When was the last time you took a break?

Not a quick coffee, gulped down while you read over paperwork, but an actual day (or even better, group of days) off. Time to relax and unwind and not think about work!

For many executives or entrepreneurs, asking this question will have you straining to remember your last real time off. What’s stopping you? Why is it that you’re not getting the breaks you need and deserve?

If there’s even a small part to do with worry over keeping things going, read on. You really do need time off and there is a way to get it without things falling apart...

Why you need time off

You probably advanced to where you are today because you have a vision of success, of somehow making a difference in the world or for those who are close to you. Somewhere along the line, that started to involve long hours and being indispensable at work. You probably are indispensable, but that doesn’t mean you should always be working.

It seems to partly be a cultural thing - did you know Americans are pretty bad at taking their vacation time? Forbes found four key reasons behind this:

  1. People worry that they have too many projects or deadlines and will return to too much work.
  2. People feel pressured by their manager not to take a vacation.
  3. Technology makes it hard for people to truly unplug because work is so accessible everywhere. Many people admit that they check up on work, even while on vacation.
  4. People think that depriving themselves of vacation time will advance their career and that conversely, taking the time might derail it.

It’s probably fair to say that we’ve created a bit of a “work martyr” culture, where people associate taking breaks as a sign of weakness or that you’re not committed to work. Executives and entrepreneurs often convince themselves that things will fall apart if they’re not there and that no one could possibly take care of things as well as they can.

The problem with this sort of thinking is that we genuinely need to take breaks. From a purely pragmatic point of view, taking time off can help you to relax and reset. It can actually make you more productive as a result, helping you to “fill your cup.” (Because as they say, you can’t pour from an empty one!).

Productivity and job satisfaction are among the key benefits of taking breaks, but did you know there are genuine health benefits, too? A Psychology Today article outlines that taking vacations can improve your cardiovascular health, your sleep patterns, and your stress levels.

The bottom line is, while you might worry about potential damage if you take a vacation, potentially it’s a bigger worry that you might do damage to yourself by not taking a vacation. Taking a break can enable you to make an even greater contribution at work, especially if you come back energized and refreshed.

What stops you from taking time off?

So, what’s stopping you? Do you feel that you must be present for certain things to be done? Do you find that you have trouble disconnecting from work because it’s so easy to check up via your devices? Do you genuinely worry that something might go sideways without you there?

This is common, but plenty of executives and entrepreneurs have found ways to get past those barriers. Here are a few suggestions:

Systemize in your business

Are there repeated tasks that currently don’t happen unless you, the human, either does it or reminds someone to do it? One solution that will free up a lot of time and worry is to systemize everything possible.

When you have clear, documented systems and processes, it makes it easier for things to continue humming along, whether you’re there or not. We suggest automating anything that can be effectively automated, and having a clear written process (with automated reminders in place) for anything else.

Take yourself out of the equation

If there are tasks in your day that absolutely hinge on you being there, ask two questions:

  1. Does this really have to be done by me?
  2. If so, can it wait while I take a break?

“Managing yourself out” is a concept embraced by many executives and entrepreneurs. Of course you’re still valuable and needed, it’s just that perhaps your energies can be spent less on tasks and more on strategy (most of the time, strategy can afford to take a vacation).

In all reality, there are few tasks that can’t be automated or delegated. If there’s anything you’re reluctant to let go of, take careful stock and ask yourself why. One thing that can help is by having an emergency or contingency plan in place. Having one ensures that people know what to do if an urgent situation happens when you’re not there.

You can take time off! Find ways to “manage yourself out” at work CLICK TO TWEET

Practice unplugging

Constantly checking up on work outside of work hours or during breaks can be a reflex action or habit. That means you can take steps to break the habit.

Here are suggestions to help you disconnect:

  • Remove any work-related apps from your mobile phone. It’s too easy to quickly check on them with a click from your phone. Using laptop-only access involves a couple of extra steps (and you don’t always have your laptop with you).
  • Create a discipline out of disconnecting and set expectations around it. For example, you might make it a rule that you never check emails after 6pm or on weekends. Let people know what to expect in terms of how accessible you are.
  • Put your phone away somewhere to charge during the evenings (the chances are you’ll get a better sleep if you’re not on it right up until bedtime anyway).

How a virtual executive assistant can help

How can a virtual executive assistant help you to take time off? There are several ways. First of all, they are a systems and processes specialist - they can ensure that things happen automatically and that you’re not a necessary part of the process.

Second, virtual executive assistants get to know you and understand your goals. They can often stand in your stead, especially when they truly know what your answer will be or how you would deal with a situation.

Third, EAs are great at holding people accountable! Replying to emails while on vacation? Your EA is bound to be the person saying, “Hey, take your vacation, we’ve got this.”

Last, and potentially the most important thing for you, having a reliable EA gives you the reassurance that you have a steady hand doing the work. If worry about what’s happening without you there is a reason for not taking breaks, you can feel better knowing your EA most likely has everything under control!

Do you need a good virtual executive assistant? Perhaps you’d love to take a break, too? Worxbee recruits the best-of-the-best virtual EAs and works to effectively partner them with the “right fit” executives and entrepreneurs. Talk to us today about how we can find the right EA for you...