As I write this I’m madly clearing the decks before I go on holiday. As you read this, I’ll be back into work mode and wading through emails. For small business owners, holidays can be hard work. Do these scenarios sound familiar?

It’s about this time of year when holiday cravings kick in. But ask a business owner about holidays and you’ll often get “What’s a holiday?” or, “I did take a few days off over Christmas!”

By the time you’ve scrambled to get ready to leave, then dealt with a bulging task list on your return, it can seem like holidays are more trouble than they’re worth. If you’re running your own business, there are three main types of holiday:

1. The non-holiday

This is the holiday you just never fully commit to. You don’t have proper backup plans. You don’t tell your clients in advance. You pack your laptop, PDA and some files. You promise yourself you’ll just do an hour or two a day.

Symptoms: Domestic tension about broken promises. Answering work calls and checking email during the day. Double-edged guilt about neither working nor relaxing properly. Feels like you haven’t had a break at all.

2. The half-holiday

You think you’ve fully committed to this one. You’ve told your clients, made backup plans and left the laptop at home. Although just before you leave you utter the two classic lines. “I might log into email a few times just to clear the inbox,” and then “I’ll still be on mobile so call if there’s anything important.”

Symptoms: Sneaking off to internet cafés to check email. Absent minded dinner conversation as your mind drifts to work issues. Mild agitation if you see a missed call on your phone. Never quite completely switching off. Relaxed but not completely refreshed when you return.

3. The 100% holiday

This is the holiday that you take seriously. You prepare quality back up plans for all your clients. You don’t take your laptop or check your email. You put an out of office message on your phone. You plan some fun activities, and even take a few extra days off when you get back to ease back into it.

Symptoms: Happy hour is any hour. Glowing from plenty of sun. Afternoon snoozes. Domestic bliss (well, mostly). Lose track of time. Return re-energised and inspired to get back into it.

Some say that keeping in touch with work while on holidays stops them stressing about potential problems. For others, the nature of their business makes it very difficult to escape. But for me, once or twice a year I crave a complete escape – no phone, no email and no work talk.

As the boss there a plenty of reasons why holidays are hard work – the business relies on you, you don’t get paid for holidays and you could miss new business. Yes, taking a 100% holiday is hard. But I believe it’s 100% worth it.

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