As a business leader, I'm not afraid to say it: I love, value, and take vacation time--regularly.
While this might be true for many entrepreneurs, it's rarely openly admitted. The prevailing thought is that entrepreneurs are unusually driven and can only be successful by living to work.
But even for the most ambitious individuals--perhaps especially for them--downtime is an important factor in personal health, business growth, and productivity.
Skipping vacation is a bad habit that can negatively affect your health in the long run. On the surface, a vacation is about being lazy. But really, it's a time to recharge, re-evaluate priorities, and reset your internal compass. Deep relaxation and some breathing space allow for greater clarity and creativity.
Although circumstances will understandably make it challenging to get away sometimes, the point is not just to get away physically, but to also distance yourself mentally. And various types of vacations, from low-cost to luxury, can help you do just that:
1. Staycation: If time or finances are tight, think about taking a "staycation," where you go offline as if you were away on vacation, but stay close to home. If you manage to unplug completely, a staycation can be as valuable as a trip to the Caribbean. For virtually none of the cost, you'll reap the benefits of an extended getaway, as long as you set important boundaries for yourself--namely, no work.
2. Road trip: Besides the low cost, short road trips are great because you don't need a lot of time to take one. Long weekends work wonders; planned well, you can make four days feel like a week. When I was married, my husband and I made it a point to go away for a long weekend at least once a quarter. I've kept up the practice and go stay with friends who live a few hours away.
3. Exotic travel: You probably already know where you'd go "if only you had the time." Make the time to take off. Enjoy the fruits of your labor by traveling somewhere you've always wanted to visit. If you're not ready to take such a big leap, reasonably priced all-inclusive deals are always an option.
4. Social impact travel: Also known as "voluntourism," social impact travel involves making a difference in a community while simultaneously exploring and experiencing that new place. Whether you help build homes for those in need or tutor kids in technology, there are plenty of people who need your help. Such "combo" vacations can be extremely fulfilling and rewarding for philanthropic-minded entrepreneurs.
All the options in the world won't answer the fundamental question that stops many entrepreneurs from considering a vacation in the first place: What about work?
For the most part, careful planning will take care of work. First, create buffer time before and after a vacation so you aren't rushing around before you leave. It's also a good idea to allow for a "re-entry" cushion of at least one day upon your return before ramping back up into your routine. This is especially important if you've been away for an extended time.
Next, notify everyone of your vacation so they can plan around your absence, then delegate tasks as needed. Finally, clear out your inbox before you leave or, if you must, designate certain days and times to check email while on vacation. (I limit myself to an hour of email a day.)
Ideally, you should disconnect, only to be reached for emergencies. This keeps your mind at ease and affords enough time to recharge and return to work invigorated. Remember why you hired the folks you did, and trust that your team will be fine without you for a few days.
Entrepreneurs who vacation frequently return with happier, more positive outlooks on life. Studies show that people who take regular vacations have more fulfilling relationships with less friction and strife than those who don't, as well as fewer heart attacks and lower stress levels. Moreover, they tend to be more creative and productive upon their return.
The bottom line is that vacations are an essential part of your prescription for good health, balance, fulfillment, and a more productive work life.