Episode 103: Taking Time Off

The Less Stressed Lawyer with Olivia Vizachero | Taking Time Off

Are you stuck in a rut at work? Do you feel drained, uninspired, or burnt out? Maybe you’ve toyed with the idea of taking time off, knowing it will recharge your batteries, but get hung up on the what ifs. 

Whether you worry about what other people will think about you taking time off, tell yourself there’s some better time in the future for a break, or otherwise feel guilty or overwhelmed when you think about taking time off, this episode is for you. The truth is you have so much power over the experience you create for yourself when it comes to taking time off work, and I’m showing you how to change your mindset on this episode.

Join me this week as I break down the negative thoughts you might be experiencing about taking time off and show you how to change the way you’re currently thinking about giving yourself a break. You’ll also learn why it’s worth questioning your judgments of other people taking time off, and my best practices for taking some time away from work. 

If you want to start helping yourself first, it’s time to join Lawyers Only. This is my signature coaching program only for lawyers, and you can click here for all the details!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why you struggle to take time off.
  • Questions to ask yourself about your thoughts on taking time off.
  • 2 steps to change the way you’re currently thinking about taking time off.
  • Why it’s worth questioning your judgments of other people taking time off.
  • My top suggestions for best practices when it comes to taking time off.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:

You’re listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast, Episode 103. Today, we’re talking about taking time off. You ready? Let’s go.

Welcome to The Less Stressed Lawyer, the only podcast that teaches you how to manage your mind so you can live a life with less stress and far more fulfillment. If you’re a lawyer who’s over the overwhelm and tired of trying to hustle your way to happiness, you’re in the right place. Now, here’s your host, lawyer turned life coach Olivia Vizachero.

Well, hello there. How are you? I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. Things are going very well for me. I am actually getting ready to head into a season of quite a bit of travel. And that inspired today’s episode. 

Today I want to talk about taking time off. If you struggle with taking time off, and you feel like you’re always working, this episode is for you. So, I want to start by talking about the thoughts that you’re thinking about taking time off that hold you back. And then, we’re going to talk about the negative feelings that you avoid by avoiding taking time off. And then, I’m going to break down some of the best practices that I recommend for taking time off so you can start to do it effectively. 

So, check in with yourself. When you think about taking time off, what thoughts come up for you? If you’re anything like my clients, you might be thinking, “I can’t take time off. It’s irresponsible for me to take time off.” A lot of people think it’s more work than it’s worth. 

You might be thinking that everything needs to be done before you can take time off. If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re never going to take time off because not everything will ever be done. There will always be more to do. That’s just the nature of our careers. 

A lot of people also worry that people will be mad at them if they take time off. You may think that it’s unfair to your colleagues, especially if work feels really busy right now. That people will not understand if you take time off, or they’ll be resentful, or they’ll hold it against you. You might also tell yourself that now isn’t a good time, or that you need to wait for things to slow down. 

If you’re thinking these thoughts, you’re really going to struggle to take time off. Remember, if you’re thinking a thought it’s going to cause you to feel a feeling, and then it’s going to drive the action you take. So, these are all thoughts that are going to make you feel negative emotions. And then, the action that you’re going to take from them is you’re not going to take time off. 

If you think you can’t take time off, you won’t take time off. If you think it’s irresponsible, you’re going to avoid feeling irresponsible by not taking time off. If you’re telling yourself it’s more work than it’s worth, the way that you approach taking time off probably proves that true. 

Maybe you front load and create a heavy back load when you return, so it feels like everything just piles up and that it’s not worth it to take time off. Instead of planning more intentionally and making sure that it doesn’t feel like an avalanche of work is waiting for you when you get back. 

If you’re worried that people will be mad at you, you’ll feel worried or guilty or nervous or afraid. And then, you’ll avoid taking time off in order to avoid being exposed to those emotions. And if you’re being perfectionistic about this, thinking that there’s a better time to take time off, now’s not a good time but you need to wait until later, you’re going to keep kicking the can down the road. 

