Summer is as good a time as any to take a vacation. But business owners—so used to working all the time—may need some persuading.
The benefits of taking a vacation go far beyond the personal impact on you. Imagine yourself as a stone thrown into the water. What happens? A series of circular ripples flow outward. Think of that ripple effect as a metaphor for the impact a leader can have on his or her team, department or company. As the leader, how you feel and respond to work affects others around you.
Let's take a look at the excellent reasons leaders should take vacations at least once a year.
1. Taking vacations can refocus you to work on your business, not just in it.
A leader can't just be great at daily execution. A leader also has to be strategic and concerned with the big picture and the long term. Think back. When was the last time you looked—really looked—at the competition? Or talked in depth with a customer? Or had a discussion with someone about the changing trends in your industry?
If it's been too long, consider taking a week off. Vacations can be great for re-centering your focus and getting out of the rut of being buried in tactics at the expense of strategy. When you come back, consider devoting at least 10 percent of your time to strategy each week.
2. Vacations can give your team a chance to prove themselves.
When you go on vacation and aren't in the office, your team will have to solve problems on their own. That can give them the opportunity to show what they can handle, which can help increase their confidence.
In the process, your team may uncover unknown skills and abilities. That's another plus for your department or company.
3. Taking time off can renew a positive can-do attitude.
Dozens of things can go wrong every week in a business. Out of necessity, effective leaders and business owners tend to wear a cloak of optimism around them to reinforce a positive mindset to overcome problems.
But that cloak of optimism can start to unravel over time. Taking a vacation may bring back a can-do, ready-to-take-on-the-world attitude! That attitude change can be far reaching, because remember, teams feed off of the leader's attitude. If your vibe is negative and defeatist, your team may mirror it.
4. Taking a vacation can encourage creativity.
Having a workday packed full of activities doesn't leave much time for creative thinking. Small innovation tweaks, big breakthrough ideas... How much of that can happen when every moment is filled with urgencies?
Leaders must sometimes take time to step outside the cycle of acting and reacting. Taking time off may be just what you need to force yourself to stop and think instead of always acting instantly. And when you allow thinking time, you allow creativity to blossom. You may suddenly solve that gnarly problem that's been dogging your business for months, or “see" an insight that changes the trajectory of your business—all because a vacation positioned you to stop and think, instead of act.
5. Vacations can help you reduce stress.
Stress can cause concentration loss, frayed tempers and fatigue—not a good recipe for productivity. Worse, your reaction to stress may very well cause those around you to feel stress of their own. In other words, your stress may be “contagious" in the workplace.
A good relaxing vacation of at least a week can help you take a step back from stress and reset. That presentation that had you so stressed out won't seem nearly as important when you're lying on the beach listening to the waves or hiking in the wilderness.
6. Leaving the office to take a vacation can improve your health.
It takes physical stamina to be a leader or business owner. And all that sedentary work can sap energy while atrophying muscles. Vacations can give you an opportunity to get up, get moving, be active and restore your energy.
7. Vacations afford you the opportunity to reconnect with family.
Entrepreneurs and business owners need their families to understand and be sympathetic to what they are going through. It's hard enough starting and growing a business. It's doubly hard if you don't have a good relationship with your family, or if they feel they have to take a back seat to your work and are resentful. Consider using vacation time to communicate and give/get a sense of commitment to your family.
What You Should Do Before You Take a Vacation
Now that you know why leaders should take vacations, make the most of your vacation time. I've learned there's an art to getting ready for vacation, and these are four simple tips I follow so I can enjoy a one- or two-week vacation:
1. Meet with your team before you leave. Consider delegating authority and identifying people to handle urgent matters in your absence. This can help set your team up for success while you are gone.
2. Alert clients and important stakeholders that you are gone. This helps avoid interrupted vacations by unhappy people who expected to hear from you.
3. Limit your time on vacation to a message check-in once a day, preferably in the morning. Do not not schedule conference calls or take projects thinking you will have time to complete them. It negates the benefits of vacations.
4. Wrap up loose ends and finish major projects before leaving—but don't pressure yourself. You may want to finish up big projects and commitments so you can be off on your travels with a clear mind. But don't put pressure on yourself to complete low-priority projects before you leave. One more week may not matter.
Read more articles on work-life balance.