6 Thoughts After 6 Months of Early Retirement

I left my job 6 months ago. Since then I’ve been exploring Utah and attempting to balance ambition with physical and mental health.
Adam

Written by Adam on June 17, 2019.
11 min read. Financial Independence, Personal. 10 comments.

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As I’m getting used to post-work life I’ve been trying to keep track of what’s surprised me or been unexpected about the transition. These have all been good problems – how to eke out more happiness, productivity, mental or physical health from the same days.

I shared some of these after one month, then again after 3 months into my post-work life. Today I’m digging into 6 whole months off (I can’t believe it’s been that long already).

At the top of Mount Olympus in Salt Lake City at 9,000 ft up.
Me at the top of Mount Olympus signing the guest book (stored in a mailbox).

Before getting into that though, I have a request for you (yes you!). Every year at FinCon (a fun financial conference I attend with about a thousand other financial creators) the Plutus Awards are given out to some of the best blogs, podcasts, and others in various roles. If you’re looking for good content to consume, check out last years nominees and winners (Minafi was nominated for Best Investing Blog!).

I’d seriously appreciate it if you could take a minute and nominate Minafi for either or both of these two categories:

Best Investing Blog presented by Physician on FIRE – Launching the new Minimal Investor Course for free, The Focused Investor series, monthly investment reports, and 30 total posts about investing this year alone (wow, has it been that many?)

Best Financial Independence/Early Retirement Blog presented by Well Kept Wallet – Since leaving my job in December, I’ve been sharing my experience transitioning from work life to early retirement. I’ve written more about this transition than investing recently since it’s been on the top of my mind. From posts like this one looking at what the transition is like, FIRE Expectation vs Reality, Creating an Identity Bridge for Early Retirement, the Difference Between Healthy FIRE and Unhealthy FIRE and a bunch more!

Clicking on this link will fill in Minafi on your ballot – and can you add in any other sites you want to support while you’re at it! Thank you so much – it really does help. Minafi is still a relatively small site, so the added exposure helps get the word out (while also giving me all the good feels 🤗).

Ok, let’s get back to this weeks scheduled programing – Thoughts on 6 Months of Early Retirement!

1. Lean into Periods of Productivity

…but don’t get down by periods of relaxation. Between February and April, I redid all of Minafi, updated the Interactive Guide to FIRE and created an entire JavaScript library for future interactive content (that I’m currently using for the next one!).

Then I spent the next month watching a lot of TV.

And that’s OK! Projects will come and go. I’m doing my best to lean into them when something interesting crosses my mind. At the same time, I’m trying to not force myself to be productive when I just feel like it.

It may sound odd that it’s difficult to do this, but after decades working in jobs where we’re judged on performance, it’ll take some time to break that habit.

The other side of this is that it feels better at the end of the day to have been productive than to have relaxed. After a productive day, I feel more accomplished and happy compared to after a day on Reddit and watching TV. I’m still learning to value this refresh to my mental health by relaxation in the same as action, but it’s a long road.

2. Understand What Fills Your Time

If you had another 40 hours and didn’t plan anything, what would you do with it? Surely some exciting things, but I imagine there are a handful of less-than-great activities that would expand to fill all available time.

There’s a concept called Parkinson’s Law that says:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion

Parkinson’s Law

It’s mentioned often in software development, where the length of a project always equals the time allotted. If you’re given a week to fix a bug, it’s easy to find a way to fill that time.

It works the same for tasks on my list now. Before I left work, I used a weekly task planning approach where I’d add 3 things each day that needed to be done. Later on, I changed this to only setting tasks on MWF to add some buffer and downtime.

The problem with this approach is that’s it’s great if you have limited time – but not when you have time in abundance. Using this approach when I stopped working, I’d complete these three things, be energetic and ready to do something else, but somehow find myself watching TV or reading social media. They were what filled all of my available hours out of default.

Since then I’ve decided to switch things up and front-load my tasks on Mondays. I start the week out with way more tasks than I think I can accomplish in a day. The intention is that some tasks will be moved to other days in the week, but I’ll start the week thinking about them. By working hard this one day and finishing other things throughout the week, I’ve felt wildly more productive.

