Take a Load Off

Unplug Yourself

Both Muney and Naylor stress the importance of making your trip a true vacation, minus the pager, cell phone and laptop. "You [can't be] reading industry publications while you're sitting on the beach," advises Naylor. "You really need to disconnect."

Fast Facts
In an informal poll of 300 American Express small-business customers, 69 percent said they'd be taking a summer vacation this year. However, wired they will stay: 41 percent will take a cell phone, 19 percent will pack a laptop, 10 percent will wear a pager, and 9 percent will tote a PDA. A mere 14 percent will go gadget-free. What's wrong with you people? You're on vacation!

While many experts would say your goal should be to get away for at least a week, Muney acknowledges that shorter vacations can be a good place to start. "Try taking one over a three-day weekend, and then add another day or two," he suggests. "That way, it's fewer days missed, because the rest of the world has been on vacation for those three days as well."

Once you've mastered that, try moving on to longer getaways. Brice points out that during the typical seven-day trip, you don't really get to relax because you spend the first three or four days getting into "vacation mode." "Then you only have a couple of days to relax before you have to come back home and pop back into things," she explains. "So it's not really about relaxation and rejuvenation."

"When I'm doing things that are good for me, I have these flashes of brilliance about places I can take my business."

Make it a point to schedule your trips in advance-the more notice you give your clients, the more time they'll have to get used to the idea. Besides, as a busy business owner, you'll need the extra time to prepare for the vacation. Frost is planning a two-week trip to Peru in the next few weeks, and she's taking care to work out the details and make contingency plans. "I'm telling my clients that I'm going on a vacation, that I need some R&R for myself, and that in order for this to be a positive, healthy working environment, this has to happen," she says.

Naylor suggests planning a minimum of four vacations a year-a week at the end of each quarter-and making them non-negotiable. "Call it a creative retreat," she says. "It's normal, and just because you're a homebased entrepreneur doesn't mean you have to be accessible through your pager 24/7."

Brice, for one, schedules her vacation time before she does anything else. "If I override the time I create for myself, then I'm not likely to get it back," she says, "and once you start to give it up for one reason, it becomes easier to give it up for any reason." Brice also suggests structuring your business and using technology in a way that allows for revenue to keep streaming in even when you're not there. Enlist the help of an assistant, and be ready to hand things off to them.

And don't forget about travel agencies and concierge services. "As an entrepreneur, you need complete resources; you don't have time to keep going back and forth between the Web, phone and other research. Charge that task to someone else," suggests Naylor. "At the end of the day, your business is important, but it's not a life-or-death situation. This is for your health."

RESOURCE GUIDE
There are plenty of books out there that can help you plan a getaway. Here are some of our favorites:
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