Entrepreneurs often have trouble convincing themselves that they deserve some time off. You may feel that your clients are counting on you to be there 24/7, or perhaps you’re feeling guilty about the backlog of extra work awaiting your return. Stress management, productivity, and work-life trainer Joe Robinson argues the reason people feel guilty for taking time off is simple: “[American] culture programs us to believe that only output has value. Step away from performance, and there is no value.” He believes—and science confirms—that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Many of the activities that bring people joy are nonproductive in output terms, but people are happiest when their core psychological needs are met. Researchers at the University of Colorado found that experiences make us happier than tangible items because they’re unique to each person. Vacations allow us to create memories, and those memories in turn make us happy—our feelings of self-worth improve when we engage in recreational activities. Likewise, a Princeton study determined that people are at their most content and stress-free when participating in “engaging leisure experiences,” and research shows that taking vacations significantly lowers the risk of heart attack in both men and women.
Stepping away from your business may be hard, but taking a vacation is clearly important for your health. Enjoying a little time off can help you relieve stress, clear your mind for better focus, and lead to a healthier and more productive life when you come back. So, how can the self-employed business owner go on vacation without the worry and guilt?
Consider taking a working vacation. Believe it or not, you can take some time off while also making yourself occasionally available—the key word is occasionally. Dedicate some time during your vacation to respond to emails or make a few phone calls, but don’t let it creep into your leisure time. Managing the amount of vacation time you spend working allows you to relax without being totally unplugged.
Get ahead of yourself. A few weeks before you’re scheduled to go on vacation, make a list of all the things that need to be done during your time off. Decide which tasks can be done ahead of time and add them into your pre-vacation schedule. Finishing tasks early can help lessen the stress of being away from work, making your vacation time a lot more enjoyable.
Relax and enjoy your time off. As an entrepreneur, you have high expectations for yourself. So it’s hard to completely unplug and think about anything but work. Ask yourself “What’s the worst that could happen if I can’t be there to perform that task?” You’ll probably find that your business won’t fall apart while you take a few days—or even weeks—off of work. And studies show people are much more productive and motivated in their job after returning from vacation.
In the end, your peace of mind is not a luxury. A calm, focused mind not only adds to your quality of life, it may directly impact your earning potential. In other words, taking care of your mental health might produce a powerful return on your investment! So, take that vacation and enjoy it!