It also primes my productivity engine for doing more throughout the rest of the week. It’s like starting an engine then letting is rev for the remaining 6 days.

Since doing a Digital Declutter, I also changed my social media habits. Now on Mondays, I have a no-social media or TV rule for myself just to make sure I stay on task.

Because of that, when Mrs. Minafi gets home on Mondays she usually looks around the house like Mary Poppins went through and fixed everything there was to improve on.

3. Fitness Options Change with More Time

This was a surprise to me, but an obvious one. Your fitness plan when you’re working a full week and commuting to work will be based around your available downtime. Without those in the way though, fitness options expand drastically!

In the last 3 months, I decided to double down on two forms of fitness: long-distance running and long-distance hiking. While I’m not going to be winning any races, I ran my first 10k in under an hour and completed my first hike with 4,000 ft of elevation gain in the last month.

Mount Olympus Hike!
The hike up to Mount Olympus was way harder than I expected.

I didn’t start with that though! I started with just running a mile. Then two. Then 3. Same with the hike – starting with much more flat ones.

If you find a form of fitness you enjoy, having more time for it can become a bit of a drug (luckily it’s a good one). While very few people are going to hike every 14,000ft mountain in Colorado, setting a goal of hiking one can easily turn into 2, then into 5, then 10.

The same could be said for whatever form of fitness you love – scaling a 5.9 problem at a climbing gym, completing the CrossFit workout Murph with a weighted vest, running a marathon or even running your first 5k.

4. Create a Healthy Kitchen

I gained 6 pounds in the first 3 months after I stopped working. It’s no surprise really. I stopped going to CrossFit 3x a week, lowered my number of steps everyday since I wasn’t commuting to work and I started grazing on easily created food from our kitchen.

After I started exercising more, I suddenly wanted to eat better. I hear this from just about everyone who exercises. It’s easier to eat healthy if you’re exercising your body. On top of that, your body will be burning far more calories throughout the day!

What helped me start to lose weight was setting aside specific time for creating healthy meals to eat throughout the week. Even just taking an hour or two on Monday and making a dozen well-portioned out burrito’s helped me to make better food choices later in the week. Having something easy to reach for rather than grazing is a big win.

5. Time With Friends is the Best Time

One change was unexpected: I enjoy time with other people much more than I used to. While I was working and a weekend hangout with friends would roll around I would need to amp myself up to get out of the house.

Usually, when friends canceled plans I’d be one of the first to say “Whew, I really wanted to stay home and watch Billions anyways. Thanks!”.

Now though, I’m looking forward to seeing people much more. In the last few weeks, we’ve gone on camping and backpacking trips with friends, introduced others to Settlers of Catan (the best board game in the world), joined in at a Hot Ones Challenge (hot wings), crashed get-togethers from my old coworkers and enjoyed tiki drinks at birthday parties.

Settlers of Catan
Settlers of Catan! I’m always Orange.

Where before I was exhausted at the end of most days, now I’ve looked forward to these hangouts. Being an introvert (an INFJ) this limited social exposure has been a welcomed change and allowed me to enjoy it all the more.

6. Your “Why” Needs to be Strong For Anything that Requires Hardship

The things I’m proudest of in my life didn’t happen by accident. They all required periods of hard work to achieve. That doesn’t change at all just because you’re not working.

Having the option to just say “eh, I don’t really want to do that” is a double edged sword. There’s no one breathing down your neck making you learn, or making you complete that project you started. You need much more internal motivation to do in on your own.

And for that you need to understand WHY you’re doing it in the first place. Having the grit to push through the hard phases of a project and just get things done can be a struggle normally – but doubly so if your former motivation was to make money from it.

There have been a number of times here on Minafi I’ve just said “why am I still writing here?”. I shared my why and Minafi’s why on my Vision and Mission page:

Help 1 million people make their first informed investment.

Minafi’s Mission

And add to that my personal mission:

I help empower people to transform their ideas into reality by enlivening education.

Adam’s Mission

But why?

I’ll be honest – I’ve been struggling with this one. I think I know why too: I’m not talking to enough people.

