how to take a guilt free vacation, how to have a guilt free holiday, how to stop feeling guilty for taking vacation, how to stop thinking about work during vacation, how to stop thinking about work, I feel guilty for going on vacation, Be a Better Lawyer Podcast, Dina Cataldo

#217: How to Take a Guilt-Free Vacation

Can you really take a guilt-free vacation?

Vacations are supposed to be a delight.

For lawyers though they're fraught with worrying about what people think about us taking time off, ruminating about work the entire time we're away then feeling frazzled the week we get back.

It hardly feels like we've taken a vacation at all.

In this episode, I'll walk you through 3 phases you must complete before you go on any vacation.

You'll learn how to take a guilt-free vacation whether it's for a week-end away or an extended trip.

These phases are tried-and-true and will help you truly recharge during your time away from the office.



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Thanks for listening, and I'll talk to you next week.

This is gonna be a fun episode because we're gonna talk about vacations! Okay, I know that taking vacation doesn't always sound like fun. Because you're thinking about work before vacation, you're thinking about work during vacation, and then you feel frazzled and hectic when you get back from vacation and tell yourself you need another from your vacation.

In this episode, you're going to learn how to make your like as easy as possible.

You're going to learn how to take a guilt-free vacation.

This is something I work on with my clients. We do this in session. But I'm going to walk you through the thought processes so that you can do this too.

You don't have to think about work the entire time you're on vacation. You get to enjoy your time.

In fact, I want you to think of vacation as part of your job.

It's your responsibility to take care of yourself, so that you can take care of your clients. It's important that you take care of yourself, so you can be the best at what you do.

So many of us think that vacation is something we shouldn't do. There's a stigma around it. We worry about how much vacation we're taking – “Is it too much?” And we worry about what other people in the office think about us taking vacation.

You are not indispensable. Even if you're a solo practitioner.

We work through the mind drama, implement what needs to be done, and then you make a soft landing when you come into the office your Monday morning back.

There are three phases I discuss with my clients to help them take guilt-free vacations.

I’m going to share them with you and I’ll tell you what they did to make their vacations true vacations where they could be present with their families.

I’ll also share the mindset work they had to do to get their brains on board.

This is work we did for anywhere from weeks to month before they took their vacation, so they had varying degrees of awareness, and they still managed to do it.

I’m going to give you the 3 phases to work through before you go on vacation and how to work through them.

Then I’m going to break each one down with mindset and with tasks that you can do to make your life easier.

If you want to take this work even deeper and manage your mind around your life and the office, book a call with me, and we can talk about what’s between you and loving your life again. You can book a call with me 

When do you do this work? ASAP – at least one week before you leave. I did this work all with a client yesterday during our session.

I suggest giving yourself at least 60 minutes to do this work if not 90 minutes. It’ll go much faster if you have a calendar system already implemented, but you can still do this.

  1. Plan out the week before your vacation
  2. Create a belief plan for the time you’re gone
  3. Plan out the week you come back from vacation before your vacation

How to Take a Guilt-Free Vacation – Phase Breakdown

Phase 1: Plan the week before your vacation.

Your brain will tell you that there’s too much to think about and you don’t know where to start. Don’t listen to your brain. You know exactly where to start. You know how to prioritize. That’s the process we’re going through here. 

The very first thing you do is you see what’s on your calendar this week that needs to get done before you leave.

How can you make that work easier? Is there anything you can delegate? Are there phone calls you can make now to get the ball rolling on a project? What else?

Next, ask yourself what will make the two weeks away easier for you?

  • asking for coverage
  • Letting your colleagues know you won’t be checking emails and to only phone you if they have an emergency. No texts. I like this. One of my clients specifically made it as hard as possible for their peers to contact them by letting them know that they could only contact them by phone. No texts or emails.
  • Change your voicemail, so people aren’t leaving you voicemails. You can say something like, dial 0 to talk to my assistant. I won’t be checking my voicemails while I’m away.

Ask yourself what might you be thinking about when you’re away that will distract you?

  • A client will have a question.
  • A client will want an update.
  • I’ll need to help an associate with a question.
  • An opposing counsel will want to talk to you

Then problem-solve for each of these.

  • Contact your clients ahead of time that you’ll be gone and that you have an attorney covering the matter. Give them their contact info.
  • Contact your clients and let them know that their matter is being handled while you’re away and that you’ll update them the week you get back from your trip.
  • Tell your associates to ask someone else questions and to only call you in case of emergencies.
  • Contact opposing counsel ahead of time and give them a date that they need to contact you on cases. 
  • Update your email, so that it’s clear you’re not checking emails, but they can contact X attorney or X assistant for updates while you’re away.

The same thoughts that may prevent you from taking vacation may prevent you from taking action on these.

You may think that people expect you to be available all the time. You get to decide if that’s a perk you want to give other people. I am not available to anyone at all times. I decide when I’m available for people. Each of us get to do the same thing.

Chances are, you’re listening to this episode b/c you want to spend more quality time with your family instead of being distracted with work. Make that a priority. Ask yourself if your work is the priority or being present with your family.

If you want something different to happen, you’ve got to do things differently even if they’re uncomfortable.

If you’ve never done these things before, you may feel uncomfortable doing them. That’s okay. Doing them will ensure your clients that they’re taken care of and help your brain be more at ease when you’re on vacation.

