Some people just don't know when to take a break. They work themselves like dogs, thinking that they can't afford or don't deserve to take a vacation. In 2008, I was forced to rebuild my entire business from scratch. The failure and need for cash drove me to work hard constantly for the next several years. It was difficult to emotionally justify a vacation for myself until cash flow was steady and my objectives were on track. And yet I did indeed take time off, mostly because it was necessary for me to do my best work.

The brain does better with rest, and so does the heart. Mental and physical fatigue causes stress, sloppy decision-making, and carelessness. I found that short breaks of a day or two during which I completely disconnected would allow me to recharge my batteries completely. Ultimately those days would make me more tolerant, responsive, and creative. Those mini vacations didn't have to cost money. In fact, I used the time to explore local areas of interest and natural beauty. A day of hiking, biking, or kayaking gave me a great separation from work and provided inspiration as well, not to mention the health benefits. So don't wait: Go ahead and vacate.

Here are additional insights from my Inc. colleagues.

1. Your brain needs a break.

Just today I got emails from two people at the same company. One told me she'd be unavailable after 11 as the whole place was going on an outing. The other wrote about something else mid-afternoon. "Aren't you supposed to be out?" I asked. "Too much going on," he responded. He often answers my emails on evenings and weekends. Then again, I'm the one sending those emails on evenings and weekends. The truth is working this way isn't good for him or me. Our brains need breaks and start losing efficiency if we don't get them, something I've experienced many times. That's why it's essential, even for entrepreneurs, to take at least one whole day off every week. --Start Me Up

2. Breaks from your business allow you both to grow.

I recently dropped my teenage daughter off at a four-week pre-college program. Yes, I am nervous, and a little sad, but I know this time away will teach us both some important lessons. She will learn to make it through her days on her own and I will see where she needs some additional help with the life skills she'll need to make it on her own. The same is true for you and your company. Your time away will allow you both to grow. It's during time away that you see how well your company runs. If you find your company really can't survive without you, you don't have a company, and you need to spend time empowering others, establishing better systems, and creating accountability. Time away makes you a better leader. You need a break to read a book or to just "think." My time away has resulted in the greatest breakthroughs for me personally and for my company. Instead of thinking it is important to be at your company every day, you need to realize it's just as important to take some time away. --Lean Forward

3. Absence strengthens process.

A survey commissioned by Sam's Club found that nearly 50% of small business owners take only major holidays off, or nothing at all. The result? Exhaustion, poor decision-making, impatience, and even illness. Giving yourself a vacation is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and possibly your business. Planning time off wisely usually results in the documentation of processes, improved training, and finding reliable backup--things that are often left undone. It's also a great exercise in trust and letting go. Practice seeing the positive side of stepping away--and book that cruise. --The Successful Soloist

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