Want to Stay Productive? Take Time Off.

Shabbat Rest

Life is crazy and hectic for the solo practitioner and I’ve talked to many who feel they simply can’t leave their solo practice for any length of time because they wouldn’t really be able to relax or the business would fall apart without them. But if you must know the truth, not taking time away from work, meaningful, restorative time, is actually hurting your practice and your health in insidious ways. And this is supported through studies linked to below. Without taking a respite, our work becomes ineffective.  The truth is we get virtually nothing done, walk through our days unfocused and certainly don’t hit the goals we’ve set for ourselves.

When you are busy and exhausted all the time you never give your brain a chance to turn off.  Like a computer that is never shut down, our brains stop working properly. There is cognitive decline. What results over time is insomnia, stress which can lead to depression, substance abuse and even worse.

But there is a highly enjoyable fix.

Taking a vacation (or stay-cation) allows you to unwind emotionally and physically and actually increases your productivity upon return to work.

You may crave a vacation but truly feel you cannot leave your work or it will simply fall apart.  You may feel you’re not organized enough with your workflow, communication with your clients, your motions, your bookkeeping.  Fill in the blank.  But the reality is these time management and organization issues are very minor in comparison to the benefits of a real vacation on your well-being.

1. A vacation (or stay-cation) helps reduce stress.

Extricating yourself from the daily grind and placing yourself into a exciting new environment filled with different stimuli reduces stress. A recent study by the American Sociological Association shows that the more time you spend on some type of ‘vacation’, the greater the decline in psychological stress.  You might be saying, ‘that’s pretty obvious but I can’t afford financially or otherwise to be away from my office that long.’  But can you afford not to?

2. Your mortality is linked to how often you vacation, seriously.

Vacations are good for our health. According to another study “The frequency of annual vacations by middle-aged men at high risk for CHD (coronary heart disease) is associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality and, more specifically, mortality attributed to CHD. Vacationing may be good for your health.”  Yes, maybe you’re not a middle-aged white man but it’s easy to see how this conclusion extrapolates easily to the general working population. And you are solo practitioner, so by definition you live in an even more stressful world.  Take a vacation.

3. Mental health is greatly improved.

This is self-explanatory. Surrounding yourself with new vistas, people, food is not only fun it actually helps with your thinking and creativity.

4. Want a happier marriage?  Vacation more.

As a solo practitioner, you are already putting stress on your marriage with your long hours, pulling double and triple duty with all the hats you wear to run the business side of your practice.  But according to the Wisconsin Rural Women’s Health Study, women who vacation more are less depressed, have increased energy and are much more  satisfied with their marriage. This is nothing to dismiss. On top of this, “These personal psychological benefits that lead to increased quality of life may also lead to improved work performance.”

5. Vacations involving nature pull double duty.

Being closer to green space improves your mental health right away, and that effect can be sustained for longer, according to a study from the University of Exeter Medical School in Britain. A trip in the mountains, kayaking on a lake, hiking, a week on the beach, all have incredible benefits which will help with your productivity.

In conclusion, people who frequently travel live a much happier life and are more productive.

But, alas, not all of us can truly afford to take a lengthy vacation even though the benefits are clear.

What you can do is change your habits to get the similar benefits of a vacation.

Step One: Disconnect

We’ve all fallen asleep with our iPad on our chests. Falling asleep with tech all around not only kills your chances of a good night’s sleep, it can literally be killing you.

..not getting enough sleep or obtaining poor quality sleep — has been linked to other health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Chronic suppression of melatonin has also been associated with increased risk of certain cancers….

Avoid any technology at least an hour before bed. I know it’s hard! But it may be the only time in the day when you’ll unplug completely. This will lead to great changes. If you’re setting limits for your kids, you can set limits for yourself.  If you do, I promise you will see an increase (possibly double!) in your productivity.

Step Two: Have personal Zen Time

You’ve heard often that you should take a little time for yourself each day.  Many suggest you wake up a little earlier and create a comforting morning ritual.  I know several lawyers who meditate or write in a journal, take a walk, do yoga, exercise, read the paper.  It really doesn’t matter as long as it is personal time that brings you a little joy as well as time to clear your head before your kick start the day. Soon this becomes a habit you look forward.  Benefit – this also helps significantly with productivity and creativity that translates to your work and your life.

Step Three: Discover meditation

We’ve all read the incredible benefits of meditation; increased blood flow, slowing of the heart rate, reduction in stress levels, improvement in your immune system, increased memory and so much more. It doesn’t take long. Simply put, it’s the act of emptying your mind.  It is a simple practice which can be done anywhere on demand. Lawyers need this. They really do.

So, whether a grand trip to Thailand for a week or the neighborhood park for an hour,  hopefully this will get you to stop dismissing the idea that vacations, stay-cations or personal time will take away from your practice.  The reality is it will only improve your productivity and quality of your work and personal life.

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One comment on “Want to Stay Productive? Take Time Off.

  • I can’t agree more with the two best things I have done for myself appearing on this article. Meditation and vacation. They even have nice ring to them. I was totally a stress wrecking ball before I decided to incorporate these two things into my year. After doing this I have never felt better and look forward to my mornings and my breaks!

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