Tapping Out To Avoid Burnout


Just before my third work-iversary, I came clean, to a select couple of friends and my co-workers. I came clean that I had taken only one full week of vacation in three years. One boss of mine was particularly horrified that this had happened, sat down with me at my desk, had me open my calendar and helped me decide which weeks I was taking off this summer. When I told friends, they gasped, stared at me and asked, “why?!” Others, less aghast, added, “you need to take more vacation, so you don’t burn out.”

Here’s the thing: I never set out to go so long with so little time off. In fact, I never even noticed it. Read any other post on my blog and you’ll know: I’m completely in love with my job and my firm. Miraculously, I find myself in the minority who wake up in the morning enthusiastic about going to the office. It’s a combination of truly loving what I do for a living, and a firm culture that really fosters having a balanced, healthy life. I don’t feel burnt out; I have never yearned for a break from my job due to the stress of so much work or the pressures of an unhealthy workplace.

So before I acknowledge that it is appropriate and healthy to take time off, I thought it more appropriate to recognize that the road I traveled to end up in this position was because I started my legal career at a job and a law firm that I love, with colleagues I respect and immensely enjoy.

Being away from my office, and my clients, and my to-do list is not my natural first choice for how to spend a week. While I crave and enjoy downtime, weekend time, training time, I also crave and enjoy accomplishing my goals at work and always being on top of my tasks. I like the rigor and predictability of a schedule. In short, I find it hard to let go and step back.

The next week and a half will be an important experiment as I try to figure out how to balance ongoing work obligations without being sucked back in to emails, phone calls and memos. I do recognize that vacations are healthy, especially for my long-term personal and professional health. I’m trying to take the time I need to step back, enjoy the last bits of summer sunshine, and feel centered, focused and enthusiastic for the year ahead.

I’m going to hike the hills I want to hike, swim when I feel like it, go on long walks with my dog. Returning to my job next month (next month! feels weird even thinking that), I can’t imagine how excited I will be to get back  to work. And when I go back to the office, I’m going to have so much energy, I’ll be a far better lawyer to all of our clients and all of my coworkers. And maybe it’s exactly that feeling that makes vacations so incredibly crucial for every professional. 

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