For many people, taking time off is a no-brainer. Company holidays? Paid vacation days? Turning off email? Please and thank you.
But for entrepreneurs and those working at small startups, there can be pressure to work constantly. Every vacation day is a day that work won’t get done—and there are always things that urgently need to get done.
As a founder myself, I often feel guilty taking days off. Fortunately, every time I do, I’m reminded of the value—not just for my personal well-being, but also for the success of my company, InstaEDU. With the holidays almost upon us, here are three reasons you (yes, you) should give yourself a break this winter.
1. Breaks Increase Productivity
Doing your best work requires energy and focus, and no one has both of these 24/7. Giving yourself time to rest up—or exert energy in a different way—means that you can come back to work ready to be more productive than ever.
If the idea of beach time increasing your productivity makes you a little incredulous, you’ll be pleased to know that this theory is actually backed up by data: In cultures where people take more vacation each year, employees are more productive per hour worked. Net-net: To be most productive, you need to put in the hours as well as give yourself breaks.
2. Relaxation Stimulates Creativity
Ever struggled through a problem all day at work, then had the solution come to you easily in the shower the next morning? That’s not a coincidence. Dopamine is a key cause of creativity, and events that make you feel good and relaxed cause the release of dopamine.
In other words? Getting away from your day-to-day work and spending some time swimming in the ocean or hiking in the mountains can cause you to arrive at that aha moment. Don’t have time to head to the great outdoors? Give yourself permission to do an in-home spa day, movie marathon, or cookie-baking spree—anything that relaxes you and makes you happy.
3. There’s No Better Time
This may not apply if you’re in the retail business or work in finance, but for many businesses, things slow way down between Christmas and New Years. As people take time off to travel and spend time with family, the ability to work with others both in and outside of your office reduces drastically. When there’s a lot going on, it can be hard to turn your brain (and email!) off, so use this work lull to your advantage.
Have family holiday commitments that won’t give you time to relax? Try to combine plans: A trip home to your parents’ place can get you closer to a long weekend destination. (Pro tip: I’ve found that flying out late on Christmas Day is often pretty affordable, lets you enjoy most of the holiday with family, and gives you some time that evening to do a fun activity on your own or with friends.)
Over the next few weeks, give yourself permission to not be on for a few days. Step away from your computer, turn off your smartphone, and ignore the urge to write one more email. Taking time to relax, even for a few days, can help you head into 2014 more motivated, more energetic, and more inspired—which are all things your startup can benefit from.