It's no secret that Americans aren't great at taking vacation time. Last year, U.S. workers left an estimated $52.4 billion worth of paid vacation days on the table.

When it comes to entrepreneurs and small business owners, the number who actually go on vacation drops even lower. Over half of entrepreneurs didn't take any vacation in 2014. None!

Of those who did take vacation, they averaged less than half the vacation time that the average U.S. employee takes, and less than 15% of them disconnected from their businesses completely while they were away.

We all know how beneficial vacation time can be, and we'd love to change those numbers around. We've pulled together your how-to for preparing your business to operate without you, so consider this your formal invitation to take some time off!

Procedures, Processes, and Policies

A huge part of having a self-sustaining business requires that someone else can step into your shoes when the need arises. The easiest way to facilitate this is to develop procedures, processes, and policies for how to run your business.

Your job and day-to-day tasks should be routinized so that someone who isn't you can do them. Try this: imagine you're looking to replace yourself. Write out a job description. What duties and tasks would you include?

Whether it's responding to customer inquiries, keeping the books, or managing employees, have policies and procedures in place that transcend your presence or absence in the office.

That way, you can minimize the discretion and decision-making that having someone else fill in for you will entail.

Delegate Responsibility and Decision-Making

For some people, delegation can be really hard. As your business grows, it's important to get comfortable with delegating tasks that you don't have time for or aren't an expert in. Otherwise, you'll end up working twenty-five hours a day.

When it's time to start thinking about being able to take vacation time away from the office, you need to get accustomed to delegating responsibility and decision-making, too. Here are some ideas for getting started:

When employees are given increased responsibilities before you leave, you can observe their judgment and performance and tweak what you need to. That way, you can be super confident in them when you do leave for a bit.

Hire Some Help

If you can swing it, hiring a managerial team is a huge benefit to your business. When you're in town, your team can handle day-to-day operations and management, leaving you with the ability to focus on working on your business.

When vacation time rolls around, your absence won't have any adverse effects on everyday operations. A managerial team will help you limit your involvement in the daily grind, so it can go off without a hitch whether you're there or not.

Since they're already handling the everyday stuff, you can be worry-free about leaving them for the beach. Think a whole team is out of your reach? Even hiring one or two people who can cover for you will go a long way.

Automate What You Can

When you're not going to be around for a week, automation can be a huge asset for you. The standard vacation automation is the out of office email reply. Here, you wanna include when you'll be back and who to contact in the meantime.

You can also automate your social media and online marketing. There are tons of awesome tools to help you with this one:

Software like NetSuite and QuickBooks can help you automate accounting functions like invoicing and bookkeeping, too.

Decide When You’ll Be Available (Or Not)

It's up to you how much, or how little, working you do while you're on vacation. While it's usually best to do as little as possible, we know it can be tough to be completely disconnected from your business.

That being said, decide on a schedule before you leave and be sure to communicate it to everyone from employees and partners to clients and investors. Make sure everyone who needs to know knows exactly when and how to contact you.

While having a schedule during vacation may seem awful, it allows you to really unplug for the rest of the day. You won't need to be tempted by constant phone calls or emails.

Define 'Urgent'

Similar to communicating a set schedule, it's important that employees and partners know what matters they should bother you with and what they shouldn't. The terms “urgent” and “emergency” can vary in definition between people, so having an established understanding of them is key.

Whether you wanna know about every customer service call or only if the office is burning down, make sure it's crystal clear when you should and shouldn’t be contacted.

That way, employees won't bug you with anything that isn't super important, and you won't have to spend any more time working during vacation than is absolutely necessary.

Book That Trip!

Okay, you and your business are officially ready for some time apart. So call up the travel agency and book that 7-day cruise to the Bahamas. Then kick up your feet and relax!

How do you get your business ready to run without you?