As I write this, I am on vacation. I thought about skipping this week’s column so I can have more time to myself. But instead, I wanted to highlight the importance of treating a vacation like a vacation. This sounds obvious and you’ve probably heard this a million times before. But it seems like we need to be reminded again from time to time.
I’ve heard a number of reasons as to why lawyers try to work. Some procrastinated when they should not have and think they can work in small increments. Others had their vacations forced on them because it was the only time the entire family could do it. And a few are workaholics and are just not used to taking vacations. They just enjoy their work that much.
I should add a note here: If you can successfully work while you are on vacation, and it is not causing a burden to yourself and your family, then more power to you.
But for everyone else, don’t let work get in the way of your vacation.
First, if you are working while you are on vacation, you are not on vacation. You are just working in a different location.
Also you might have wasted the money you paid for this vacation. Because you were working, you either lost or deteriorated the quality time with your family or for your own enjoyment. You won’t enjoy the sightseeing as much because you stayed up an extra hour or two. And just because you did work during your vacation does not make the cost tax deductible.
And chances are good that the work product will be average or substandard. Your work will feel forced and will lack the creative and diligent energy that is normally there.
Some think that they can work on the plane. Most likely they won’t, especially if they are sitting in economy class. Other passengers can be noisy. The person sitting next to you might be irritable for a number of reasons. And of course, your laptop might contain sensitive information that you do not want others to see. Personally, I even found business-class seats unsuitable for work because workspaces in those seats are too small. You might be able to write a dull blog post about taking vacations or answer a few emails. But it’s not like working on a big desk.
Some think that they can work a few hours in their hotel. Maybe you can answer a few emails or have a small conversation but that’s about it. If you are vacationing in another country, chances are you will be jet-lagged. That means you will be too tired to stay up late. Or you can stay up late but you will be groggy in the morning. This can be a problem if your city tour begins at 7 a.m., and you only slept four hours that night.
Finally, treat a vacation as a reminder as to why we work so hard in college, during law school, the first few years of our careers, and even now.
I’ve found that most clients, bosses, and even opposing counsel, will understand. And we should extend the same vacation courtesy to others. I will gladly accommodate the vacation needs of clients, government auditors, lawyers, and tax collectors. Not only because it’s the right thing to do but because those people also tend to be more pleasant to work with when they return.
So if you ever get a chance to take a vacation, don’t let work get in the way. Plan, don’t procrastinate, and delay or delegate while you are away. I should also mention that taking a vacation can improve productivity and mental health. But if you want to know more about the health benefits of vacationing, just for today I ask you to do your own research.
I’m on vacation.
Steven Chung is a tax attorney in Los Angeles, California. He helps people with basic tax planning and resolve tax disputes. He is also sympathetic to people with large student loans. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can connect with him on Twitter (@stevenchung) and connect with him on LinkedIn.