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Vacations: The Secret Ingredient for Small Business Success

Updated: Aug 23, 2023


My daughter relaxing in a hammock up between two trees at a campground near the New River Gorge.
My daughter has mastered the art of relaxing.

Key Take-Aways

  • Small business owners need to take time to disengage from work

  • Vacations can help improve your business and have a positive impact on your health

  • Vacations look different for everyone, but the key is to find a way to disengage from work and rejuvenate



Americans take some of the least vacations worldwide; we take less now than 30 years ago. Less than half of Americans take all of their annual leave. Small business owners are even worse about taking vacations. One study found that almost 40% of small business owners haven't taken a vacation. Only 15% disengaged from work when they did. We have bought into this myth that by working more, we will be more productive. As small business owners, we think our business will fail or lose money if we take time off. Furthermore, we started these businesses because we are passionate about what we do and want to give it everything. 


As a small business owner, I am driven to work more than ever. There is always more to do, and it all feels necessary to help my business thrive. I decided to start my own business partly for work-life balance and flexibility, but I found myself working even more since the work WAS me. There was no longer a separation between work life and personal life. In stark contrast to the drive to run my business, part of my mission to grow better humans is to help others achieve better work-life balance. I know the key to thriving and sustaining yourself is to take breaks that will energize you for your work. 


By getting away from our business for a while, we find renewed energy and can gain new perspectives to help us advance our business. Taking time away when we aren't constantly thinking about work allows us to be more creative and inspired. Our brains need downtime to step back and use our imagination. With smartphones, we are much less likely to have that separation. It used to be that even a simple visit to the doctor forced us to wait with nothing to do, and it allowed our brains the freedom to think creatively, but now, we fill every waking moment with 'productivity' by using our smartphones to check email, update our to-do lists, research, post on social, etc. By filling these moments, our brains don't get the break they need to think more creatively.


For me, the best way to achieve this more profound rest is camping in places without internet or cell service. Going on these vacations forces me to be present and enjoy the beauty around me. I can enjoy the awe of nature and being with my family.


We can take breaks daily, weekly, and annually to reenergize ourselves. Small business owners need to establish routines to implement all of these breaks. However, the annual vacation offers unique opportunities for rejuvenation, fresh perspectives, strengthening relationships, and providing an excellent example to those you may have working for you.


What is meant by a vacation?

You need to disengage from business concerns to be an actual vacation that brings the benefits of rest from work. You are not checking email, catching up on phone calls, researching ideas for your business, or working on projects or other work-related tasks. Ideally, you will take a couple of weeks a year to do this, but maybe not all at once. A vacation should also not be causing you more stress over travel concerns and finances. The key is that it provides you with the needed time to destress and rejuvenate. How that happens is different for different people. It depends on what stresses you out and what reenergizes you. Dr. Dalton-Smith defines 7 kinds of rest we need, and you can require different kinds of rest at different times, so your vacation should meet your rest needs.



Why do I need to take a vacation? Won't I be more productive if I use that time to work?

The main reason to take a vacation is to protect your health. People who take vacations live longer and are healthier. Businesses that honor vacations and individuals that take vacations advance more. In short, you will be better for your own business if you take a break. Here are a few ways a vacation can help you:

Rejuvenation

We have more energy for our work when we take breaks from it. Going back to the 7 kinds of rest mentioned above, think of a rechargeable battery that gets drained and needs recharging. When we constantly work, we are never recharging our batteries. Vacation is one way to recharge your battery and help you work better. We need to build in times to restore on daily, weekly, and annual bases.

Fresh Perspectives

Getting a break from work and changing your environment helps you step back and gain perspective. When you are in the weeds of running your business from day to day, your brain is not free to imagine new solutions or possibilities. Your brain needs a break from the busyness of each day to have time for creative solutions. Creative solutions are what drive our business forward. Only by stepping away from daily demands can we open up our minds to imagine the possibilities.

Improved Relationships

Many of us start businesses to support our families, but then we often neglect our families to run our businesses. By making time for vacation, you place your family as a priority. By disengaging from work, you can give your family the attention they need. 

Additionally, if you have people working in your business, this allows them time to take on more responsibilities and become more engaged. By empowering your employees, you improve your relations with them, making running your business even more manageable as it becomes more of a team effort.

Awe

There have been a lot of studies about the benefits of being in green spaces and experiences that inspire awe. Most vacations build in experiences that inspire awe. Awe increases your happiness and lowers stress. We need to find more ways to build awe into our lives, and vacations are a natural way to incorporate awe.


How small business owners can take a vacation from work

The biggest worry of new and small business owners is usually financing, but a vacation doesn't have to break the bank, and it should bring financial benefits to your business in the long run. Here are some tips to help you step away from your company for a few days.

Get over the guilt

Reading articles that help you see how vacations will benefit you and your business is the first step in overcoming the guilt. Remind yourself that you are helping empower yourself for more extraordinary things in the future. Remind yourself that your business will not fall apart when you step away, and you are living out your dream by taking a vacation and time with your family, which is why you started the business in the first place.

Plan Ahead

Plan your schedule so that you can go with your family (when kids are off from school), and consider your business calendar. Now if you are in the stage of herding cats and putting out fires, and you don't feel like you can plan your week, you need a vacation more than any of us! Taking the time off can help you reconsider priorities and come up with ideas of how to better manage your time in a way that will benefit you and your business. However, there are a few tips to help you plan for a vacation that will make it less stressful for you.


  • First, plan for when you can take a few days off. Ideally, it may be after a busy time and before you are gearing up for your next big launch of a product, service, or event. 

  • Next, consider what work can be automated to run while you are out and how to plan your work for when you are away. For example, I can pre-write blog posts and social posts and have them scheduled to go out while on vacation. You can also create out-of-office replies and make sure you haven't scheduled new business during that time.

  • Finally, make sure all relevant parties know when you will be out of reach. If you have employees, ensure they know what circumstances warrant getting in touch with you and how to do that. If being out of touch is too stressful, plan limited time to check email, call, or do other business-related tasks.


Expenses

One reason small business owners don't take a vacation is the expense. They are worried about lost income while they are away as well as the money spent on vacation that could have been spent on the business. However, there are many ways to make vacations more affordable. For example, if you stay in a place where you can make your own meals, like an apartment or house rental, you will save a considerable chunk. Consider your travel costs as well. You do not need to go far to disengage. Even just a 30-minute drive could provide enough of a break. Camping can be a cheap alternative as it is typically less than $50 per night. However, you will need equipment, and if you aren't up for that, you can also try a state park cabin or yurt which can often be found for around $100 per night. The magic of staying at parks is that you will have a greater chance of being disconnected from email and a better chance of being connected with nature and awe.



Summary

As a small business owner, vacations are vital for your health and can help reenergize you. They can also help you gain new perspectives and ideas to move your business forward. Holidays provide a chance to spend time with your family - which may be one of the reasons you started your business, and they allow your employees to step up and learn new skills. 


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