I am writing after returning from a two-week vacation, which may have been my most extended work-free break in over fifteen years. Going that long without meaningful rest was not good for me and, frankly, for my clients. Honoring the need for rest and relaxation is now my new normal. With appreciation for the gentle work reentry I planned for myself this week, I have the following takeaways to share with others who may doubt they can fully unplug from their jobs while on vacation or who dread coming back to work after they do.
Planning Makes Perfect
This vacation did not sneak up on anyone. Because I knew I would be gone for two weeks months in advance, my staff and I were able to plan for my absence. As early as three months before my trip, I began advising clients when I would be unavailable and scheduled events in their case around my trip. Setting realistic timeframes allowed me to ensure I wasn’t stressed with events and deadlines immediately before and after my trip. I also made sure that my clients had projects to work on while I was away. Whether collaborating with my staff on compiling financial documents for disclosures or completing their estate planning “homework packet,” work didn’t stop on cases.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
I am fortunate to work in a firm with talented and supportive colleagues. Whether taking a break or dealing with a family emergency, I’ve always known my colleagues would be able to step in and provide my clients with expert care while I was away. Before I left, my assistant and I reviewed my cases to determine which of my attorney colleagues would be the best fit to step in on a case if attention was needed. I communicated this to my clients whose matters I suspected might need attention while I was away. They appreciated the thoughtfulness of having a hand-selected substitute for them and knowing we had a plan.
Freedom in Discipline
My autoreply indicated I would not be responding to emails until I returned. I did find it hard the first couple of days to resist the temptation to check in, but I was reminded by my vigilant assistant to “knock it off and stay on vacation.” I did not respond to emails while I was away, and the sun continued to rise and set. I also did not lose any sleep over what my inbox would look like when I was back online. Like most of us, attorneys get dozens of emails daily, many of which are not essential or even necessary. For example, a single filing on a case may generate up to four separate emails. I quickly sifted through and deleted the redundant emails on cases and the dozens and dozens of marketing emails I received. The number of essential emails was manageable because clients and colleagues knew I was unavailable and did not include me in certain email threads. Making sure I connected with clients before and after my vacation seemed to curb the need for constant communication. They had a chance to visit with me before or after my break and knew they were taken care of by trusted colleagues in the meantime.
As always, I reflect on things through the lens of graciousness. If there is one thing travel does to one, it makes them appreciate the graces they received, large and small, along their journey. I end my getaway takeaways by inviting you to extend grace on your next journey. Extend grace to the flight crews who have dealt with so much over the past two years and continue to perform their jobs with graciousness and a smile. Extend grace to those people rushing past you to get on a train they barely made (Yep, that was us in Munich!) Giving grace to the tour guide, who was just as baffled as we all were by the general strike in Paris. And finally, extending grace to all the family lawyers who need a break and gratitude to their clients who support and respect their need for respite.