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Time out: It's OK to take a break from your business

You can stay in touch with your business, even while on vacation. (©iStockphoto.com/Justin Horrocks) You can stay in touch with your business, even while on vacation. (©iStockphoto.com/Justin Horrocks)

Sometimes the hardest part of running a small business is knowing when it's OK to take a break. After building the business from the ground up, it's hard to separate where work stops and the rest of your life begins. Nevertheless, it's safe to say that taking some time away from work will make you more productive in the long run.

Exit strategy. Before you go, you'll need to make sure that everything is in order. Plan vacations during periods where you know that there will be a lull in the business. Plan far enough in advance that you can be sure not to schedule any appointments during the time you'll be away. If you're not the sole employee, make sure that whoever is around has a clear idea of what is expected of him or her during your absence and knows when it's necessary to contact you.

Your time away. It would probably be best for your sanity if you could forget about work during your time off, but this isn't always practical. Try to schedule any work you must do in short, discrete blocks of time -- an hour in the morning before you start the rest of your day may be a good time to make essential phone calls or answer crucial emails. If you'll be changing time zones, the late afternoon may be a better time. Do your best to think about work only during these times, and you'll find that you're more refreshed when you return.

Getting back in the swing. Getting home from a two-week vacation on Sunday night and heading into the office on Monday morning can be a little overwhelming. With some advanced preparation, your re-entry into the business world can go smoothly. First, it might be better to arrive home with a day to spare before you have to go back to work -- for instance, fly home on Saturday instead of Sunday. That way you can take care of things around the house on Sunday, and mentally prepare for the workweek. Take a copy of your work calendar home, and leave it at your house so that you can refer to it when you arrive back from your vacation. If you can, quickly scan your voice mail and emails on Sunday evening so that you know what to expect in the morning.

If you plan carefully and devote the same concentration to rest and relaxation as you do to your business, your time off will provide a much-needed change of pace.

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