Don’t let ‘relax’ become a four-letter word

Editor's note: The Gray Area is undergoing a format change. Donna Gray is going to start blogging on common issues facing small business owners, lending her perspective and insights based on a lifetime of experience in business. Think of it as “Dear Abby” for business. If you have a business issue or question you'd like expert guidance on, email Online Editor Jason Busch at, with the subject “The Gray Area,” and we'll have Donna and her extensive network of business experts tackle it for you.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), Italian painter, sculptor, draftsman, architect, and engineer, said, “Every now and then go away, even briefly; have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer; since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power.”

Planning a vacation for the end of a busy season helps to stave off burnout and stress. The challenge for professionals, especially small business owners, is finding the time to plan the getaway, let alone actually getting away.

I can imagine that during a busy season most folks allocate nearly all their time to making hay while the sun shines. Everyone is working hard, putting in long and sometimes grueling hours. Which means they’re very likely taking minimal time for themselves, their families, and friends.

A time management guru friend of mine says the key to avoid stress and burnout during these busy times — or any other time of the year — includes the following tips (I’ve added a couple of my own):

  • Eliminate interruptions and do your best to avoid impromptu meetings. If you’re busy, feel free to ask why a meeting is actually necessary.
  • Customers are never an interruption.
  • Don’t over commit. One of my mentors taught me that it’s much better to under promise and than over deliver. Better to surprise a customer than to disappoint.
  • Do your best job, and then sign off on it.
  • Accentuate the positive. Look at all that is right with what you do. Think about the good that comes from your work. I always keep in mind that the end result of our work is usually applause when someone is receiving the recognition pieces we’ve created.
  • Stop telling yourself that you work better under pressure. Working on deadline is really just crisis management. Allow more time than you think is necessary to complete a project so that if Murphy’s law intervenes, there will still be time to deal with any problems and challenges.
  • Get in the habit of thinking ahead. This will also help to avoid last minute crisis management. With a good contingency plan in place you’ll be ready to deal with anything.
  • Don’t be too proud to ask for help if things go wrong. Sometimes the best-laid plans go south. Get on the phone and call a friendly competitor for help. My motto has always been, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
  • Give yourself permission to relax. During a busy season it’s easy to forget to have a life. There will always be too much to do and not enough time to do it. That’s no reason to buy into this major cause of burnout.
  • Rest well. Lao-Tzu (570–490 BC), Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism said, “Practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place.”

I’m always looking for quick, simple ways to rejuvenate the mind, body, and spirit that will help me find the energy needed to accomplish great things. The minute I discover these magic qualities, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, we’ll all look forward to summer.

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine – your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.