It’s no secret that Americans work depressingly long hours, which turns into long weeks and eventually turns into a long year with only two (paid) weeks of respite. In fact, even that paid time off is not guaranteed. Forbes has reported the United States is the only advanced economy that does not require employers to provide paid vacation time or paid holidays. Almost one-in-four Americans do not receive any paid vacation or holidays.
This fact really hit home when my family and I went on a two-week trip to Turkey this summer. We were on a tour with 15 Australians and New Zealanders who were continuing on to other exotic locations at the conclusion of the trip. They were shocked to hear our vacation for the year was only two weeks long. They, much like many workers in the European Union, get at least four weeks off, and unused vacation can generally be accumulated over time.
As young lawyers, we don’t get much time to stop and smell the proverbial roses. Many hardworking professionals struggle with their work/life balance, a problem that can lead to suicide, alcoholism, drug use, depression, divorce, etc. That’s why it is essential to force your mind and body to take time off. Dan Shemer gave me the best work/life advice, which was tailored towards the dreadful 10 weeks of bar prep but I still use on a daily basis. Thanks to him, I started taking classes at the gym during my lunch break from studying and I still go to those same classes during my lunch hour at work. There’s no better feeling than sweating away your morning’s stress over a 30 minute spin class.
Check out your local Groupon or Living Social deals for ideas of how you can spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon. It could be a painting or pottery class, or a massage coupon, or a winery tour. You could go for a stroll (or rigorous hike for you athletic ones) through one of our many state parks. Go to the farmer’s market under I-83 in Baltimore on Sunday morning. Try out the new salmon and quinoa recipe you found online. Join a Baltimore Sports & Social Club volleyball, kickball, or bocce team.
Plan solo or group activities that help you boost your energy and put them in your calendar. This way you have no excuse to reschedule and you can look forward to the events. It will give you an incentive to manage your work in a more efficient and timely manner. It will compel you turn off that computer, close that file you’re working on, and turn off the lawyer in you.
So stop being a slave to the billables for a few hours and recharge your batteries. Or just move to Australia.