A client recently asked me how to get over the guilt of leaving work “early.” In lawyer terms, that’s around 6:30 or 7:00 in the evening. When I began to answer her question based on my own experience as a Biglaw attorney, I realized that it took me YEARS to resist the urge to run back to the office if anything arose, to get over the need to constantly check my Blackberry, and to be able to let go while I was really away from the office, all without feeling guilty and anxious.
Here are some tips to avoid feeling guilty and/or stressed out when you leave the office at a humane hour:
(1) The partners/senior associates/clients will take advantage of you whenever they want, so you should take advantage of the opportunity to leave the office. RIGHT NOW. You will undoubtedly work enough hours this week, weekend, month, or year to make up for one “early” night.
(2) Just because they pay you a lot of money doesn’t mean they own your soul and the rights to all of your free time. They pay you a lot of money because you’re smart, you’re hard-working, and you also took out the equivalent of two mortgages to go to law school. Show them just how smart you are by carving out time for yourself.
(3) If they really need you to be in the office, they’ll tell you. We have these things nowadays—“mobile devices”—that allow people to contact you whenever they need you. If a partner needs you to come back and work on something, he or she can email you, call you, or text you. Maybe he/she will be a little irked that you’ve left for [insert personal fun activity here], but at least you will have a little time to yourself before you have to come back and slave away the entire evening.
Still feeling guilty? Just think about the lazy guy in your class (the one that barely works at all). At least you know you won’t get fired before that guy.
Megan Grandinetti is a New York city-based attorney, health coach, and yoga teacher. Megan’s work as a health coach focuses on improving the health and wellness of busy professionals. Find out more about Megan (a.k.a. “Health Coach Meg”) by visiting www.healthcoachmeg.com or her Facebook page.