Originally published on the Vistage Research Center

Finding a healthy work-life balance remains the Holy Grail. The pressure to succeed often leads to burnout no matter the position in the corporate hierarchy.

That’s why it’s important to strike a balance between professional and personal time, and emphasize the same for your staff. Ongoing success for a CEO depends on being able to unplug from email and the Internet and making the time to relax and recharge. In his influential book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey writes, “We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.”

In reality, small business CEOs are rarely off the clock, even when on vacation. The sense of responsibility, dedication and passion can make it hard to really get away. Ironically, travel is a big part of most CEOs’ lives. A recent Vistage survey of more than 700 small business CEOs shows nearly 95% of them travel for business.  But to be an effective leader, CEOs need to find balance between their professional, personal and community obligations, and that includes making time to recharge by taking some real vacation time.



Generally speaking, good work-life balance can boost productivity and employee engagement, trim staff turnover and recruitment costs, and reduce medical costs and absenteeism. For the devoted CEO, some genuine time off brings the benefits of returning to work with fresh ideas and increased energy. And that’s important when decision-making is a leader’s key responsibility. Decision-making is a marathon, not a sprint. CEOs need time to engage in quiet reflection, to process without interruption and to work through the big decisions.

When CEOs take time off, it also sets a tone in workplace culture that shows their teams it’s OK, and encouraged, to take deserved time off for their mental and physical health. After all, employees work hard at the office so that they have time off the clock to be fully present with their loved ones.

Here are three ways CEOs can balance their professional and personal obligations, especially during vacation season:

1. Delegate appropriate tasks – One of the most challenging parts of CEO life is knowing when to delegate. Leaders who don’t delegate often feel overwhelmed and unbalanced, and they find it difficult to take vacation when they cannot briefly let go of duties. By not delegating, they are telling their teams they don’t trust them. Delegation allows a leader to get a much-needed break while also empowering colleagues and giving them a chance to grow in their roles.

2. Maximize travel schedules – Extend those business trips to add more personal or family vacation time. 66% percent of small business CEOs bring family with them when they travel for business and nearly half (49%) extend business trips for personal or family vacations, according to Vistage’s recent survey. And that’s a good thing. Aligning travel for conferences or other business obligations with family trips is a great way to maximize time.



3. Use time away to network – While CEOs don’t want to always be “connected” or working while on vacation, they can still keep their eyes open for possible networking opportunities when out of the office. Our survey found the majority (89%) of small business CEOs do engage in business activities like networking or client meetings while on vacation at least some of the time, with nearly a quarter (23%) reporting they do so every time or almost every time.



Most importantly, effective CEOs reward themselves with time off. Even if a CEO never truly feels off the clock, getting away can open their minds to new perspectives and ideas and ground them in leisure time spent with loved ones.

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