Heading for the Hills: How to Take Time Off without Sinking Your Business

If you’re a business leader, especially one at the helm of an SMB, it can be hard to distance yourself from your company. While you know that taking time off work can actually boost productivity, it’s harder in practice to step away from your desk. Remember that backpacking (or boating, sightseeing, etc.) vacation that you’ve been putting on the backburner for months or years? Maybe it’s time to actually do it.

Heading for the hills once in a while can actually help you stave off burnout. Here’s how to take time off without sinking your business. As long as you approach vacationing the right way, it’s totally doable—and even encouraged!

Tie Up Loose Ends

You know your workflows. Schedule your vacation well in advance so you can tie up loose ends before you jet off for some exotic location. That way, you won’t leave any clients hanging or find yourself worrying about your to-do list after you’ve already left. Move certain deliverables up so they’re accomplished and sent before you leave, and plan to finish impending deadlines before your departure. When you walk out of the office, you’ll be confident that you’ve done everything you could and that no clients or partners are left hanging in your absence.

Delegate Well

If you assume that your business will crumble to pieces the minute you leave, you’re not giving enough credit to your staff. As one CEO writes for Forbes, “If you’ve done your job right, you’ve hired the right senior leaders and given them the direction and resources to do that work well. If you didn’t do that by the time you got on the plane for your vacation, a few emails from the beach or the links won’t do the trick.”

Before you leave, split up your daily duties between trusted employees. Provide them written instructions and make sure they have access to the files, correspondences and programs they need to pick up the slack. And, at the end of the day, you owe it to them to trust them. It’s a great way to help them grow their skillset and demonstrate that they can think on their feet to keep the daily workflow afloat. And, if a disaster does occur with a client contract or even your sprinkler system, having business insurance provides you peace of mind that you’ll find a resolution when you get back and that it won’t wipe out your company’s finances.

Leave an “OOO”

Leaving an Out-of-Office (OOO) message is a common courtesy and a professional savior. It lets anyone who emails you know that you probably won’t be sending back a swift response (especially if you don’t have steady Internet access). Depending on your company culture, you may want to get creative with your OOO.

At the very least, your OOO should alert anyone who emails you the range of dates that you’ll be gone, whether you’ll have limited/no access to emails and who they can email if it’s urgent (an assistant, subordinate or partner). Letting people know what’s going on will help them accept and understand the delayed response.

Seek New Inspiration

Do you really want to make your vacation count for something? Use it as a chance to see the world with fresh eyes and bring new ideas back to your company. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, takes ample vacation time to recharge. But he doesn’t just focus on fun and distractions; he comes back from each trip with an idea regarding “how to shake things up,” according to CNBC. He ditches his mobile device in favor of a pen and paper so he can jot down inspiration as he sees it.

It’s entirely possible to take time off without sinking your business. It’s the healthy, human thing to do. Just make sure that you prepare ahead of time, delegate clearly, set an OOO reminder and fully immerse yourself in your trip to make it all worthwhile.

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