Everyone (who still has a job) is working harder than ever, and taking blissful time off — even for a long weekend — seems somewhere between risky and unthinkable. Surely, paying customers will grow impatient, work will pile up and prospective clients might dangle. If you're gone, who will tamp out the flames when something inevitably goes wrong?
All valid concerns. But here's the equally dangerous flip side: Constant work with no down time can lead to decreased productivity, perspective and creativity, says Randy Kamen-Gredinger, a Wayland, Mass.-based psychologist who specializes in helping people navigate through life cycles.
"Going away gives you an opportunity to recharge and be missed on the job," says Kamen-Gredinger. Healthier still, carving out some time away from the daily grind can even help stave off depression, she adds.
Let's be realistic: Luxuriously long vacations are out. But with the right planning and mindset, even the busiest of us can find the time and resources to recharge — if only for a little while. Here are a few strategies, care of some crafty, hard-working entrepreneurs.
Explore the neighborhood
When she can't get away for even a long weekend, Kamen-Gredinger makes regular time on weekends for bike rides, hikes on nearby trails and day trips to the beach to help her unwind. "Driving just a couple of hours can lead you to a very different environment, and allows for the same sense of relaxation as a week's vacation," she says. Better yet: Planning regular trips —say, every Saturday — means you always have something fun to look forward to during the week.
Put it on paper
You'll never get a vacation if you don't whip out a calendar and plan one. "In this economic environment, vacations don't just happen," says Ann Latham, founder of Uncommon Clarity, an Easthampton, Mass.-based consulting firm focused on improving individual and organizational performance. "Once you have made the commitment, lay the plans needed to make it happen." Planning also involves empowering staffers to handle tasks — including the unexpected — in your stead.
Mix business and pleasure
Maureen Mack travels a lot for her business, H.R. Principal, a human resources consulting firm in Walnut Creek, Calif. To maintain her sanity, she looks for ways to tack on some fun while she's away.
To spice up her trip to an upcoming conference in New Orleans, for example, she made a reservation at the famed Emeril's Restaurant and plans to carve out a morning for a guided tour of the Big Easy.
Join a club or two
Jana Miles is slaving to get her new general management consulting firm in Atlanta off the ground. Nearby entertainment is all she has time for, if that. To find it, she taps online network Meetup.com, where she connects with like-minded fans of things like sushi or indoor rock climbing. "I've found the things I seek on vacation right here at home at extremely reasonable costs once or twice a week," she said. It's not the same as truly getting away, she admits, "but I do feel like I've been on vacation."
Barter to play
If money is the problem (and when isn't it?), try Dr. MaryKay Powell's bartering tactic. A Portage, Mich.-based dentist, Powell only takes vacations when her husband, a teacher, has a break from school. Shortly after opening her private practice 23 years ago, she joined the Midwest Business Exchange, an association of businesses that barter their goods and services among themselves. Powell, 58, has accumulated more than $25,000 worth of trade credits by offering dentistry services to other MBE members. Thirty-seven-hundred dollars of credits got her a week's stay at the Bentley Beach Hotel in Miami's tony South Beach last year.