Almost a year ago, I knew my time my job was coming to an end. The company I worked for had gone public, and if everything held steady I’d be able to retire early. Even for months before I actually left, I knew that this job would likely be my last one ever.
After that IPO, we went from having 15x our yearly spending saved up to 25x saved almost overnight. I hadn’t expected to save up 25x my spending for another 5 years, so the sudden windfall advanced my plans. That really got me thinking – “Hey, I made it to FI! What should I do now?”.
I love activities and exercises to help brainstorm, flush out ideas and learn more about myself. It’s one of the reasons why I enjoy(ed) being a Product Manager so much, and why books like Gamestorming are in my list of all time favorites.
With that in mind, I came up with this idea. I’d write down what I thought a “perfect week” would look like without a job. The idea is that it would be a way to brainstorm what I really want out of life but in the boundaries of a 24-hour day.
What I like about this exercise is that it forces you to make cuts to your schedule. If you really want to volunteer and write and have time with your family and relax and learn something new – will you really have time? Or will you need to cut something to make it happen?
Likewise if you really want to travel then trying to figure out what a week would look like can be helpful. Are you staying in one place that entire week? Are you changing locations or exploring the same area?
My “Perfect Week”
When I tried this exercise a year ago, this is what my perfect week looked like:
A few things to point out on this:
- For some reason, I thought I’d want to wake up at 7 AM every day.
- I thought I’d want to work on Minafi for 4.5 hours, 3 times a week.
- I thought I’d go to sleep around 11:30 PM.
- I have no idea what I’d do in the evening (see: “Flexible Time”).
- I wanted to exercise every day – including 2 hikes a week, 2 runs a week and 3 gym workouts.
- I wanted to have lunch with a friend once a week and hang out with friends at least once a week.
Now that I’ve been out of my job for 6 months (wow, has it really been that long?) how am I actually spending my days?
This is a look at what my week actually looks like. It’s a lot less colorful than the previous guess. A number of things are completely missing from it.
The biggest differences are:
Waking Up: I have absolutely no interest in waking up early. I still get up around 8 AM every day because that’s when Mrs. Minafi goes to work or when our dog Lily needs to go out. I mentioned my morning wake up routine in my April Month in review post, which consists of coffee, reading, a quick breakfast bar, going through feeds and emails and setting my schedule for the rest of the day. I aim to get 7 hours of sleep a night.
Running / Hiking: I’ve been running or hiking 5 days a week, which has been a ton of fun! This wasn’t far off from my perfect week. I still want to figure out how to work some gym time in as well. I did end up canceling my CrossFit membership (after 6 years of going multiple times a week!) and have been enjoying moving my feet instead.
Focused Time: I like working on projects. Focused time could be anything where I’m concentrating and working through something. That could be programming, writing, outlining new ideas, SEO research, creating presentations or just organizing some tasks. Since cutting out social media I’ve had quite a bit more time, which has been really nice. This isn’t always 100% focused time where I’m unavailable to the outside world. Sometimes I’ll be watching a show on HBO (currently that’s Deadwood), or browsing YouTube in the background. It depends on what the task needs.
Shorter Lunches: One of my first discoveries about my time was that I hated spending an hour making myself lunch every day. Now I aim to have a large portion with leftovers in the fridge at all times – making it fast to eat and get back to whatever else I wanted to do.
What’s missing: I haven’t been playing any video games. I think that’s more a seasonal change though. It’s spring now and absolutely beautiful outside. As the temperature gets hotter (and way too cold), I’ll likely spend more time gaming.
I’ve loved having a weekly hangout with friends in some form. After Game of Thrones, I’m hoping to do more of that through either another show or some game night.
Flexibility is the Best Part of FIRE
Flexible Time is the real key to this whole schedule. There’s sooo much time that isn’t planned – and I love it! I expected to fritter that time away, but by having a few specific goals it hasn’t been the case. This time could consist of anything – going out for a date night with Mrs. Minafi, going for a hike, heading to a programming meetup, watching a movie – just anything that feels right.
I tend to over-plan (shocking news! I know). But moving time from scheduled to flexible has been a much-needed breath of fresh air after years of scheduled time.
“Flexible Time” doesn’t mean we’ll figure out when we get there. It means that’s open time for whatever comes up. Sometimes what comes up is that we need to rest and relax at home. Other times it’s an opportunity to hang out with friends or explore a new part of Salt Lake City.
I’m still figuring this all out, but that’s been my biggest takeaway so far:
Flexibility to focus your attention and time on what you’re currently most interested in help to improve productivity, motivation, and relaxation.
In other words – if you’ve set up good guard rails for yourself (ie, social media limits, amount of time with kids, exercise/food habits) then having flexibility on what you do with the remaining time can make that time so much more enjoyable.
What about you? Have you tried creating a “perfect week”? Have you tried following it? What would a realistic perfect week look like for you?