress down a bit. Even for places of business where “business casual” is the normal state, relax the rules a bit more. Perhaps allow shorts, flip flops, and T-shirts one day a week. Everyone will feel like it’s a mini vacation, despite being at work.
- Create a special treat day. Identify one day a week where you bring in lunch for everyone; perhaps Thursdays become pizza day. If your business is located in a place where you can have a BBQ grill, then grill burgers and hot dogs on hump day. Or maybe Friday mornings are doughnuts and bagels day.
For those who receive the public, such as retail establishments, perhaps you can share with customers, too. Make it festive and fun, and everyone will feel more relaxed.
- Get it off your plate and compartmentalize. Nothing is worse for our state of mind than having a constant nagging list of unfinished things we have to do. Sadly, for most business owners that is the status quo. But it’s hard to enjoy the afternoon at the pool when all you can think of are the things waiting for you back at the office or the urgent reminders to get something finished.
There are two solutions. The first is to work ahead and make sure when you do manage to take an afternoon off, you’ve finished the most pressing commitments or have delegated them.
Second, learn to compartmentalize your thinking. This has saved my sanity many times.
I tell myself that I won’t worry about or think about something until tomorrow. Or next Tuesday. I sometimes even put it on my calendar for that day. “Solve XYZ problem today.”
Sometimes, when there’s too much to do, making an appointment to worry/solve the problem later is the only solution for happiness.
- Smile! I’m a great believer in “behavior determines attitude.” What that means is, if you act a certain way, you tend to feel that way. Change your behavior, and your attitude follows suit.
Go out and exercise, and you tend to feel more active and energetic. Make yourself smile, and you tend to feel happier.
So make a point to smile more this summer. For this strategy to work, you must be mindful, i.e., paying attention to your current state of mind. “Check” yourself if you find yourself frowning or feeling negative thoughts. Consciously put a smile on your face. Say a quick “thank you” to a higher being for the things that are right in your business and your life, instead of focusing on everything that’s wrong.
I guarantee you will start to feel more upbeat and like life is fun.
- Commit yourself now for next year’s vacation. Finally, don’t make “no vacation” a habit. Put a deposit down now on next year’s beach vacation rental, or start shopping for camping equipment. Do something to commit yourself to a vacation. Then plan ahead, and work toward it.
It’s all too easy to get into a routine of all work, work, work, and you know what they say about all work making Jack (or Jill) a dull boy (or girl). Planning well ahead can make vacation doable -- next year.