Business planning involves a host of different functions, from production to sales to marketing. But rarely does it include time and vacation planning – especially for the solo entrepreneur.

Learning to take time off is a critical part of your long-term plan for success. Research has shown that those who take a regular vacation are sharper and more productive than those who don’t.

Here’s a five-step plan to ensure you get the time you deserve.

1. Get a calendar for the year. I find that printing a blank calendar from Outlook serves this purpose well. (Check the Help menu for instructions on adding a new calendar if you’re not familiar with the process.)

2. Mark off all of your currently scheduled major obligations. These will include conferences, trips, speaking engagements, etc. Do not include recurring meetings unless you have made a special commitment to that event for this year, such as assuming the presidency of an organization.

3. Looking at the trips you already have scheduled, where could you add just one more day and double the impact of your trip? For example, if you’re attending a conference plan to stay one more day. You’ll be able to think through the notes you took and create a plan to implement the ideas. Plus you’ll avoid the crowded flights on Sunday evening!

Now take another look at those trips. Are there vacation opportunities in those locations? Sometimes adding another day or two allows you to see the sights in a city you might not otherwise visit. Since conference rates are often the best available you’ll have a favorable room rate – and you won’t have to pack and unpack again! It’s a great way to see the country!

4. Now decide on the number of days you want to take as vacation days. Count what you have already in travel vacation days, then start scheduling your additional days. Do you want to take off the major holidays? Schedule them. Want to take off your birthday? Your children’s birthdays? Your anniversary? Just mark it off!

One of the eye-openers you may have is that you want to take more than the traditional “two weeks” vacation. And that’s one of the joys of being the boss – you can take that time off if you want! Will your business suffer? Probably not! You’ll likely focus better when you are working, knowing that you have a vacation day coming up shortly.

5. Now take all those delicious vacation days and put them on your permanent calendar for the year. Create an electronic document that lists all of your vacation days then share it with your staff, your family, and your business partners. And print a copy for yourself to help you “remember” what you promised yourself.

Remember, as the head of your company, only you can take care of yourself! And giving yourself time off is your first obligation.

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