Why It's Time to Take a Vacation (and How to Do It)

As Americans, our culture doesn’t value leisure time the same way as other countries do. In fact, the United States is the only advanced economy in the world without a vacation policy.

This too-tough-to-take-a-break attitude comes from the top, and it’s not benefiting anyone’s health: Both men and women who don’t take vacations are more likely to have a heart attack, and women are far more likely to be depressed.

So let’s clear up a few misconceptions: Vacation is not just for lazy people, and your business will not fall apart if you take a little time off. In fact, recharging actually helps your business. Consider some of the benefits of taking a break:

Find fresh inspiration and renewed drive.

When you’re burned out, you’re just going through the motions at work. You’re tired, stuck, and stressed. Simply removing yourself from your usual environment and routine gives you a new perspective, both literally and figuratively. When you give your mind a rest, it becomes a more fertile ground for creativity, which allows you to work out problems and generate new ideas.

Allow employees to shine.

If you’re always at the office, whether physically or connected electronically, you’re depriving your employees of a critical growth opportunity. They can’t step up and be leaders if you are always there to put out the fires, so it’s important to go offline (temporarily, at least) and make it clear that they need to be autonomous while you’re away. Also, by taking time off, you’re setting a healthy example for your staff by showing them you think it’s important to reset and recharge.

Set and reach goals faster.

If you’re someone who needs to feel like you “earned” your time off, create a goal, give yourself a deadline, and make the incentive pretty good. When you’re a business owner, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by obvious (if intimidating) objectives like, say, staying in business. So, you should also focus on short-term, attainable goals with an appealing reward.

Of course, even when you know why you should take a break, it’s still difficult to actually do it. Here’s how to unplug without completely unraveling.

Ease into it.

If you’re connected to your business 24/7 and haven’t vacationed in years, it’s probably not a great idea to start with a two-week trip to an exotic destination with no Wi-Fi. Instead, start with a few hours off to get a massage or do something equally relaxing. As you get more comfortable with stepping away for short periods of time, you’ll feel more confident about taking a few days or even a week off.

Schedule a time to check in.

It’s not always possible to unplug completely, so if there are some issues you need to address while you’re away, set aside an hour or so each day to check email and take phone calls.

Make it a habit.

Taking a vacation shouldn’t be like getting a colonoscopy (an unpleasant thing you do about once every 10 years and only because you know you should). If you’re doing it right, taking time off should rejuvenate you and prompt more trips, staycations, and mini-breaks. So start scheduling a vacation annually (preferably more frequently) and consider it a meeting that you absolutely cannot cancel.