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Are You Scheduling Enough Downtime?

Posted by Neha De

December 9, 2020    |     6-minute read (1199 words)

An entrepreneur’s life rarely has an “off” switch; in fact, most business leaders never want to take a break. They always have another number to hit, another goal to reach or another partnership to build. According to a Gallup poll, 39 percent of business owners work more than 60 hours per week. Many feel that it would be a mistake to unplug from work and take a vacation.

However, entrepreneurs must take time to relax and recharge, for their health and for the health of their organizations. Several studies have shown that people who engage in more leisure activities report fewer negative emotions and increased life satisfaction, tend to be more spiritually connected, and receive a lot of support from friends and family, which makes them feel more satisfied.

According to the landmark Framingham Heart Study — which started in 1948 and is the largest and longest-running study of cardiovascular disease — women who took a vacation once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to have a heart attack or develop coronary heart disease than those who took vacations at least twice a year.

In another study, published in 2000, 12,000 men who were at high risk for coronary disease were observed over a period of nine years. Those who failed to take annual vacations were 32 percent more likely to die of a heart attack and had a 21 percent higher risk of death from all causes.

In addition, a study by the U.S. Travel Association and Project: Time Off showcased a clear picture of how overwork can affect success rates and overall wellbeing.

How Much Time off Do You Need?

These studies show how important it is for entrepreneurs to schedule quality downtime. But what’s the right amount of vacation time to take?

While there is no magic number, in order to give themselves a wider perspective and different types of fulfillment, business owners should consider taking three vacations per year.

  • One for yourself: Taking time off to recharge without any responsibility or concern for others is extremely crucial for mental health and wellbeing. Traveling alone or just being at home to do things you haven't had a chance to do will allow you to reflect without distractions, time that can be used as an opportunity for deep introspection about personal vision and values, or to replenish your mental capacity.
  • One with your partner or spouse: Healthy relationships are often built on one-on-one connections and shared experiences. And spending quality time with only your partner can be a great way to reconnect and appreciate each other away from the responsibilities of everyday life, especially for those with young children.
  • One with the family: A family vacation is one of the most important vacations you can take. And while it doesn’t have to be fancy or lavish, a change in environment and experiencing something new with the family can be a chance to create lifelong memories with the people who matter most.

How to Schedule Downtime

While it can be difficult for business owners to get away from work, you can use these tips when you want to take time off:

Set money aside for your own paid time off: It’s not just time that stops many entrepreneurs from taking time off, it's also money — many believe that they cannot afford to take a few unpaid days off from work, while others fear that their company will stop making money while they are away.

One way to tackle this situation is to budget in your own paid time off by saving up for it in advance. Figure out how much you typically earn every week and start putting funds aside in order to avoid any financial blowbacks when you do take time off.

Work ahead on projects: Planning and working ahead on projects can allow you to increase productivity. It also provides peace of mind. So whether you’re planning a solo trip or a week-long getaway with your partner, ensure that you get your work finished ahead of time.

Delegate: Delegation, when done properly, is a win-win for all. It helps maximize productivity and stay clear-headed when you're facing huge workloads or tight deadlines. Effective delegation also means you have more time for scheduling downtime and taking substantial time off.

Put things on autopilot: Putting things on autopilot, such as setting up an auto-responder for emails to help filter through messages or scheduling social media posts and email newsletters, can help you can take time off when needed.

How to Make the Most of Downtime

What you do in your downtime plays an important role in your overall health and wellbeing as well as the success of your business. Consider these eight activities that you can do in your downtime to help you minimize stress, maximize productivity and focus on what matters most in your life:

  • Exercise: It’s a well-known fact that successful people exercise regularly. In fact, working out and staying fit should be a top priority for business owners focused on scaling their businesses, which often entails long hours — after all, you cannot risk coming down with the flu when you are in the middle of closing a deal. Exercise releases endorphins, which relieves stress and brings a sense of personal accomplishment outside of work. So whether you’re on vacation or not, it's a good idea to take at least 15 minutes away from work to sweat it out.
  • Meditate: Mindful meditation is a simple way of clearing the mind of thought so you can be present in any given moment. Meditating for even 10 minutes a day can help clear the mind, allow you to be more focused, improve memory and reduce stress.
  • Read: The benefits of reading cannot be emphasized enough. Whether you prefer magazines, newspapers, fiction or non-fiction books, reading can help broaden your perspectives, improve your vocabulary, sharpen your memory and retention, and help generate new and innovative ideas to grow your company.
  • Learn: No matter how much you think you know, there’s always something new to learn. Even if you think you’ve learned everything related to your industry, you can always find new trends, technology and information by way of classes, workshops or seminars.
  • Volunteer: Giving back to your community can boost your bottom line. According to a survey done by Deloitte, 89 percent of working Americans believe that businesses promoting volunteer activities offer a better overall working environment than those that don’t.
  • Network: Networking can provide new skills, new contacts, new opportunities and new information. Plus, it’s also good for your mental health, just like any other social activity.
  • Spend time with loved ones: Downtime allows you to get together with your family and friends. Being able to maintain healthy relationships is crucial for your own mental health and wellbeing.
  • Have fun: Most importantly, it is essential to have fun on a vacation, which can only happen when you truly disconnect from work. Many successful people, such as Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Sheryl Sandberg and Richard Branson, believe that taking a real break from work can do wonders for your productivity, mental health and overall wellbeing.

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