Holidays are a time for working

Ah, the holiday season. It's a time of warm spirits, family and friends and kicking back by a crackling fire. Or, if you’re an entrepreneur, it's a great time to fit in all those tasks and jobs you've had on the back burner and finally get some work done.

I always looked forward to the holidays as a time for me to get away from the office and work on my own. With a list a page long, I'd have great aspirations for all that I would get done, hoping that I'd be able to start the new year all caught-up.

Hiking in the show at The Bluff Wilderness Trail 
Hiking in the show at The Bluff Wilderness Trail 

Like that ever happened. And what was I thinking? It wasn’t time off but rather time to work on stuff I hadn’t had time to do in my already too-long work week.

Of course, I couldn’t get the list all checked off (sometimes I barely ticked off three or four). I would often feel like I hadn’t met the expectations. I came back to work feeling down and tired.

What is wrong with this picture?

Well, there are many things out of perspective with my old views on vacation time. The bottom line is that you need to take time off – really off – to renew your brain so you can be creative, productive, and have the energy to get critical stuff done.

Without time to relax and renew, our minds become tired and foggy.

Ironically, for entrepreneurs, we work longer hours hoping to catch up but the extra hours are actually just slowing us down. It may feel like we're on the right track —  working longer hours — but that isn’t the way our bodies work. Brains need downtime. And as far as I know entrepreneurs have brains — beautiful ones. So, it just follows that in order to continue with the use of these wonderful minds, we need to give them a break every once in awhile.

Study upon study has shown that taking a break from work reduces stress, improves sleep, and enhances productivity. It can even reduce the chance of heart disease.

Despite all the benefits of extended rest, our survey results showed that over 25 per cent of entrepreneurs don't take vacations at all! None. The average vacation time taken by the other 75 per cent of business owners is just 10.6 days each year. And let’s be honest, most of us take work with us on those days as well.

We put so much pressure on our poor, beautiful brains that it saps our ability to think clearly and achieve the success that we want for our business. Instead of looking in the mirror and blaming the real culprit, we blame it on the business.

We found that 68.3% of entrepreneurs report that they have experienced at least two full weeks of high stress, anxiety, and even depression that impacted their work. Most of those respondents didn't take vacation time. It follows that If you don't decide to take a break out of your own free will, inevitably, your body will decide for you.

Working Canadians on average take 26 days of vacation each year — because of our businesses, we don’t even take half of that time.

Taking time off to relax is not a weakness. It's smart! Athletes who compete at the highest levels know they need to take time from training to rejuvenate and recover. Entrepreneurs who want to perform at high levels need to invest in the same thinking.

But for those who don't take time, the thinking goes: you have too much work to do and you need the time to get caught up or there won’t be enough money, if you don’t put the hours in.

I know, I had the same monkeys bouncing around in my head, yammering the same lies. Let me tell you, those apes are not trying to help, they are looking to distract. No matter how much work you wade through over the holidays, there will be more waiting for you when you get back.

It's not enough to simply take time off though, we need to be mindful as well. This means we have to put the work down and simply give our full attention to what we are doing and who we're with — just enjoy the experience!

If you're with your family, be with your family. If you don’t find family a relaxing thought, go skating or skiing or get outside — just be there. Let your mind go free. As my Mum would say, "Get outside and let the wind blow the stink off."

My wish for you at this holiday season is that you invest in your well-being. I wish for you to have five, even seven (maybe more), full days off where you give your beautiful mind a break from work and let it relax and rest up for the great year coming.

My gift for you is to take a break and really enjoy it. You deserve it.