I was vacation-ready! It was about a week out from our vacation and for the first time since I started my business, this was going to be more than a quick getaway. I was planning to be away from the office for three weeks. Three weeks! The prospect was exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

As my vacation from work approached, I wondered, “How exactly was I going to pull this off?” Of course, I don’t work alone. I have folks who handle important aspects of my business that keep it running smoothly; thank goodness for them! At the same time, I handle most of our marketing and sales functions, and our client services, personally. The one-on-one coaching, writing blogs, bringing on new clients – how would those plates keep spinning while I was gone? These were the questions keeping me up at night as my vacation date drew nearer.

Those sleepless nights were a vital wake-up call. What would happen to my business if I took a vacation for a few weeks? 

Americans Workers Are Afraid to Take a Vacation

Did you know that millions of Americans are giving their vacation days back to their employer?

According to a 2017 survey by Glassdoor, the average U.S. employee who received paid vacation took about half (54{4a5ad76f65b30f840b7cce0bd60a9460fa539274379d86674e661d46b250fd7a}) of those days.  

And here’s the really interesting part, “If an average worker who receives two weeks’ vacation leaves five days on the table, they’re effectively giving hundreds of dollars back to the company.” (Read the entire article here)  

The obvious question is why? And the answer is fear.  

Sadly, many of us – nearly half of us – don’t take vacation because we are afraid we won’t be able to catch up on our work. 

We are worried that if we pause for a moment, we may not reach our goals. We tell ourselves that no one else could possibly do our job. Some of us are even worried we’ll be replaced if we dare to take the vacation we are entitled to under the terms of our employment.

As an entrepreneur, in my case the pressure was acute because in many ways I am the business. I certainly am in the eyes of my clients who count on me to be there for those last minute interview jitters, and advice on how to navigate the job search process in the moment.

How to Plan for Your Vacation with Your Work in Mind

I’ll admit it – for the last several years, I was so worried about keeping my business running that I haven’t taken the time I needed to refresh and regroup. 

This past winter I saw that it was taking a toll on me personally, and I was seeing a negative impact on the business itself. I realized that to keep the business healthy, I needed to keep myself healthy. The same is true for you.

If you are not taking the time to recharge, you cannot bring your best work to your employer. 

I decided to address my fears and plan for them. I arranged with a colleague to provide back-up coaching if needed. I worked with my admin to prepare three weeks of content for marketing and social media. I communicated with our clients so they’d know what to expect and how to proceed if they needed help while I was away.

Here are just a few ideas based on my admittedly very recent experience:

  1. Anticipate the likely. Ask yourself, “What are the most important tasks I’m engaged in?” Make a list and mark each item with a (H)old, (D)elegate, (A)utomate, or (U)p.  Hold means it can wait until you return. Delegate means you pick someone to back you up – they don’t have to do it as well as you do, or the way that you do, they just have to do it. You can be their backup too. Automate means that there may be some technology to serve you – examples are out of office messages, forms to collect information, etc. And Up means asking your supervisor to handle it while you’re gone.
  2. Document important processes. Yes, this will take a bit of time, but less than you think. Leave your documentation in a convenient place. Worried this will make you replaceable? If you really believe you’d be let go for being a responsible professional who plans for emergencies, then a vacation is the least of your worries. You need to find a new job
  3. Let it go. Assume the best of your boss and co-workers. Trust the process you’ve created and consider that it’s okay if you take care of yourself.

You can do this – don’t cheat yourself of the gift of time away. You’ve earned it.

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