So, what comes up for you when you think about taking time off? I want you to spend a second and identify the thoughts that you’re thinking about taking a vacation, taking time off. I also know a lot of people think that they should only take time off if they’re going somewhere, and that’s just not a thought that I practice at all. I take time off if I’m not feeling well. 

I want you to think about what warrants taking time off for you? And do you like the definition that you currently have or do you want to change it? It’s okay if you just feel really out of it one day and you want to take a day off so you can recuperate or rest up. 

You also might be thinking that time off needs to be earned or rest needs to be earned. All of these thoughts won’t serve you if you want to work less and take more time off. 

You also want to check in with yourself: What emotions do you experience when you think about taking time off? Do you feel guilty? Do you feel worried? Do you feel stressed or overwhelmed or maybe discouraged or defeated, like you can never seem to get away because there’s always so much to do?

Whatever negative emotions are coming up for you, ask yourself how do you respond to those feelings? Are you avoiding them? My guess is you probably are. So, what’s the solution here? Well, you know from listening to the podcast that we always need to identify the thoughts that we’re thinking, and then shift them. We need to change the way that we’re thinking about something in order to create a different result. 

That’s always step one, we need to change our thoughts. And then, step two, is you need to embrace the negative emotions in order to be able to move forward in spite of them. So, here are some thoughts that you could choose to think instead. You could choose to replace, “I can’t take time off,” with, “I can take time off. It’s okay for me to take time off.”

I also love to remind myself, “It’s safe for me to take time off.” Think about being an example to the other people that you work with, especially if you supervise people. Demonstrate for them that it is okay for them to take time off of work. Be an example of what’s possible.

I want you to remind yourself that you don’t need to wait to take time off. That now is as good a time as any to take a vacation or to take a day to yourself. I want you to work on believing that people will understand that you want to take time off. People will understand that you do take time off. That it’s all something that we’re allowed to do as employees, or even as business owners. 

That’s something that I’ve worked on a ton. I was definitely raised by a dad who was an entrepreneur, and he didn’t believe that you could take time off and be successful. That was a limiting belief that he had. I’ve really worked to break that cycle for myself. 

So, I’ve built my belief that I can have a successful business and take time off. I’ve created that result for myself, because it’s a belief that I’ve practiced believing. It’s a thought that I’ve worked to think over and over and over again. And then, I take the action of taking time off and still have a successful business, so I’ve proven that true. 

If you’re going to struggle to believe that people will understand, I want you to work on believing that it’s not your job to manage other people’s opinions or manage other people’s emotions. They’re allowed to think whatever they want about you taking time off, and you’re still allowed to take it. Trust them to manage their own emotional experience. They’ll be able to get over it, I promise you that is true. Your clients will get over it, your colleagues will get over it, everything will end up being fine. 

I also want you to practice believing that it’s worth it for you to do. If you’re someone who thinks that it’s more work than it’s worth. Or that there’s just so much work waiting for you it’s not worth it to take time off because of the headache that you come back to, I want you to challenge that and start to solve for how could you take time off in a way that works for you? 

And then, practice believing that you can take time off in a way that works for you. And that the reward that you get, the benefit that you get from taking a break from work, actually serves you. It sets you up for success. It makes work better. It makes you show up better when you have a bit of a break in the action. 

Something that I’ve been coaching my clients on, especially the people who tend to work weekends or work almost every weekend, when they practice setting boundaries and limiting the amount that they work and they stop working weekends, they notice how refreshed they are when they come back to work on Monday. They’re ready to hit the ground running. They’re ready to just take action and produce results in their work. 

If you’re feeling a little burned out, a little unmotivated, a little frustrated with work, contemplate giving yourself a break from it so you can take some time and have an opportunity to become reinvigorated and return to work with that drive and passion that you’ve had in the past. 

So, those are some thoughts that I suggest you practice. But I want you to take a second for yourself and also think: What would you want to think about taking time off? What would you need to believe in order to do it? In order to give yourself permission to take a break from work, go on vacation, take a day to yourself, whatever it is that you want to do?