In my career, my last role was that of a Product Manager. Product Managers at most companies help set the vision for a specific product and help map out how to get there. They do this by talking with people and forming a plan that solves peoples problems.

I haven’t been talking to enough people lately to understand what value I can bring into the world. It’s a good idea to focus on your own mental health, but once that’s solved, looking out into the world for things you can do to help is a fulfilling next step!

I have a few ideas on this, and you could help me out here!

Coaching? Podcasting? Hmmm…

If you want a free investment/money coaching call, please contact me. I’m curious to talk to some people.

I’m also playing with the idea of starting a podcast – purely for the opportunity to interview people. I not-so-secretly think that’s why The Mad Fientist started his. There are so many great podcasts, I’m still trying to figure out the unique selling proposition of anything I’d create.

What do you think? What would you want in a podcast that explores the intersection of minimalism, mindfulness and financial independence?

Adam

About Adam

Hi, I'm Adam! I help millennials invest to reach financial independence sooner than they ever thought possible. Want to see what you could do to reach FI sooner? You're in the right place!

9 Comments

Costa Rica FIRE

Costa Rica FIRE

June 17, 2019 at 6:25 AM | Reply

My husband and i are becoming empty-nesters this fall so we’re entering a stage of much more freedom, fewer constraints. I untethered from corporate 11 years ago, and my husband is just 3 years in. I agree with many of your observations! One thing I kept from my corporate world that I find very helpful even today is tracking my time. I used to be in professional services so would bill hours to clients. I continued that time tracking into my personal life and it serves both as a to do list for errands, self-care, passion projects, etc. But it also keeps me mindful about where I’m spending my time.

Whew, 11 years is a long time!

Tracking time sounds interesting too. I’ve tried it in bits and spurts, but haven’t done it 100%. Do you track everything you do? Or limit it to specific activities? Anything you’ve used to track it that’s worked well?

I’ve tried using Toggl for a while at my work and really liked it. Might give this a shot!

Costa Rica FIRE

Costa Rica FIRE

June 21, 2019 at 8:14 AM | Reply

I have kept a Time Diary for 20+ years, and I do it in Excel. I track everything and assign my activities to a client or goal. As a consultant, this ensures that I know how long everything take and where my time goes. For personal things, I can track exercise, self-care, family time, etc. and ensure that I’m keeping my commitments to myself and others. I blogged about how I use my Time Diary at: https://costaricafire.com/lifestyle/time-diary-will-change-how-you-live-and-work/

Ah nice. I like knowing how long things take too – it becomes easier to plan if you have a solid understanding. Comes back to estimating – which is such a core part of consulting.

Great tips on how to stay focused with more free time! And love the honesty here…watching tv instead of doing a million things sometimes is what you want to do, dang it! But 100% agree when I’m uber productive, always feel better. I’m new to the FIRE thing and when my girlfriends and I discuss it (we have a financial group) a lot goes into the: what would I do if I didn’t work? Willpower/internal motivation is HuGE so congratulations on honing yours!

Cheers!

Thanks Catie! That’s a topic I’m always curious to read about – how people split their time between things that need willpower and things that don’t. Like anything else it’s a muscle you have to grow – and can atrophy without use. That’s one of my biggest fears for sure.

What — No gold watch?

Do you miss some sense of closure to your worklife beyond the obligatory ‘going-away’ lunch? I find myself randomly revisiting less-than-positive interactions: disagreements, slights, corporate chicanery and snooping on LinkedIn to see what’s happening various co-workers / contacts. Career-PTSD? Et vous?

To some extent. I did a lot of that while I still was working. I think knowing I was going to leave for a while, I tried to get a sense of resolve to everything I could think of.

There were still a lot of loose ends though: projects that I worked on that may or may not live on, things I worked to create to create that never happened due to bureaucracy/timing, team organizing and how that impacts productivity.

One thing that’s helped is to take what I learned, and what I wanted to do and just doing it now. Things I wanted to put into practice with my work to help people learn that I was never able to organize teams around I can now try out here on Minafi instead! Sure, it’ll be at a much smaller scale, but it does help with that sense of closure. Launching Minafi v2 was very cathartic in that sense.

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