Tag Archives: Habits

Getting Things Done In Retirement

I do admit it.  Every once in a while when someone asks what I do in retirement I struggle to answer.  I think back to my week and realize that yes I exercised three times, volunteered for an afternoon at the school library, walked the dog daily, did some errands, helped my kid with a school project, finished writing 1250 words on my book, got some fall maintenance done around the house, read a book, worked on some crafts, bottle a batch of beer and baked some muffins.  But those things don’t sound all that interesting or particularly important compared to most people’s answers or stories from work about their 60 hour work week and having three major projects due next week.

Then I realized the other day perhaps my standards are all wrong.  Perhaps I should consider what I didn’t do in a week.  I didn’t spend over 20 hours in meetings where very little work actually got done.  I didn’t have to write up project status reports for anyone which most people won’t read.  I didn’t have to answer questions from co-workers or other interruptions at least ten times each day.  I didn’t have to book a meeting room to actually give myself some time to get some work done.  I’m not busy and I really should be proud of that fact.  The issue is we have confused busy work with real work.  Busy work isn’t real work, it takes you away from doing quality, well thought out and useful work.

Oddly enough, despite my relaxed weeks I honestly think I’m getting nearly as much done as I used to at work but in a faction of the time.  Do you any idea how much writing you can get done when you can focus completely on it for a hour?  I can usually get over 1000 words done on my book.   And that just isn’t crappy writing but rather a nicely thought out and organized draft  of 25% of a chapter.    Could I be doing more?  Potentially yes, but given I have tried to write more in the past in a short amount of time and I usually end up with a hot mess of text in desperate need of a good edit.  In short, I just make more work for myself to do. So I spend perhaps two hours a week focused on writing and then I don’t worry about it after I hit my weekly target.  It means it takes a bit longer to write a book but honestly I think I’m writing a better book because of it.

More time at work isn’t a good thing and I often thought during my career it was a failure when you did put in those extra hours.  Now that I’m retired from that job I completely agree.  Work could be so much better for people if the focus was on getting the ‘actual work’ done first and then ignoring much of the busy work that fills peoples’ days.  Why can’t we have a more sane work pace?  People aren’t machines and putting in more over time has been shown to actually get less done and often poorer quality work that often needs rework to fix it.

So yes, I wasn’t ‘busy’ this week and I won’t be busy next week either.  But you know what? I like this pace of life.  I can see doing this endlessly.  Can you say the same thing about your current pace at work?

Life After FIRE – One Year Review – Part I

Okay, let’s get the big thing out of the way. I’m so in love with my early retirement I can’t even see going back to full time work. I just enjoy this new lifestyle too much.  I will stand by my previous thought I won’t mind part time hours up to half time or so.  Just so far nothing as worked out along those lines.

So what are the positives of this new lifestyle?  Well it’s a long list but I enjoy the following the most:

  • That I no longer wake up to an alarm like 99% of the time (I did use it a few times to get up early for something and I didn’t want to oversleep).
  • I get to do things when I want to do them.  So if I’m tired I do less and when I’m in a grove I get more done.  This is so different from my old day job and I seriously enjoy this more than I thought.  The ability to adjust my day based  on how I’m doing is literally priceless to me.
  • I almost never feel stressed out anymore.  I, of course, still feel some stress but it really isn’t even in the ballpark of my life (which wasn’t really that stressful to begin with).  I honestly feel like hippie some days as I look at other stressed out people and resist the urge to tell them to just chill out a bit
  • I get to follow my curiosity where ever it goes.  So if I develop an interest in a new book series I can borrow them all from the library and read them.  Or research an term I found in a book or even watch YouTube videos to learn a new hobby.

Yet I should caution that not everything is positive.  I still have a problem in early retirement: I still have too much to do. What the @$%#? Yes, I know. You may hate me for a moment. The issue remains the same as before I retired. I have a lot of interests and things I want to try which is more than the time I have available. The side effect of this is that I’ve never been bored remotely even once during the last year. Yet I feel much better now as I don’t feel I’m squeezing in life at the seams but rather living it to its potential each day.

Part of that come from the fact I can now do things at my own pace as I mentioned above. I feel like for the first time that I’m not really ignoring parts of my life. I get to them all eventually it often take me weeks to cycle through all my interests. Part of it is that I choose to leave time for those quiet moments in life. If I’m out for a walk and something catches my eye I can stop and have a look. Or I can make sure to spend some time each day reading and not feel guilty over it.