Now, once you’ve identified some new thoughts to think about taking time off, I want you to check in with your emotions. What negative emotions are you going to have to allow yourself to feel, on purpose, in order to follow through with a plan to take time off of work? Are you going to have to gag-and-go, and feel guilty or worried or judged or misunderstood? Maybe you’re going to have to feel pressured or stressed or overwhelmed because there’s still work to be done. 

What would it look like for you to embrace those negative emotions and take time off in spite of and despite them? I want you to remember, in order to gag-and-go through a feeling you want to find that feeling in your body. Where exactly do you feel that emotion? Describe it to yourself. What does it feel like? That’s all that’s ever happening when you’re experiencing an emotion, you’re feeling a vibe emotion in your body. 

So, if you give yourself permission to just experience that vibration, you can move forward in spite of and despite it. And then, take the intentional action of honoring your plan to take time off regardless of feeling that experience in your body. That’s all that happens. Taking time off isn’t going to kill you, you just have to feel that emotion within the layers of your skin, essentially. That’s all that’s going on. 

And by doing that, taking intentional action of taking time off in spite of those emotions, you’re going to create a body of evidence that it’s safe for you to take time off. That the world doesn’t come to a screeching halt. That everything doesn’t crumble around you when you take a break from work. 

And then, when you take time off in the future, it’s going to be less uncomfortable because you have a new body of evidence to support that it is in fact safe for you to do. 

One other tip for you in order to change your mindset around taking time off, is to check in with yourself and see what judgments you have of other people taking time off. Identify the mirror judgments that you have here. If you judge other people for taking time off of work, you’re going to fear that other people are going to judge you for taking time off of work. 

Do you think other people, when they take time off during a busy season, that they’re not team players or that they’re irresponsible or that they’re lazy? If you have those judgments, you’re going to be afraid that other people are going to think the same things about you. 

So, check in. Is there something else that you could think about your colleagues or your employees taking time off? If you can shift your thinking about other people taking time off, you’ll be able to apply those same new thoughts to yourself as well. 

One other thing that I’d like to add here is, I want you to get rid of the expectation that taking time off feels comfortable for you in the beginning. If you’re expecting it to feel really easy to take time off, when you’re not used to taking time off, you’re setting yourself up for failure here. It’s likely going to be uncomfortable because you’re changing the status quo. 

So, I want you to embrace the idea that it is okay and normal for this to feel uncomfortable at first, if you’re new to doing it, if you’re not very seasoned or skilled at giving yourself a break. If you embrace that in the beginning it’s going to feel uncomfortable, you’re going to have an easier time embracing that discomfort. Alright?

Now, let’s talk about some best practices when it comes to taking time off. One of my first suggestions is that I want you to decide ahead of time when you take time off. If you make a decision ahead of time it’s going to be easier to honor it and follow through. 

I like to plan the time that I’m going to take off at the beginning of the year. Sometimes, throughout the year, additional trips will come up. But very early on this year, I decided I’m going to Italy twice this year; once in June and once in September. I planned that at the beginning of the year, and I blocked my calendar. 

And I’ve been able to communicate to my clients that I’m going to be taking time off in June and in September. Everyone’s on the same bandwagon. Everyone’s on the same schedule. They know what to expect from me because I made the decision ahead of time. It’s not like I’m springing this on myself or on them at the last minute. 

I watch a lot of people plan to take time off, and then they don’t communicate it because they don’t want to be judged for taking the time off. And then, it comes time to honor the decision and because they didn’t communicate it to people, then they back up off of the original decision to take the time off. They cave, they cower to the pressure, right? They avoid feeling worried and they avoid feeling judged by avoiding taking the time off. 

So, I want you to decide early when you’re going to take the time off, and then start to communicate it to people so you don’t put yourself in a position where it comes down to the wire and you’re about to take the time off. And then, you feel really guilty for not having communicated it, so then you don’t take the time. You want to communicate it early and often so people know what to expect. 

I also, at the beginning of the year, plan my time off at the end of the year. So, for the last several years I’ve taken time off at the end of the year. I’ve slowly but surely worked up to taking more and more and more time off. The first time I did this, I took a week off between Christmas and New Year’s. And then, I realized I wanted more of a break, so I worked up to taking two weeks off. 

