Vacations are hard work.
Not only will a vacation eat up about 2% of the average household budget, but some estimates put the total cost of vacations between $4,000 and $4,700—a solid month of work for many workers, even in 2017.
Isn’t it strange that vacations—designated “relaxation time”—end up costing just as much when you factor in labor and energy? Isn’t there a better way to avoid burnout than stressing out over how you’re going to spend a week of your life, especially when half of that week is dedicated to packing, traveling, unpacking, and other logistics?
The good news for anyone with a small business? You don’t have to take a big “Eat. Pray. Love”-style vacation to avoid burnout. Here are some ways to make your work life—and your vacation habits—less stressful:
This is the Grasshopper blog, after all. Why not stop doing so much of your own work if there are services like phone systems that can handle call forwarding and custom greetings? The ability to send a text at any time from your business number means you don’t have to put in long hours at the office just to appear to your clients and customers like you’re at work. There’s no reason you should have to wait around away from friends and family just because you’re expecting an important SMS message.
Better yet, this solution saves time, which means that you’ll have more time to dedicate to relaxing habits.
2. Get Machines to Do More of Your Work
In the era of subscription software and cloud-based services, there are few things you can’t automate as a business leader. Marketing, CRM, emails, autoresponders—the list goes on and on. Chances are if someone’s thought of it, it’s already been automated.
The traditional image of the small business owner is someone who puts in 16-hour days to handle every little aspect of their business since they don’t have the money to hire new employees. If that sounds familiar, ask yourself if there isn’t an automation platform already available that can take work out of your hands and get you home to your family sooner.
3. Take Mini-Vacations When You Can
The overwhelming trend of Americans is to work themselves silly, log plenty of vacation days, and then spend it all in a massive (and expensive) trip that does little to relax and revitalize.
It’s not a sustainable model.
Two weeks out of the year can hardly undo the habits of the other 50 weeks. When you return from the vacation, what then? If you don’t already enjoy your days working at a small business, a little break every twelve months isn’t going to fix it.
The solution is to treat yourself with mini-vacations. Every so often, try doing this:
- Relaxing in a different way—a weekend hike, a leisurely cycling session. Sitting down in front of the TV may be all you have the energy to do now, but mix in something different.
- Treat a random weekend like a vacation. A little excursion to a bed and breakfast is a low-effort way to enjoy the freedom of a weekend in a fresh way.
- Take frequent breaks at work. Think about it like this: work hard, break hard. Make a habit of walking around the office or simply stepping away from the computer when you start running into blocks with your productive work.
4. Make Your Business a “Home Away from Home”
There’s no reason your office has to be a tribute to ancient Sparta. Google’s famous “Googleplex” is a veritable playground because that business understands how people will be productive if they can get their juices flowing at their place of work.
If you’re the boss at your small business, feel free to blend the lines between work and play every so often. Waiting for a client to call? Play a game to pass the scheduled time. Need to de-stress? Hold a meeting outside.
Actor Terry Crews once said that he’s able to get himself to the gym for two hours per session by treating the gym “like a spa.” Rather than treat the gym as a cold, iron-laden torture chamber, he uses the gym to go and have fun. The workouts inevitably happen, but the key is through an attitude shift.
5. Get Social
You can read all the meditation tips you like. The truth is, nothing is more reinvigorating than meeting with people who make you laugh and feel loved. If that means scheduling more lunches with family or trying to make new friends, great—whatever it takes, it’s important to remember that we’re social creatures.
Your office environment is just as important a place to cultivate authentic relationships. It won’t feel so much like work if the people you work with also happen to be your friends. But business owners need to walk a fine line here—in a position of leadership, it’s important to keep a fun and relaxed atmosphere without letting the pendulum swing so far that you become a pushover.
6. Stop Procrastinating
Admit it: the times of the worst stress are when work urgently needs to be done, only it’s not done. It’s a habit you might have carried with you since late-night cram sessions in college, and it’s no less effective in the professional world.
Stop procrastinating by holding to a strict schedule. As ex-Navy SEAL Jocko Willink says, “discipline equals freedom.” The more you can turn emails into action items, the better a handle you’ll have on your professional life. The more you get done in the morning, the more your afternoons will feel like mini-vacations. Get the hardest work out of the way first and you’ll find your work life at your place of business is far more manageable.
Put it all together and you should start feeling like your weekdays aren’t just stressors—they’re a manageable, sustainable life. Even under the pressures of building up a small business from scratch, there are ways to make little “escapes” that don’t require big, expensive vacations. Turn those tips into habits and your vacations will be much more fun when they do come around.