Phase 2: Create a belief plan for the time you’re away.

Your brain may go haywire while you’re away.

It may say things to you like

  • I should be available all the time
  • Something may have gone wrong
  • I should really check my emails just to be safe
  • Someone might need me

These are all lies. If you’ve done what we just talked about, these voices will shush a bit.

It’s your responsibility to notice these kinds of thoughts and not react to them.

For example, if your brain thinks, “I should check my emails just to see what’s happening on the X matter,” stop everything. In that moment, your brain is lying to you.

In that moment, your body will likely feel an urgent desire to check your email. It may feel like a compulsion. Don’t do it. If you catch yourself picking up your phone, put it down. If you see yourself opening the email app, shut it down.

Sit in that feeling of urgent desire. Breath.

The more you practice feeling the urge without reacting to it, the quieter the urge will get over time.

This is the time to remind yourself of all the great steps you took in phase one and three of this podcast to get everything in order.

Belief plan:

  • My people are competent
  • They can take care of things
  • They’ll call me if there’s something urgent
  • I called my clients, and they know they’re taken care of
  • Everything is already figured out. I don’t need to do anything.

A word of warning about texting your assistant for updates or emailing anyone during your time away: this will begin an email and text cascade and you will find yourself working and thinking about work on your vacation. 

This is how it’ll look:

You’ll find yourself compulsively checking your email and see an email that you tell yourself you should answer because it’ll make your week back a little easier. Then you’ll get an email response. Then you’ll feel obligated to respond, and so one. Your week will not be easier. You’ve already planned your week back. Leave it alone. If you’ve done everything in phase 1, you have nothing to worry about.

An associate will text you with a question even though it’s not an emergency, and you told them to call you if there was an emergency. Ignore their text. They’re just checking to see if you’re checking your phone and looking for an invitation to communicate with you on vacation. You are on vacation. They don’t know how close you are to your phone. You’re implementing a boundary.

You’ll open your email — on accident of course — and see an email from a client. You open it. You interpret it as being critical of you or something in the case. There’s nothing you can do while you’re on vacation, so you ruminate on it and find yourself thinking about work and how you’ll respond when you get back.

You can avoid all of these scenarios by trusting yourself to have planned in advance what needed to be planned, trusting others to call you if there’s an emergency, and trusting that you can handle whatever happens when you get back.

Your vacation is an exercise in self-trust basically.

Phase 3: Plan your week back before you leave on vacation.

It’s important that you do this the week before your vacation starts.

It’ll alleviate mental drama while you’re away because you’ll be able to remind yourself that you’ve already taken care of what needs to be prioritized when you get back.

First, keep that week back as clear as you can. If you have the ability to schedule hearings and briefs out past that week, great. You’ll have enough to do when you get back. No need to rush into hearings right away.

If you don’t have the ability to do that, that’s okay.

Ask yourself a few questions.

How can I make my life easier when I get back? Ask this a few times of yourself. Your brain will look for answers.

Are there anything projects due the week I get back that I can get moving now? 

That might look like assigning part of the project to an attorney so when you get back there’s work product for you to review. Or it may be emailing an attorney for information that they may need time to get back to you on. You can make your life less hectic if you get a jump on these kinds of things.

What are my 3 priorities on the Monday I get back?

When you think about what you want to prioritize, ask yourself what’s the domino that will make my whole week easier? 

I asked my client this, and she discovered that she was making her week back harder by thinking she needed to review all her files for updates. An easy way of getting updates to clients was just emailing the attorneys who covered her cases and asking them if they had any updates. That was her domino to get the updates rolling into her inbox while she started doing other priorities.

These are essential phases to work through to make your vacation guilt free.

If you want help making your whole life easier, book a call with me, so we can work together one-on-one.

You can book a call with me at

Let me run through the 3 phases and the questions to ask yourself. There’s a transcript of this in the show notes too if you’re driving.

How to Take a Guilt-Free Vacation – Question Breakdown

  1. Plan out the week before your vacation
      1. What will make my life easier this week?
      2. What will make my life easier when I get back if I do it this week?
      3. What might you be thinking about when you’re away on vacation that will distract you?
      4. How can you alleviate those concerns now?
      5. What are potential issues that could come up while you’re away? Problem-solve for those now and implement the solutions.
  2. Create a belief plan for the time you’re gone
      1. What do I commonly think when I’m away from the office?
      2. What do I want to remind myself of when those thoughts pop up?
  3. Plan out the week you come back from vacation before your vacation
      1. What will make my life easier when I get back?
      2. Are there any projects due the week that I get back that I can get the ball rolling on right now?
      3. What are the 3 priorities that I have on Monday?
      4. What’s one thing I can do on Monday morning that will be the domino to make my life easier the rest of the week?

There it is, my friend. You have your guilt-free vacation in the bag if you follow this strategy.

If you have a vacation planned, and this helped you, I’d love to hear from you. Follow me on Instagram at Dina.cataldo – DM me and tell me something you implemented that made your life easier.

All right. I’ll talk to you again soon.


1 thoughts on “#217: How to Take a Guilt-Free Vacation

  1. Pingback: Better Trials, Time Management & Firm Culture with Shannon Clark

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