The Detox Rules

Detox. Now there is word with a lot of different meanings.  For a drug addict it means a lot of pain to give up their drug of choice.  For the health nut it means cleaning out the toxins from your body.  Then for the early retiree, detox means getting all those side effects related to your job out of your system.

If you read enough blogs and forums on early retirement the detox phase is typically the three to twelve months after you initially leave work where you adjust to your new life of freedom from your old work life.  The theory is your work life has usually left in with an excess amount of built up stress in your life and you need to learn how to relax again so you can find out who you really are before turning to building a new life without work.

In my case, I’m a bit different since I’ve been reducing my stress at work for years already with staying out of upper management jobs and keeping very clear boundaries between my work and home lives.   I already spend most of my weekend not even thinking about work so I would say I have a health distance to it.  Also I’ve been asking myself the question: who am I, for years now.  So I’m fairly familiar with myself.  I know what I like, what I don’t like and what I just don’t care about. So in short I don’t expect a very long detox period for myself.  In fact, I’m only planning on giving myself around three months or so as my detox period.

Yes, I know that is short, but like I mentioned I don’t expect I will have as much as an adjustment as some others.  Yet to be fair I’ve developed some rough ‘rules’ to help guide me to my new found freedom.

  1. No Long Term Commitments – This might be obvious but let’s state it for the record.  I will not get a fun job or commit to a multiple year term as a volunteer for my detox period.  This does not prevent me from doing fun things, but I should avoid adding to my life until I work out my post work looks like.
  2. Leave the House Once a Week – This might seem odd until you realize I could very easily become a hermit and never leave my house for weeks on end.  Give me a stack of books, Netflix and a pile of computer games and I might not go anywhere for a month.  So to avoid that fate and to give my wife some time of her own I plan to do something outside the house at least once a week.  It may be just writing in a coffee shop for a few hours or seeing a movie by myself, but the point is to see the world outside my house.
  3. I Don’t Have to Be Productive – This one is going to be a bit hard for me to adjust.  I’m a ‘to do list’ type person so learning not to be productive every second of every day is going to be difficult.  For example, I can manage about three hours on a beach before I feel the need to do something else.   So to meet in the middle on this I’m going to do something every day, but that something could be a quick a five minute task like paying my Visa bill.  That way my mind thinks I’ve been productive if it is was only in a tiny way.  The point is to learn how to take a day or two off and realize the world won’t end if I am relaxing for a while.

Then I have one last item on my list.  After my initial detox period I plan to review how things are going.  How do I feel about my new life?  What do I want to do more of?  What do I want to do less of?  And of course, I will give myself permission to extend the detox period if I want.  The point is to get used to my new found life of freedom until I feel like I want to go explore the world again and get involved in new things.

So follow early retirees, how long was your detox period?  Did you have any ‘rules’ for that period? What did you enjoy most about your detox?  And for everyone else, any other suggestions or insights into the detox  period that you have read about and want to share?

8 thoughts on “The Detox Rules”

  1. The first time I took a sabbatical year, after having worked for 25 years (well, sort of – there were various gaps of unemployment within that 25 years), it took me an entire year to detox. And I didn’t even have a stressful job/life!!

    For me, I think the biggest problem is the “rigidity” of a work schedule. During my sabbatical year I set my alarm clock maybe a dozen times – only when I absolutely could not be late – like for a train / plane departure. The rest of the time, I just woke up when I woke up.

    For [possibly] the first time in my life, I was able to wake up when my body was ready to wake up, not at some artificially predetermined time. WHAT a difference that made! After a year of letting my natural body cycle dictate my hours, I could not believe how energized I was and how much happier I felt. I’m not talking about sleeping in until noon every day. I’m a morning person so I adore getting up early and enjoying the quiet solitude that exists at that hour. It was more about following the natural rhythm of the sun – earlier in the summer, a bit later in the fall and winter.

    Three years later, I took a second sabbatical year. This time it only took me 3 months to reach that level of energy and contentment.

    My next sabbatical year will commence at the end of 2018. Can’t wait.

