The concept of taking time off of work or stepping away from work seems like an obvious one, but for those that are super-dedicated to their job, this can actually be a difficult task to do sometimes. It took me some time, but it was something that I had to learn over a number of years of going full-steam, with very little to no breaks.
I can recall when I was first hired by Phil back in 2004, I was an eager, freshly graduated college student. There were a lot of details to my job and, being the perfectionist that I was, I could not seem to find a way to get all of the work assigned to me done Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5pm. Unasked of me but with the freedom to choose to do so, I found myself staying late a lot of days and even coming in for the better part of my entire Saturday. I did this for a number of years and I started to feel the effects of doing this week in and week out.
Regardless of who you are—attorney, CPA, financial advisor, life insurance agent, trust officer, or a support staff member—you are human and this constant grind will begin to wear on you in ways you won’t know until it’s too late. Be it your mental and physical health, your family, your marriage, and eventually all of that will come back to affect the very business you are working so hard for.
STEP #1: Take Your Weekends Off
The first thing I did was I stopped working on weekends.
I found that, while I logically felt like I was putting in more hours each week when I worked on the weekends and thought that I would be able to get more stuff done, I wasn’t really doing anything worth giving up an entire day of my weekend for. Sure, things were quiet. The interruptions were dramatically lower (if not non-existent, except for the personal interruptions I allowed). But, the reality was that I still did not have enough time with almost 6 days of work per week dedicated to my job. Guess what? There was always still more things that had to be done! I learned that there was never going to be enough time to get everything done and that part of my job is to prioritize my daily tasks each week and get the stuff that had to get done between 8:30am and 5pm, Monday through Friday. Anything else would have to wait.
You would think that there would be a noticeable difference. That’s a whole extra 6 to 8 hours each week that I wasn’t putting in. Actually, the opposite was true. The effect of taking my weekends was that I got to relax, take care of the things I needed to do for myself, recharge my batteries, have fun, enjoy my life, and then come in each Monday morning, refreshed and ready to work. I felt far less stressed and burnt out, which made me a happier person and probably (if you asked the people I worked side-by-side), a happier person to work with. I actually got more done during the work week!
STEP #2: Stop Checking Your E-mails Outside of Work
The second thing that I did was something that did not come as a realization of my own. It was something that my former associate, Megan, had pointed out to me shortly after she started working with me. Once again, unasked of me and with the freedom to choose to do so, I had put my work e-mail onto my personal cell phone so that I could constantly have access to check and respond to e-mails whenever and wherever I was at.
My thought process on this was that I was going to be providing nothing but superb customer service by being so quick to respond and get back to our clients. I also thought that it mentally helped me to come into the office in the morning and start my work without having 10 to 15 e-mails piled up that needed responding to. I am that person that doesn’t like to see a little red bubble alert on my phone that there’s e-mails that haven’t been opened. So, I found myself married to my phone and thus tied to the hip (almost literally!) to my job.
What I realized was that I was doing a disservice to myself and to my company. The truth is, most people that e-mail in don’t expect an immediate response. Most things can wait. People know our hours of operation and that they can call and reach someone then if they need a quicker, much more immediate assistance. What I had unintentionally done was set up a standard for communication with me and/or for our company. People now expected of me to reply quickly and receive responses at all hours of the day, including first thing when I woke up or even late at night before bed.
So, I hesitantly decided to take Megan up on her suggestion to remove my work e-mail from my phone and see what happened. It was nerve-racking at first and created a bit of anxiety. Once again, the result was that I became much more relaxed, refreshed, and less stressed because I no longer had to think about work and do work non-stop. People were still being serviced first thing when we got into the office. And guess what? Not a single person complained or was unhappy. The fact of the matter was, nobody expected an immediate response to begin with. I had put that unnecessary pressure and standard on myself.
STEP #3: Take a Vacation
With the emancipation of my weekends and my personal cell phone, this leaves me with the last and final point. Take a vacation.
I know the concept of “vacation” has been lost for much of the past year for most of us, but as things begin to open up and we head into the summer, I strongly urge you to take a vacation.
A lot of people don’t take time (or enough time) off from work. Even I can sometimes find it hard to take my vacation days. I often had this mentality that if I wasn’t going anywhere or doing something special, then why bother taking the time off? Vacation isn’t about where you go, it’s about what you do (or don’t do, which is work!). Taking some time off every 3 to 4 months (even just one or two days) to just get some rest, take care of yourself, and give yourself a break will do wonders.
In more recent years, I took time off that I never felt I was capable of doing before. I took just over a week off and out of the office and I went to places where I wouldn’t be reached, like on cruises in the middle of the Caribbean. I enjoyed my time exploring sights and places I had never been and I took a break from thinking about work, being around the people I see just about every single day. And, just like the two other things I did, it allowed me to give myself a much-needed break to be a better, happier employee.
In order to make a vacation happen, you have to properly plan for it. Whether you’re the boss or a support staff member, look at the calendar and find an opportune time to take off. One that allows you the ability to enjoy your time away and hit the ground running when you get back.
In summary, if you know much about me and my own personal journey to self-care over the years, I cannot stress the importance of taking care of yourself first. You will truly do yourself and your company a disservice when you run yourself into the ground, because that’s how people become unhappy, negative, stressed out, and even physically ill, which is never a good result for anyone.
With all of that, I leave you with this question: What will you do to start taking better care of yourself?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristina Schneider is a Practice Success Coach for The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc. Her primary responsibility involves consulting and assisting estate planning attorneys on a variety of practice-building and marketing strategies taught by nationally renowned estate planning attorney, Philip Kavesh.
Kristina graduated from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Immediately following her graduation, she was hired by Phil and Phil’s law firm, Kavesh, Minor & Otis, to help put together live training programs for estate planning attorneys and financial advisors. Additionally, she also served as Phil’s Executive Assistant and assisted his law firm in firm management and marketing.
Thanks to over 16 years of experience working side-by-side with Phil and in his law firm, Kristina has been able to assist numerous professionals – – and equally as important, their staff – – in the successful implementation of Phil’s systems and practice-building and marketing strategies.
You can reach Kristina by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.