When was the last time you had a vacation? As a business owner, it probably has been awhile. Running and growing a business often means late nights in the office, missed weekends, and a lot of stress. It’s no wonder leaders rarely take time for themselves and go on vacation.

The thing is, even if they don’t realize it, business owners need to take vacations. We all need time to relax and recharge. We need time to be carefree and destress because we will suffer from burnout and ultimately be less productive and feel miserable without it. But to take a truly successful vacation, a business owner can’t take their office with them. You might be thinking, that’s impossible! We’re here to tell you it’s not. In this post, we prove the myth that business owners can’t take vacations as false by sharing tips on how to prepare for time away.

Plan for a complete disconnect

When you plan your vacation, you should plan to recharge, relax, and do things you enjoy with your family and friends. It shouldn’t be inundated with work email, phone calls, or Zoom meetings. This time is for you and shouldn’t be an extension of your office. That’s why you should disconnect.

With today’s technology, it’s harder than ever to disconnect. From cellphones to tablets, it’s easy to stay connected even in distant places. Here are some tips to help business owners get the most out of their vacation by disconnecting:

  • Tell everyone who needs to know. If you are in constant contact with clients or employees, they should know you will be disconnecting in advance. Try not to drop this on them last minute so that they also have time to prepare.
  • Set an out-of-office email reply. For those that you don’t regularly communicate with, let them know you are out of the office through an email responder. In the reply, include how long you will be out of the office and that you will get back to them as soon as you return to work.
  • Turn off notifications. Before you leave, take a few moments to turn off notifications for everything work-related, even your email.
  • Turn your phone on silent. When you’re on vacation, consider using silent mode because it’s easier to disconnect when you don’t hear your phone.
  • Delete apps. If you can’t resist checking in, do yourself a favor and temporarily delete the apps. You won’t feel as inclined to check in if you have to download and log into the app.

Set boundaries about emergencies

Have you ever heard someone say, “only call me if the building is on fire or someone is bleeding,” as they walk out of the door to go on vacation? While this sentiment is usually a joke and telling people to leave them alone while they are away, it actually is an example of what business owners should do before they begin their vacation. No, we don’t mean you should announce your departure to the room as you walk out of the door, but we do mean you should decide on what you constitute as an emergency to you. It doesn’t matter if you want to only be notified if there is a natural disaster or if a particular client signs a contract; write down what circumstances you want to be interrupted and communicate them to the person filling in for you and to your assistant.

Delegate, delegate, delegate

As a business owner, you play an integral part in your business’s success, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a vacation. It also doesn’t mean that if you leave, your business has to close for the time you are away. A few weeks before you plan to leave for vacation, conduct a time audit on yourself. Write down what tasks you do, when you do them, and any deadlines they have. Once you have that list, it’s time to start delegating. Determine what tasks need to be delegated, who should handle those tasks, and what tasks you plan to handle when you return. Share that list with your assistant and have them manage the tasks in your absence.

Schedule training sessions

Once you know what you will be delegating, it’s time to train your team on what they will be handling while you are on vacation. Give your executive assistant the list of tasks you are delegating and who will be completing them for you. From that list, have your assistant schedule a training meeting with the team member during the times you complete those tasks. Also, use this training time to answer any questions, provide important steps or contacts to your employee. Since not everyone learns something during the first go, it’s important not to leave the training until the week before leaving. Give your team members time to learn those skills so that they can complete the tasks correctly.

Lean on your assistant

Not every business has a second in command, but don’t fret. You can lean on your assistant to manage the office while you are on vacation. Your assistant works so closely with you that they can fill in for you for phone calls and meetings, so it only makes sense they can manage things while you are away.  You can also have your assistant act as a project manager to ensure all of the tasks get completed accurately and on time.

Prepare for your return

While you’re feeling carefree during your vacation, the last thing you want to do is try to remember what you need to do when you get back. You also don’t want to stress about your return and all of the follow-ups you need to schedule. Give yourself peace of mind while you’re away by preparing for your return. Some preparation ideas include:

  • Create a list of the postponed tasks you need to complete.
  • Have your assistant schedule debriefing meetings with various team members to catch you up on what happened while you were away.
  • If you are in need of any tech support, have your assistant schedule that while you are away so you can come back to the office with everything fixed.
  • Give control of your inbox to your assistant, but also have them schedule time for you to go through your emails when you return from vacation.

Do a vacation test run

If you haven’t been away from your business for a while, it may stress you out to completely disconnect from it. Not because your team is incapable of handling things while you are away, but from fear that you didn’t give them enough information to be successful in your absence. The best way to feel confident while you’re on vacation is to do a test run. A few times before you leave, have your team operate as if you were not there. Whether you work from home or you lock yourself in your office, keep yourself from stepping in to handle things. The following morning, meet with your team to discuss any problems or questions that came up.