I have. I just returned from a quite long one, actually. (See above for the view from my beach perch.) For a month (plus some), I took a break from [most] work and [most] media (including writing for this blog, Twitter, reading the 12 zillion blogs in my RSS feed, and other internet rabbit holes I frequent).
[Admission: I did spend some time on Facebook because I have family that will pester me unless they’re receiving semi-regular updates.]
I spent time with family and friends. Being truly present.
It was hard at times. Yep. I jonesed more than once for a feed — any kind of feed — on my iPhone.
But the mental, emotional and psychic break I got from disconnecting and truly breaking away? I’m still processing how important this was. Is.
I traveled some of the time. I think this is key to a real break. Get out of your daily routine. Get out of your comfort zone. Get away from what you know.
Relax expectations. This is also important. If you’re like me, you spend much of your time working to fulfill expectations. Your own, your family’s, your client’s. Someone’s. Let go of this, too.
We all know that the legal profession is filled with stress, anxiety, and too much negativity. Which makes taking a real break all the more important for legal practitioners. Not a working break. A REAL break.
I know this is hard. We are taught in law school that we can never work hard enough. The programming to work insane hours (way beyond any human’s productive capacity) continues for pretty much any law firm associate. I wager it’s worse for those in bigger firms, but I can tell you that the expectations in the small firm I worked for out of law school were the same. Stay long after 5:00 (or 6:00 or 7:00) has come and gone. Come in on the weekends. Failure to do so? Then you’re deemed not worthy. You don’t want it enough.
I’m not the only one who thinks that this is anathema to being a good lawyer. Or a healthy, sane, happy person. But it seems to be a perpetuated model.
Well, I for one don’t want to have a heart attack, develop a serious addiction, contemplate or attempt suicide, or alienate my friends and family.
So I take breaks. Long breaks. Doing things that have nothing to do with work. With people I love.
Breaks make us happier. Even in jobs that we don’t love. And especially in jobs we do. They make us more resilient.
How long has it been since you took a real break? If you’re reading this and thinking that there’s no way you can leave your work and truly disconnect, then I’ve got news for you.
You’re doing it wrong. Really, really wrong. There is no work, no legal practice, that stops you from taking a break. Create the right way to work, and the breaks happen. Because you build them into how you work.
I know this because it’s how I operate. And I’m not alone. But there are far too few of us in this club.
Come join the club. And send me a postcard when you get there.