It’s summertime and the living is sweet: Hello, white sand beaches, drinks by the pool and sunshine tempered by sunscreen. But for many entrepreneurs, vacations are a luxury rarely enjoyed.
Whether people are working for others or self-employed, regular vacation time is rapidly becoming extinct. Employment experts Glassdoor found in a recent survey that while most employees use at least some vacation time, 75 percent do not take full advantage of it. And of those on vacation, 24 percent report having contact with co-workers about a work-related matter.
Whether too busy with work to turn off all devices or prefer to stay connected and mix a bit of work and play while on vacation, entrepreneurs can make the most of their well-deserved time off this summer with these 20 tips:
Plan ahead to arrange for optimum timing.
1. Wake up early. For many people, vacation is for sleeping in. Take advantage of your family’s morning snooze time. Schedule meetings with customers and clients during the early morning hours so you can enjoy the rest of your day worry-free.
2. Compartmentalize your time. Allocate a few well-placed, hourlong blocks during your vacation to allow for email housekeeping or client meetings. Typically, scheduling these blocks early in the morning will allow you to fit into family plans later in the day, depending on time-zone variances.
3. Account for jet lag if you have traveled a far distance or overseas. Adjust your body clock as quickly as possible by drinking plenty of water, avoid alcohol until you stabilize and drink green tea for a gentle pickup.
4. Use the Free Wi-Fi Finder app to figure out where to plug in, regardless of location, and avoid spotty Internet connections from keeping you from signing that next customer.
5. Save email to your drafts folder. By bundling emails and sending them only in the morning or evening during set times, you set the expectation that you will not be available for ongoing communications throughout the day.
6. Switch your smartphone to periodic email-push settings. Do you really need to update email constantly while you’re on vacation?
7. Reinforce boundaries by making use of an out-of-office response to email. Let people know you are available, but to expect a delay in your response.
8. Create a summer calendar that maps your specific industry and pick the ideal window of opportunity for leisure time. Generally speaking, the busiest months for retailers are from September to January, with August often an optimal time for small business owners to take advantage of downtime and plan personal vacations.
Budget for the best break.
9. Save money little by little all year long for a two-week vacation. For those running a single-person business, budget for two weeks of vacation, estimating an approximate income based on a 50 weeks of earnings and business expenses based on 52 weeks.
10. Consider a staycation. According to a survey on summer vacation travel conducted by American Express, the average cost per person in the United States is $1,145 per person. If you live in a city but haven’t enjoyed all that it offers, explore new restaurants, the museums you never get around to visiting and see your hometown with fresh eyes.
11. Consider more creative and personal lodging accommodations using HomeAway or Airbnb for a more unique and personal travel experience.
12. Mix business with pleasure. Studies have revealed that many Americans expect to stay connected to the office on vacation. By combining your vacation with a business trip, you can potentially reduce some vacation costs. According to the IRS, travel expenses within the United States are tax-deductible for business owners when more than half a trip is spent conducting business. Consult a tax advisor for more information.
Use technology to your advantage.
13. Try video conferencing. Free video conferencing tools like Skype let entrepreneurs be available for virtual face-to-face conversations, regardless of geography.
14. Purchase separate technology for the kids. Buy a cheap laptop or tablet for the kids and load it with games and movies to keep them entertained in the hotel room on rainy days or during downtime.
15. Look for local co-working spaces for your conference calls and online meetings and investigate them for opportunities to network with other like-minded entrepreneurs. If there aren’t any co-working spaces available, most hotel business centers offer private areas with computers, printers, fax machines and myriad other resources. If all else fails, find yourself a quiet corner in a coffee shop.
16. Consider splurging on Google Glass. Flow information about your new environment directly to you and manage email and meetings in the blink of an eye.
Find creative inspiration everywhere.
17. Go on adventures and move your body to get the creative juices flowing.
18. Be a detective during your vacation time. Sightseeing is research and development in disguise for the entrepreneur. Take pictures of storefronts, marketing and point-of-sale materials, storefronts and packaging. Relentlessly window-shop in other localeswith your own business in mind.
19. Be curious about all things around you. Talk to strangers in the stores you visit to understand what interests and excites them.
20. Use easy and fun multimedia tools like Evernote to save your thoughts, images and ideas and share them easily with co-workers and clients while you’re away or once you return.
Whether you choose to compartmentalize your time while on vacation, fully disconnect or engage in what some call “ life slicing, ” (where multitasking extends to blending the professional and personal parts of life), entrepreneurship is a marathon not a sprint and is often a family affair. While entrepreneurs build their business, they are also building their lives, and vacations can be a meaningful way to contribute to both.