Small business owners: You CAN take a vacation

Last week I took a staycation. Although I did not wander far from home, I did get myself some first-rate pampering in the form of a facial, a trip to the hair salon and so on. It felt super luxurious to just focus on myself for a whole week, although it is impossible not to think about my clients from time to time no matter what I’m doing.

I took the time off because it had dawned on me that one reason I was feeling a little worn out was because I hadn’t really taken a vacation in 2011. (I don’t count five days off after the freak Halloween snowstorm; we had no electricity, no phone, and very little heat, so it wasn’t all that relaxing!) I didn’t have time to do much planning this time around, which is why I stayed close to home. But maybe next time I take an impromptu vacation, I’ll try out a service like Jettly so I don’t have to worry about getting an airline reservation at the last minute.

This lack of vacation time is not unusual for those of us who are self-employed or owners of small businesses. It is all too easy to talk yourself into thinking that things will fall apart if you aren’t there to hold them together. But that would be wrong!

Any time I’ve gone on vacation, I always find that my clients survived nicely without me. I know it’s harder to take time off when you’re running a different kind of business than I do. A retail operation, for example, would be difficult to manage if you don’t have the right staff in place to take over in your absence. But if you don’t have the right staff in place, then you have bigger problems than a lack of time off, don’t you?

Of course, one danger of modern business life is that even when you’re on vacation, you’re still at the beck and call of e-mail. That is, unless you’re very disciplined and just don’t turn on your computer or your mobile device. I was monitoring my e-mail for the first couple of days and then I decided that it wasn’t exactly helping me achieve my goal of getting away from it all, so I stopped. And guess what? The world did not come to a halt.

I made my decision to take a week off only the week before I did so. But usually I plan way in advance because if I’m going to travel, I enjoy the planning and the anticipation that comes with knowing you’re going some place interesting. I particularly like knowing I have a reservation on an airplane going some place I haven’t been before.

Don’t get in the habit of thinking you’re indispensable. That type of thinking, while it may be good for your ego, really ratchets up the stress to your life. We all benefit from getting some balance into our lives. And the people around us, including our clients or customers, benefit, too, when we come back physically rested and mentally refreshed. So what are your vacation plans for 2012?

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