Why You Need a 25-Week Vacation From Your Business

Last Updated Jun 29, 2011 8:13 PM EDT

Last week I had lunch with a friend of mine who claims by design he takes off about 25 weeks a year. No, he's not retired. Far from it. He runs a successful commercial real estate business that requires daily operational input.

So what am I missing? My friend believes he's more productive when he takes a LOT of time off. "I do my best thinking when I'm away from the office," he insists. Okay, I get that. It's hard for the brain to handle daily tactical activities and strategic thinking simultaneously. But why 25 weeks?

In the book, "The Power of Full Engagement," authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz provide numerous examples and studies that prove the merits of taking time off. Doctors, military personnel, and athletes all perform better with more time off and relaxation. Why is it then that business owners don't take more time off?

Your family always has to share you. During vacation, your family has a blocked amount of time during which they finally don't have to share you with your employees and co-workers. When you don't take a sufficient amount of time off, you miss crucial opportunities to put your sole focus on caring, loving, and enjoying your family. When you have their full support, it's much easier to work guilt-free and longer when absolutely necessary.

Are you afraid that your company cannot exist without you? If so, that's a problem -- and it's one of the worst reasons to put off vacation time. Your time off forces others to step up in your absence and shows them they can make it without you for a time. Maybe we're afraid that when we're away and things are going well, we really do not make a difference. We are expendable, and we need regular jolts of humility to remind us of that. Great leaders create environments in which those doing the real work feel appreciated and trusted. If you never leave, in essence you're telling your employees that you don't trust them.

With unemployment so pervasive, no wonder people are protecting their respective turfs. We've heard about the quarterback who gets injured, then the second-stringer comes in and never relinquishes his job. People are fearful of being replaced. As the leader of your organization it is imperative that you take a LOT of time off. Your employees will probably get more done with you not there (they already tell you that when you've been away, right?...it's true), you'll come back refreshed and with many new ideas, and you'll find out who you can depend on.

Do you own your own business so that you can spend more time working? I understand that you're working because you're passionate about your business, but come on... wouldn't you really rather spend some time exploring an underground cavern, fishing, or visiting that destination you've always dreamed about?

Maybe you won't reach 25 weeks like my friend, but four weeks should be easy. Now I need to get back to work!

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com by Christian Haugen

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    Jay Steinfeld is the founder and CEO of Blinds.com, the industry leader in online window blinds sales. He is an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year. His company was named Best Place to Work in Houston, won the American Marketing Association's Marketer of the Year, and Steinfeld was named by the Houston Chronicle as Houston's top CEO in the under-150 employee category for the last 2 years.