So you finally get away from your business for a well-deserved vacation, and before you know it, it's time to return.
But even more dreaded than the prep it took to get away is the impending onslaught of work, emails and phone calls waiting for you upon your return.
For small-business owners, post vacation re-entry can be stressful. Planning can reduce that stress, experts say.
"You have to budget time for catch-up," says Alice Bredin, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based small-business adviser to American Express OPEN, the small-business arm of American Express. "It doesn't magically happen."
A recent American Express OPEN survey found that 60 percent of small-business owners are planning to take one full week of summer vacation this year, up from a record low last year of 49 percent.
The increase is likely the result of business owners' feeling more confident, Bredin says, noting in "most industries and geographies there is definitely an uptick in demand and orders."
Make a list of priorities you need to tackle upon return, to help you focus on the most important tasks, Bredin says.
And before you go away, resist the temptation to say, "I'll do that when I get back," she says. The less you put off, the better off you'll be.
"Plan for re-entry one week before you leave for vacation," advises Linda Berke, president of Farmingdale-based Taylor Performance Solutions, which offers customized training in sales, service and leadership.
Berke said she sometimes plans two weeks ahead, depending on pending projects.
If you can delegate someone to handle some tasks while you're away, that can help lessen your load, she notes.
If you do delegate, "give very specific instructions about what needs to happen when you're gone and what you expect when you come back," Berke says.
Set up an automatic email response to let people know you'll be out of the office, suggests Eileen Lichtenstein, chief executive of Balance & Power Inc., a Garden City-based coaching, training and consulting firm.
You may also enlist the services of a telephone answering service, which can help screen calls and alert you if you need to respond to something while you're away, says Lichtenstein, who has done this herself.
You might even set up a VIP email address specifically for top-tier clients, says Steve Davies, president of Huntington-based Edge Initiatives, a consulting firm specializing in time management for business owners.
This way you could deal with the more urgent emails while you're away. When Davies is away he spends about an hour a day sorting through emails, setting up folders to make the task easier (ie., pending, to do on return, etc).
"In my mind, there's a difference between filing things and actually getting involved in client conversations and emergencies," says Davies, who is taking a week's vacation this summer.
FUDGE ON THE RETURN DATE
It pays to tell everyone you're getting back a day later than you are, Davies says. This builds in some time for catch-up.
And don't let yourself get overwhelmed. On your way home, mentally relive your vacation a bit so you have it fresh in your mind and you can access these visualizations daily, Lichtenstein says.
Perhaps even build time into your to-do list to transfer vacation photos from your camera to your computer, she suggests.
"Don't lose the essence of your vacation," Lichtenstein says.