When was your last vacation?

I mean a real, unplugged-from-work, not-checking-emails-hourly vacation?

If you’re like almost half of business owners who aren’t planning on taking a break, you might have to pause to find the answer. Maybe it’s been longer than you think! 

Guess what, small business owner? If you’re not disconnecting on vacation (or you’re not taking any time off at all), you need to change your ways. Here’s why:

Vacations have been shown to lead to significantly higher performance upon return to the job. The energizing ingredients are time away from stressors (you need two weeks to get the recuperative benefits from burnout) and mastery and social experiences while on vacation that build competence and social connection.”

And while you probably know you need to take some PTO, how can you actually get to the point where you feel OK using the time you’ve earned? Here are seven tips.

1. Be strategic about your PTO.

Start planning your vacation early. This will give you time to look through your strategy for the year and see the optimal time to be away from the office. And while you probably won’t find any perfect window to take time off, shoot for picking a date in between big projects. Put it on your calendar and start planning—studies show the act of preparing for a vacation alone is a huge “happiness booster.”

2. Plan who’s going to do what in your absence.

Many small business owners fret about who is going to keep the wheels on while they’re away—but the truth is, you’ve hired people you trust for this very reason. Start delegating tasks. Write down exactly what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and any pertinent information regarding the task/project. Then, send out your plan to the employees who are involved so everyone’s clear about their responsibilities. Try to do this several days before you leave so you can tie up any loose ends before you’re away.

3. Finish up your big projects.

This one is pretty obvious—you can’t turn off your phone or expect to avoid email if you’re launching big projects. Do your best to finish major milestones before you leave, so you can actually take time away from work.

4. Talk to your clients.  

Would you feel at ease if your clients knew you’d be away for a few days? Then let them know, and reassure them that there are responsible people in place to take care of them in your absence.

5. Relax and enjoy.

You don’t get the restorative benefits of vacation if you’re still working. So unplug, and read #6.

6. Stop micromanaging.

“As a senior leader, you can’t control the day-to-day all that much, whether you’re in the office or on vacation. The decisions and strategy you set a year ago are what really dictate daily results. The only people who can really determine how things work in the near-term are the managers closest to clients and daily operations. If that’s not you, stop worrying and start trusting.”

This advice from Jim Moffatt in a Forbes article titled, Take A Serious Vacation: A CEO’s Advice To All CEOs, is geared toward the C-suite, but the application works even for small business owners—by preparing, planning, and putting trust in your employees, you can set yourself up for a well-deserved break—and you can relax knowing that you’ll still have a company when you return.

7. Schedule check-ins if you must.

This may not be the most popular advice, but let’s face it: Some people just have to know what’s going on. If that’s you, then try this method.

Instead of having your phone at your fingertips and “checking in” all day, schedule a time in the morning and a time in the afternoon to login to email, listen to voicemail, etc. If you’ve planned and delegated beforehand, your employees probably know to come to you with only the most critical needs, and you may find that you can check in even less than you anticipated!

Most importantly, if it can wait, let it wait.

In Conclusion

These tips can help you take a vacation knowing that everything at your business is under control. You may even find your time away from the office improves your work inside the office once you return!