How to Take Stress-Free Vacation
One day, Mary LoVerde returned home to a voicemail from her babysitter regarding her 5-year-old son, Nicholas, who had broken down after realizing he was the only student in class that didn’t wear a costume on Halloween—the then-director of the hypertension research center at the University of Colorado realized she had forgotten to dress her son up for the festivities.
It was at that moment that LoVerde realized she was burnt out, that her work was actually harming her personal life. And it inspired her to become a life balance strategist.
Now, as a fellow small business owner, she understands that it’s tough to take time off—but it’s crucial to mental well-being.
While many shop owners think they’re more productive by working nonstop, according to LoVerde, research shows there’s no difference in productivity between people who work 55 hours and less per week and people who work 55–70 hours.
LoVerde, who has been an expert in work-life balance for 25 years, has worked with clients such as Apple, LinkedIn and FedEx. She gives her tips on how you can take a vacation without worrying about the business.
To give yourself a vacation, you need to shift your thinking. Look at things from a 50,000-foot view and ask, “What do you want your life to look like?” Our legacy is not to have a stack of to-do lists to the ceiling with everything crossed off. As human beings, we are wired to enjoy the finer things in life. You do not want to reach the end and say that you missed it. That’s the first shift in thinking. You can work until you drop or look at it way up high and ask, “How do I want to live?”
Don’t look for perfect. As a business owner, the perfect time for a vacation will never happen. The length of vacation varies for each of us. Some people need more than a week to unwind. Some people can be energized after the end of the week. Even 24 hours can be life changing. Just for 24 hours, get a hotel downtown and order room service. If you’re wary about taking time off, start with simple three-day weekends and when you come back and realize the planets are still in orbit, then you can re-evaluate.
When you’re ready to take that vacation, make sure to plan ahead. The following steps should help you prioritize what should be done before you decide to leave.
- Make a to-do list for when you get back. Making a list of the things you need to do when you get back should help free your mind. This way, you don’t start at square one when you come back. If you have a colleague helping you, set up a meeting for when you return. This keeps anxiety down and it shows colleagues reassurance that you’re coming back. Don’t schedule a big meeting right at 9 a.m. Schedule a block time to go over all your emails and notes first. Otherwise, plan to come back on a Saturday night, for example, and spend Sunday catching up on emails.
- Before you leave, ask your colleagues what they need from you. This way, you can get all their requests before you depart. Whatever the issues are at hand, give yourself a few days to tackle both your and their needs.
- Delegate, then delegate, then delegate some more. Delegate tasks to your colleagues. It also gives you an opportunity to recognize their talents and say nice things to them by showing and telling them how much you trust them to handle workloads. It will help build positive leadership.
- Set your policies and make them known. Set rules before you leave and tell your team what you’ve done as far as tasks. Communicate your availability. It’s a normal urge to want to call and check in every day when on vacation, but you have to lead by example. If you still work on vacation, you’re showing your employees that it’s OK to do the same.
- Restrict yourself. Don’t check your email on your spouse’s phone. On my vacation, I will put my phone in the room safe and allow myself to look at it every day of my vacation at 10:30 a.m. and set a timer for 10 minutes. That way I can check everything and that’s it.
- Stop feeling guilty. When we hear our phone ding, we get a trigger of dopamine in the brain—it feels good. So when you don’t pick up the phone, don’t feel guilty that you’re not checking in.
- If you’re going on vacation in the next six months, start grooming your right hand man. If it’s out of the blue, it’ll feel like a game of tag. “Frank, you’re it!” Even though “Frank” is capable of doing it, it will make you go crazy because you didn’t prepare.