Hard to believe, but summer is nearly over. Did you take a vacation from your small business this year? If you’re like many entrepreneurs, the answer is no. Just 57 percent of small business owners in a recent survey by OnDeck Capital say they are vacationing this year, and only 32 percent say they generally make vacation a priority.
Getting away from it all for a vacation is challenging for many Americans, but especially for small business owners who often lack the staff to delegate to you while they’re away. But taking a vacation — even a short one — can make a huge difference in your productivity, motivation and energy levels after your return. And it might be easier to do than you think.
Consider this: According to the OnDeck Capital survey, the group most likely to make vacation or priority is doctors — people who literally deal with life-and-death situations every day. Sixty-seven percent of doctors in the survey said they take vacations, compared to just half of restaurateurs. If doctors can manage to take time off, certainly you can.
The longer entrepreneurs have been in business, and the more employees they have, the more likely they are to take a vacation, the survey found. That could be because these veteran entrepreneurs have learned how important it is to take time off, or because they generally have more people to delegate to. Seven out of 10 small business owners who have been in business for 11 to 20 years are taking vacations, compared to 47 percent of those in business 1 to 10 years. Fifty-seven percent of those with 1 to 5 employees take vacations, as do 63 percent of those with 6 to 10 employees. Not surprisingly, self-employed people (with no employees) are the least likely demographic to take vacations: just 42 percent of them do.
Even taking a vacation doesn’t mean entrepreneurs are actually unplugging from their businesses, however. Sixty-seven percent of business owners surveyed say they check in with their business at least once a day; just 15 percent are able to disconnect altogether during a trip.
Checking in with your business may not be ideal, but sometimes it’s essential to make a vacation work. (No wonder 75 percent of doctors who take vacations check in every day.) You can try to maximize your downtime by limiting work check-ins to once or twice a day — say, in the morning before you head out on that day’s adventure, or in the evening before dinner. Or, take a lesson from how doctors do it: Delegate one of your staff to handle your phone calls, voicemails and emails, and alert you when anything urgent arises. That way, you can be confident you’re not missing anything important, but you don’t have to keep checking your phone.
Also let go of the idea that vacation has to be a lengthy affair. Of the business owners who do vacation, 61 percent take one week off, 26 percent take a few days and 9 percent take two weeks. One week off seems to be the sweet spot where you get the benefit of time off without missing too much that’s going on at your business. To maximize relaxation, try choosing a location relatively close so you’re not spending entire days traveling. Of course, even a few days off is better than nothing, and almost every entrepreneur can make this work. For example, try tacking a couple of personal days on to your next business trip.
Summer may not be your ideal time to take a break — for instance, if your business is seasonal and relies on summer tourists. If that’s the case, look on the bright side: Traveling during off seasons can save you money and be more relaxing, with fewer crowds. But whatever your business’s off-season is, find a way to take some time off then. If you don’t feel like your business has an off-season, consider when your customers slow down. Do they shut their offices down for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day? Then take your break then. You get the idea.