taking time off

By Robert Glazer

Being an entrepreneur is hard work. Often, you’re the first one to arrive and the last to leave. We read about business owners who work 80-hour weeks or haven’t taken a vacation in 10 years because they “love” their business.

Of course, it helps to love what you do, but everyone needs to clock out eventually. Don’t let your business eat up all of your free time. Surely, you’ve got other priorities in your life.

For me, these priorities are my health, family and community. They all deserve some of my time and shouldn’t be treated like objects to juggle while I concentrate on business. If they are true priorities for me, shouldn’t I approach them with the same determination and energy I usually reserve for my business? I think so, but how can clocking out be good for business?

1) It’s good for you.

You have a limited amount of free time. Allocate it thoughtfully and make your plans known. I try to keep 30 percent of my schedule clear. That means becoming a master scheduler. I integrate my work calendar with my family calendar, and my wife is able to access both. It helps keep us disciplined so we don’t overbook.

Treat the events on your personal calendar as immovable objects. If you say you want to run a marathon this summer, then schedule time to train. Want to plant an herb garden? Reserve time to plant and harvest.

I’m not suggesting you’ll be able to completely forget about what’s going on at work, but it is during these down times that your mind can unpack and decompress. With quiet comes clarity, and these opportunities to create clarity give you great perspective on your business.

I find that it helps to lay out a set of goals I want to accomplish during my free time. I talk about these with one of my peers so there is a sense of accountability. Schedule some time each day to sit quietly with a notebook and reflect on things you feel successful about. I guarantee it will make you feel better about your day.

2) It’s good for your business.
Time off doesn’t just benefit you, your family or your community. Your employees will benefit, too. It’s good for your staff to get used to the boss not always being around. It shows that you have confidence in them and gives you a glance at what it will be like when you’re not involved in day-to-day operations.

I know a lot of successful entrepreneurs and most of them are looking for ways to grow their businesses to the point where they’re no longer needed at the office every day. Give your staff some experience at accomplishing things without you standing over them. Their successes will increase your confidence and your trust will increase theirs.

There should be standard operating rules in place that guide your business whether or not you are there to enforce them. Establishing these and then testing them by clocking out will help you determine how independent your company really is.

3) It’s good for your clients.

Taking some time off can be hard on your clients and customers who like to lean on their personal relationship with you. But it also presents an opportunity to improve your business. If you’re planning on spending some time away, contact your clients to let them know. Tell them whom they can follow up with in your absence. Have confidence in your team and share that confidence with your clients so they can feel it, too.

Allowing your clients to figure out that they don’t have to speak with you personally to do business is a good thing. Let your clients know that you have procedures in place and your team is able to act without having to run everything up the flagpole. Your client will be impressed and your team will feel more confident. When I’m away, my team doesn’t even include me on emails. That way, when I get back to the office, I’m not immediately involved in something that I don’t know all the facts about.

Clocking out isn’t easy. There are always 100 reasons to stay at work another hour. Just remind yourself that unplugging for a short time can pay off in ways that another hour behind the desk can’t match.

Robert Glazer is president of the Boston Chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), a group comprised of 108 Boston entrepreneurs who each own a company with gross annual sales exceeding $1 million. EO enables small and large business owners to learn from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life. Glazer is also the founder and managing director of Acceleration Partners.