I remember I heard one of my coaches talk about taking a full month off, and when I first heard that I had a lot of mirror judgments around it. About her being an irresponsible business owner. About that being completely unrealistic. And I realized that it was actually something that I envied and that that did sound marvelous to me. I just didn’t think it was possible for me to do.

So, I worked on building my belief that I could do it, that it was possible. And then, I realized I didn’t have the comfort tolerance of taking that much time off to begin with. So, I made the decision to work up to it. 

That’s my second recommendation to you. Start with what feels more attainable or approachable for you. You can work up to taking more and more time off as you start to create that body of evidence that it’s safe to take time off. 

I’ve really worked on building my belief that it’s better for my clients, for me to take time off. I think about what I model for them. I think about how I show up better in my business when I’ve taken time to myself to rest and recuperate and enjoy my life outside of work. I show up better for the people that I serve. I want you to think about how would you show up better for the people that you serve by giving yourself some time off, as well? 

Alright, you’re going to build up to what’s aspirational. Decide ahead of time the time that you take off. You want to make sure you block that time on your calendar and honor it. Okay? Then, I want you to also think about how you can tweak or change the way that you take time off in order to make it less of a burden? 

What I watch people do typically is that they front load a ton of work, because they’re trying to get a bunch of stuff done before they take time off. And then, they also double up on the back end and they save a ton of stuff for when they return. So, the week before and the week after they take time off ends up feeling horrible to them. 

I want to offer you that you don’t have to take time off that way. You can just extend the timeline. You can work like you normally work up until you take time off, and then you can be off. And then, you can come back into work and work at a normal pace. You don’t have to double everything up, or pile it up ahead of when you leave and after you return. It’s okay for you to just extend the timeline. 

Also, check in with yourself. Are there other best practices that you could introduce here? Could you get coverage? Could you ask someone for assistance or help? Could you delegate some of what you have on your plate to someone else, in order to take some of the obligation or responsibility off of yourself? That would also help you create an easier time leaving and coming back to work.

I want you to also think about how you can ease back in? A lot of people, because they feel so guilty taking time off, they’ll bombard their schedule with a lot of meetings as soon as they’re back in the office. I don’t recommend you doing that. If you know you’re going to come back to a whole lot of emails, give yourself a full day to go through your inbox. 

Don’t play on calls, don’t plan meetings with people, just allow yourself to see what you’ve missed while you were out and start to get back up to speed. That’s totally acceptable. You really do get to make the rules for yourself. 

So, evaluate. Think about what’s worked in the past when you’ve taken time off, think about what hasn’t worked, and then be very specific about the things that haven’t worked in the past. What would you like to do differently moving forward, in order to remedy the things that didn’t work? 

If you get very clear with your evaluations when it comes to taking time off, you’re going to create a more sustainable way to take a vacation, to take time off of work. In a way that doesn’t feel punishing or punitive for you when you come back or before you leave. 

You really have so much power over the experience that you create for yourself when it comes to taking time off of work. I want to highly encourage you to figure out what are your preferences when it comes to taking time off? 

Make those decisions ahead of time, honor it, and then every time you take time off evaluate: What worked? What didn’t work? What would I do differently? So, you can really create the ability for you to enjoy time away from your job, give yourself a chance to reset, and then come back to work really motivated to get back into it, get down to business and get some stuff accomplished. Alright?

I hope you’ve got some fun stuff planned for the summer months. Or for later in the year if you like to take time off during the holidays. But spend a second as this episode ends thinking about: What time do you want to take off this year? It’s not too late to make your decisions ahead of time. You can decide right now. Block that time on your calendar. Start to communicate it to people. Build it into your game plan. 

And think about what you would like a couple years from now. Work your way up to what feels aspirational. And then, figure out what changes do you need to make in how you take time off, in order to make it worth your while and to feel really good and enjoyable when you do take that time away from the office? 

 That’s what I have for you this week, my friends. I hope you have a beautiful week, and I will talk to you in the next episode.

Thanks for listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast. If you want more info about Olivia Vizachero or the show’s notes and resources from today’s episode, visit www.TheLessStressedLawyer.com.

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