Yet one lesson I have learned in the last year is how easily it is for time to go by without you realizing it. In the beginning I gave myself permission to do not much, yet over time I wanted to accomplish something. I wanted to create and work towards something big. Of course, what that is can be anything and it various from person to person but we all need ‘work‘ on something we find meaningful. I think this is so overlooked by many retirees regardless of age. You don’t stop wanting to achieve things because you left work. That desire is still there and needs to be fed with something. Of course what you find meaningful is highly subjective. I’m fairly sure some people would consider me making little trees for my kid’s D&D game a massive waste of time but I like the challenge of learning new skills, being a bit artistic and having a tangible product of the end of my time.  It means something to me and that is all that matters.

With that in mind perhaps my only regret in the last year was how little time I focused on my writing. I enjoy writing but I was still wasn’t doing it every day for most of the last year. I didn’t find a good rhythm for doing it until summer where I made it more of a habit and started writing my next non-fiction book which is the sequel to Free at 45 (I’m got a first draft of five chapters so far).

Which brings me to my next point. I’ve added some extra structure to my days during the summer. Not a lot more but just a bit more. Why? I found I was avoiding things too much which didn’t really need to be delayed like writing my latest book. So now I give myself permission to be lazier on the weekends and then write out a to do list for each week. I also include certain habits that I want to do in that list.  So going for a run three times a week is on it and writing at least a page per day on my book on average and drafting at least one blog post a week.  You might wonder why a ‘to do’ list.   Well I always liked using them at work previously and they do help me to make sure I don’t forget to do something.  But really the structure can be just about anything you want to help you get things accomplished.

Perhaps one item that seems a little silly but never the less I’m proud of my ability to bask in those little quiet moments in life a bit more. I can pause on a walk and just marvel at the light coming through the trees and not feel guilty for taking time. Life really does now move at a slower more sane pace for me and I don’t ever want to give that up now.

I also don’t regret leaving when I did. I could have saved more money prior to leaving and have additional savings to pay for some things that have come up over the last year but I really don’t regret it. Why? I don’t mind limits from the money. It keeps me in check for determining my priorities and not buying too much stuff that I won’t get around to using. Having too much cash I think would make me more prone to impulse buying or getting too much of a backlog of things to do. Which I know I can happen to me..see exhibit A: my video game collection is a bit too big and I have almost 100 games on my GOG.com account and I’ve barely finished like 11 of them. So to deal with that I’ve just banned myself from buying new games for this year. Or exhibit B: my Netflix to watch list still hasn’t gone down that much either in the last year.

Tomorrow I’ll look at the money side of the early retirement in a bit more detail. In the mean time, did you have any particular questions about my first year of early retirement?  Please ask away in the comments.

Stop Flogging Yourself

So about now your well intentioned New Year’s resolution might be falling apart at the seams.  After all learning a new habit is hard and we often trip and fall during the process.  Well, at least, I always seem to have issues learning a new habit no matter when I try to get it going during the year.

Yet after failing to get into the habit of writing daily for years, I have come across something very small but helpful that is really getting me to get better at doing it.  The secret to success in this case is very simple: stop mentally flogging myself when I screw up. Huh?

Let me explain.  My cycle typically went like this.  I would be full of hope and determination at the start and then at some point or another fall of the wagon of my new habit.  Often it was small mistake like getting busy one day and forgetting to write.  Then I would feel guilty and immediately try to make up the writing on the next day and double my word count target.  Yet doing two days of writing in one can be hard, so that would often go poorly and I would get more disappointed in myself and I would the miss another day.  Now feeling even worse with a even bigger debt of writing to complete.  Then I would eventually get disgusted and quit the entire attempt.  I would have another epic fail to create a habit to write daily.

This time around, it’s been different.  Why? Like I said I stopped mentally flogging myself.  I don’t try to make up any missed words counts when I screw up a day.  In fact I planned for a few screw up days overall so I don’t have to perfect in the first place.  Now oddly enough, I don’t have feeling of guilt and then shame about messing up a day here or there.  I treat each day as it own personal challenge and I accept I will lose that challenge some days: it’s ok.

I think my problem lies in I was fighting the part of me that was lazy.  By not allowing some goofing off days in my earlier attempts I had doomed myself to feeling guilt and shame and spiraling down to failure.  Now I just accept that fact, I will screw up at times and frankly that is ok as long as over all I’m writing more than I previously was.  Given the option, most people pick being lazy over hard work.  It is sort of a normal feeling to have so life gets easier when you realize this  and plan for it.

Which perhaps is why I’m such a good saver…I’m lazy about it.  I literally forget about it most of the time and only try to do one transfer to an investing account once a month when I’m paying my other bills.  I don’t set a deadline on this action, but rather at some point close to either then end or start of the month.  But if you are just starting out I would highly suggest automatic transfers…I literally did that for years when we got started and it helped out a lot.

So have you been trying out any new habits lately?  How are they going for you? Any tips to share on what works for you?