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How to avoid vacation hell


3 min read

Turn a prickly pineapple into the perfect vacation piña colada

At well-past closing time, you’re staring at an inbox full of emails. With only a day to go until your vacation, it seems like your “time-off” will be spent dodging phone calls from employees. Looks like the golden sand, palm trees, and blue ocean you’ve been dreaming of will just be the background of your computer screen—again.

As an upcoming vacation approaches, there’s suddenly more work to do than before—unfinished projects, unclear chains of command, and too many juggled frustrations. At any rate, dreams of sipping pina coladas from fresh coconuts are turning into pineapples pricking your fingers while you answer emails.

This is what we call last minute vacation limbo—where you struggle to find a way to make the costs of time-off worth the trouble. See if any of these sound familiar:

10 things you shouldn’t do (but probably will) for vacation

  1. Pretend you don’t actually need a vacation—that you’ll be working remotely instead, and spend your days getting sand in your computer while responding to emails (everybody loves a laptop tan line right?).
  2. Spend the days leading up to your vacation scrambling around the office trying to get your last-minute work done and end up staying late every night.
  3. Leave scribbled notes ‘delegating’ unfinished tasks.
  4. Write a last-minute procedure of a routine that you’ve known for years, but no one else does and you never took the time to document.
  5. Spend the week before you go on vacation putting out fires and plan to immediately start putting fires out all over again as soon as you return.
  6. Make a mental (or actual) calculation of how much your absence is going to cost your business in lost revenue.
  7. Distribute your emergency contact information to everyone in the office and spend the rest of your break getting emails prefaced with "Is this an emergency?" (Spoiler alert: it isn't.)
  8. Take a week on your return to get to the bottom of the unread emails piled up in your inbox.
  9. Lose the beach volleyball tournament to those jerks from the hotel next door because you heard a 'ping' from your phone and you were SURE that this time it was a real emergency.
  10. Get hit with a tidal wave of highly charged and accusatory updates as you walk through the door on your return that all start with, "So while you were on vacation...”

 Looking to Unplug? 10 Steps to a Work-Free Vacation. Get the Checklist

If you consistently feel the need to cram your work in, an upcoming vacation is likely to cause more pressure for you and your team. But a real, unplugged vacation might actually be the best thing for your business. By now, you’ve probably stopped laughing and may be panicking. Taking a vacation is one thing, but an unplugged vacation? What would the business do without you?

What would the business do without you?

Before you come back with your own list of everything that could potentially go wrong, think for a second: Why wouldn't your business run without you? Is it because you’re the only one who knows how to do a certain daily and necessary routine? Because your employees would be lost and things wouldn’t get done? Because of….?

Deep down, you know that all the tasks piling up aren’t things you should be doing. If you’re scribbling notes, working remotely or routinely working late into the evening—then your business isn’t thriving. Yet, if the idea of letting work completely go to the wayside scares you—that’s okay, take some with you. After all, your vacation is meant to help you unwind and inspire ingenuity, and if there’s a book (like The E-Myth Revisited) you have specifically set aside, then bring it along. But, you must set boundaries between you and your business. Are you taking work with you that requires an email or phone call to the office while you’re away? Or are you bringing something you know will inspire you, open you to new possibilities, and still allow you to jump into the ocean whenever you want?

Entrepreneurial work takes brainpower—thinking creatively about your business gets increasingly more difficult when you’re tired. Vacations allow you to break out of your routine, give your mind a break and jump back into work with more energy and ideas than before. And it’s not just us saying that, research has shown time and time again how essential this is for your body, mind, and business. So turn off your email notifications, log out of your task management apps and start running towards your dream getaway—you’ll probably find it’s exactly what you (and your business) needed in the first place.

Nick Lawler

Written by Nick Lawler

Nick is an EMyth Coach. He was the Chef/Proprietor of a hotel, restaurant and events business in the UK for twelve years before becoming an EMyth Coach. His articles focus on making the transition from technician to business owner.