    A suggestion for your detox period – more time proofreading before hitting the ‘publish’ button 😉

  2. I loved most of my 38 year career and then walked away when it stopped being fun. I had been FI for many years but enjoyed work so why in the world quit that early? Anyway I slightly early retired but I didn’t take any detox time at all. I lined up two of my paid retirement side gigs in the last two weeks I was working and stepped smoothly into low stress but still mentally challenging part time work. I added a couple of other paid side gigs and have four of them now that take no more than two days a week, can be done mostly from home on my schedule of choice and make six figures of income I definitely do not need but find it fun to have. I also kept the seven volunteer unpaid side gigs I was doing that usually only require a few hours a month or less each. I felt all the stress fall off the first day I didn’t have to go in to the office and enjoy my new life so much better. One reason I didn’t detox is the opportunity to step into the two consultancy gigs was fleeting and serendipitous. It likely wouldn’t have waited a month for me to sit home and chill. But I can tell you and I are also very different. I can’t think of more than one day a month that I don’t leave the house several times. I play tennis almost daily, distance run three days a week and with the 11 side gigs I’m often travelling around the state or country doing something that feels like fun to me. One thing I’ve found by reading excellent blogs like this one is that there is a wide variation in what the ideal life looks like to people. From the frugal minimalists to the constant world travelers to people in the middle like me. Keep up the good work!

  3. I worked part-time for 7 years before I fully retired in 2008. I consider those 7 years, particularly the first 2 of them, to be my detox period. It was in those first 2 years I regained control of my personal life. I resurrected an old, dormant hobby, and took on another one I had been eyeing for about a year before I made the initial switch. It didn’t take long to get used to doing my regular errands during the week instead of on weekends.

    After the first 2 years, my part-time work setup changed, making it tougher to keep intact my outside activities. In my 6th year of part-time work, the setup changed again, making it a little easier on my schedule. When I fully retired, having work out of the way not only helped my existing activities but enabled me to expand on them.

  4. I really enjoy your blog and your radically different outlook on life and retirement… while I can retire at any time and I’m 46 and FI with no debt, I can never imagine your point 2. We are wired so differently and this is what makes humanity so brilliant! Your point 2 sounds so lonely and stagnating. How can you live without leaving the house? I need to get out and run, explore, ride my bike, see friends, challenge my brain and body, volunteer, help people, play with my kids, move my body… and this has nothing to do with making money. It’s just how I am wired. If I had a life where I left the house only one day a week I would feel like I were in jail! Life is for living! One needs to challenge one self to grow, to experience life, to thrive. What are you going to do to thrive and find passion?

  5. Gene,

    As you said everybody is so wired differently, as I can totally see me in Tim’s point 2!

    This is a characteristic of introvert people. Being by ourselves even for a long time is just fun and resourcing. This is very hard to understand from extrovert people who would die of boredom


  6. @veronica – Thanks for sharing. That is really interesting that you find it easy to fall into it each time you took a leave.

    @Steveark – Oh good point, having something to go towards into your detox would help as well. Thanks.

    @Gene – Pipo hit it on the head. Personality types is a huge part of that statement and I can literally live in my own head for long periods with very little external conversations just fine. In the middle of the winter here in Regina it is easy to want to avoid going outside some weeks. Besides, I think you are reading more into that statement than I intended. I didn’t mean I literally would never leave the house beyond once a week, but rather have something fun to go do outside of the house at least once a week. I would still get out for errands, or walking the dog almost daily, but I want to have something else to do to get me out that I will enjoy. Sorry for the confusion and I appreciate the concern.

  7. Thanks Tim and @Pipo I am also an introvert and am quite happy being alone for hours but for me it is best to do that while on long bike rides, long runs, hikes, or cross-country skiing. This is how I recharge.

    And yes, we are all wired differently.

    I built my wealth on three major themes.
    1. Challenge myself by continuously taking on more and more senior roles and I tripled my net worth in 10 years. But more importantly I have created wonderful experiences for my family by living in France, travelling the world, and learning a tonne about business.
    2. Save over 50% of everything I make. I had as much as Tim has now by the time I was 36 because we were happy living in shoeboxes with old furniture, and no car for years. We only spent money on the bare essentials. But we did pay a lot for travel experiences.
    3. Remain healthy with a strong family, good fitness, strong community… and it is really important to take time for yourself as well.

    I see so many people focused on point 2 while never really challenging themselves to thrive. But as we said, we are all wired differently.

    As always, I love the blog and the insights Tim shares. It is one of the emails I read almost immediately as it arrives.

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