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. After all, that was a whole extra 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted work each week that I was no longer putting in!
Actually, the opposite was true.
The effect of taking back 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 wake up each Monday morning, refreshed and ready to get 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 was not 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 a ton of 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 read. So, I found myself married to my phone and thus tied to the hip (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 for me. Once again, the result was that I became much more relaxed, refreshed, and less stressed because I no longer had to think about 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 the Dang 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 couple of years for most of us, but I strongly urge you to take a vacation and give yourself a break from work.
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 have this mentality that if I am not 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 have gone to places where I couldn’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. And get it on the calendar right now, because you and I both know that if you don’t block it now, it definitely won’t happen as your calendar filled with obligations begins to fill up.
(By the way, to show you that I practice what I preach, I just booked myself a 7-day trip to Waikiki at the end of the month. I planned it with a great deal of intentionality, between our work events and also my schooling.)
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 is one step you can take TODAY to start taking better care of yourself?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristina Schneider is a Practice Success Coach here at The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University in 2004 and was hired right out of college to work for the Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, coordinating and facilitating Philip Kavesh’s “Missing Link” Boot Camps while also providing administrative support to Mr. Kavesh as his Executive Assistant for over seven years. Through her direct hands-on experience in Mr. Kavesh’s law firm, Kristina has been able to assist numerous estate planning professionals through The Ultimate Estate Planner and, equally as important, many of their staff members, in the successful implementation of Ultimate Estate Planner’s products and systems. She is currently pursuing her MBA degree from Pepperdine University Grazadio Business School. You can reach Kristina at (424) 247-9495 or by e-mail at email@example.com.