When was the last time you took a vacation? For many young entrepreneurs, the answer is probably, "That’s a joke, right?" But you just might want to rethink your aversion to time off. To run a successful company, you'll need to be there, of course. But you'll often need to also take time to clear your head or even distance yourself from the business in order to think about how to grow more effectively. Plus, it's good for you. Working long hours without taking time off to renew yourself can beat up your immune system, making you vulnerable to any mal-intentioned germ that comes along. It’s much nicer to take a vacation and enjoy yourself than spend time recovering from not taking enough care of yourself. In the end, time off can be just as vital -- if not more so -- as actually running the show. Here are six ways that even uber-busy start-up entrepreneurs can make a vacation work:
1. Take a tax deductible vacation. Attend a conference on a topic related to your business. Spending time with other professionals in your field can be incredibly energizing. You can learn something, deduct the cost and skip enough sessions to make a vacation out of it too. Or if there’s a company, supplier or customer based in a potential vacation spot, include a visit, giving the tax folks a rationale for deducting some or the entire trip.
2. Take a short vacation. Start with a three-day weekend. Place an automatic response on your email, turn off your cell phone and let yourself have most of the day with no work on your plate. Even if you stay home, you can take in a movie or hit that new restaurant everyone’s talking about. Consider a trip to some place of interest within a half-day’s drive.
3. Take a family vacation. How long has it been since you saw Uncle Bob, Aunt Geneva or your brother in grad school? Take a few days and visit them. They’ll want to hear about what you’re up to, and they’ll probably feed and house you -- all except your brother, of course. You can relax and not spend too much money beyond transportation.
4. Take a road trip. Pack a cooler, grab a map or GPS and cruise the back roads around your home. Pick a destination but get there slowly. Stay in cheap local motels, B&B’s or camp out. Time in the car will be good thinking time. You can stop anywhere you want, for as long as you want.
5. Stay connected to your business. With smart phones and wifi all over, you don’t have to lose touch with your business or your customers. Designate an hour every day to checking messages and emails. Then turn your phone off and enjoy your vacation. After all, you earned it.
6. Start slow. Does even a three-day weekend seem like too much right now? How about an hour? How about an afternoon? Take a walk, go to the gym or see a movie. Think about doing something you haven’t done in a long time -- or ever. Visit the best park in your community and walk through the woods. Even if it’s only for a short time, you’re giving yourself the sense of what a vacation can do for you. It may give you an incentive to take more time for a real vacation soon.
Remember, one of the reasons why you chose to be an entrepreneur is so that you could be in control of your own life. If you let your business take all of your time and energy, you will soon lose sight of one of the best reasons for being an entrepreneur, the ability to fit your business to your lifestyle. Even as you grow your business, a vacation can be an excellent reminder of the good life you’re working toward. What's your best tip for squeezing a vacation into one's busy schedule? Leave a comment and let us know.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.