The number of entrepreneurs scheduling time for themselves this summer is the highest it has been in the past 10 years, according to new research from American Express OPEN.
Sixty-one percent of small business owners plan to take at least one full week of vacation this summer, up from 59 percent a year ago. That's the most since 67 percent did so in 2006.
Alice Bredin, a small business adviser to American Express OPEN, attributes the vacation time uptick to an improved economy.
"Orders are coming in the door in small companies, whether that door is on main street or online," Bredin told Business News Daily. "Due to this, business owners now feel more comfortable about taking some well-deserved time off."
Bredin said getting away from their business is critical to the success of any entrepreneur – and just as important as having a solid hiring strategy and making smart financial decisions. [See Related Story: Summer Vacation: How Small Business Owners Can Get Away]
"This might sound like an overstatement, but the key to success when you run a company is the ability to quickly make sound decisions and problem-solve," Bredin said. "If you want to maintain these skills, you need to step back and turn off, even for a little while. Without this break, you will burn out and poor decision-making may ensue."
While the improved economy has small business owners feeling better about taking time off, it also poses some challenges, according to Bredin.
"The challenge for business owners in the coming months will be to prioritize vacation even as they field opportunities and orders and manage hiring and other forms of expansion that go hand-in-hand with a strong economy," Bredin said.
The problem many face when going on vacation is finding a way to disengage from their business while they're gone. Since many entrepreneurs refuse to completely disconnect, Bredin suggests building in time during vacations to check in with the business and do a little work if necessary.
"It is far better to take a vacation during which you set aside 1 hour a day to check in with your business and problem-solve, than to not get away at all," Bredin said.
The key is managing those check-ins. She advises business owners to check in at a set time each day and set an alarm to prompt them to stop. When they aren't checking in, they should try to take a complete break by doing something that engages them and takes their mind off work.
While getting away for a week is ideal, taking a vacation just isn't an option for some. It is still important, however, that those business owners work on improving their work-life balance.
Bredin encourages entrepreneurs to take a class in something that is new to them to take their mind off work and force themselves to move out of the driver's seat for a few hours a week.
Another way to improve work-life balance is to focus on breaking some overworking habits.
"For example, if you go back to your desk after dinner to 'tie up loose ends,' and work late into the night, try restricting that work to one or two nights a week, or giving it up all together," Bredin said. "It won't be easy to break these habits, so start small."
The study was based on surveys of 739 U.S. small business owners or managers of companies with less than 100 employees.