Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Take the Stress Out of Taking Vacation

Take an R&D approach to R&R--6 tips you can use today

With school and graduations in the rearview mirror for most of our children or grandchildren, thoughts turn to summer vacation plans. Historically it’s been a time to slow down and catch your breath for moment, enjoy the longer days and generally sunnier weather, but it can also be a time of tremendous stress for you and your clients who run their own enterprises. Being your own boss means you theoretically have more flexibility in life, but it also means you have no formal vacation or PTO days.

"We often joke that if we didn’t take a vacation we wouldn’t need one," quipped syndicated radio host, Maureen Anderson in a recent Fast Company article about how exceptionally busy people take guilt-free vacations. Before planning a two-week vacation, she and her husband, who co-produce Doing What Works, prep several extra episodes ahead of time. HB tip: If you have a client blog or newsletter, you can easily do the same as most platforms have an advanced scheduling feature.

Unlike workers in other countries, Americans tend to think of vacations as week-long events at most. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average full-time worker gets 10.2 paid vacation days after 3 years on the job, and even professional workers with a decade of service average just 16. But even with that limited time off, most people won’t take most of it at once because they worry about the ramifications if they do. It’s even worse for business owners and solo-preneurs. You don’t have to face the ire of jealous co-workers and disappointed bosses upon your return, but your re-entry into the real world can be overwhelming if you’re not careful.

According to Fast Company, the average American workers gets about 150 emails a day, so being out of contact for 10 business days means there will be at least 1,500 messages waiting for you. OY! Although only 10-15 emails a day will be important, half of those should be able to be handled by someone who is covering for you. Fast Company also said a good rule of thumb is to start planning at least a week ahead of time for every business day you’ll be gone (e.g. 10 weeks for a 2-week trip).

In other words, vacation time should be an essential part of your business plan.

Here are some of our own tips:

1. Unplug from the grid, but don’t have your head in the sand….Check email and voicemail messages at the beginning or end of day….BUT absolutely don’t respond unless it’s 100 percent necessary! Most of all, don’t leave voice mails and don’t let yourself get caught up in an endless cc/bcc loop. Time with your family and friends is all too important, don’t let work ruin that precious time. It’s good to know what the problems and issues are at the office, but don’t sacrifice valuable personal time to solve them.

2. Every morning on vacation, take 5 minutes to scribble a very short list of Must-Do’s for the first week upon your return—don’t actually do them, just scribble them down. We’ve found that just putting your major worries or concerns in writing—and stowing that list away--we’ll help your brain let go of them while you’re getting some much needed R&R. but you really need to unplug and recharge.

3. Do sports like golf and tennis. These sports are lots of fun, but, but they require intense concentration and focus to be even moderately successful. If you’ve been playing well all week and suddenly find yourself shanking your golf shots or double-faulting in tennis, that means you’re starting to let your mind drift back to work issues or confrontations you had before leaving. Empty your mind and think about nothing and relax your grip on your club or racquet. How many minutes (or seconds) can you go? That’s a good indicator of whether or not you’re relaxed.

4. Don’t expect everything to be nailed down perfectly before your leave (one of my personal big flaws).

5. Don’t expect a seamless “re-entry” to the real world upon your return. Use the plan ride as your “transition zone” both upon your departure and upon your return. Tie up loose ends on the way out—then shut down that tablet or computer upon landing. Don’t turn it back on until your return flight is in the air. Ninety percent of the problems you couldn’t solve on the way out, are suddenly easy to grasp upon your return. Trust me, this really works.

6. Make a short journal about your trip while you’re traveling. Jot a few notes and collect a few photos every day that you’re traveling. There’s no better way to remember the highlights and it will give you a sense of productive accomplishment if you’re a driven, Type A, competitive person like most of us.  

Our blog and website have more about this and related topics.


Work hard, play hard—and don’t mix the two. There’s simply no other way to achieve your personal, professional and financial goals while remaining healthy enough to enjoy them.


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