7 Things Learned in My First Month of Early Retirement

On December 14, 2018 I left my job to retire. Now that I’ve been out of work for a month, let’s look back and see what lessons I’ve learned from this transition.
Adam

Written by Adam on January 28, 2019. Updated April 24, 2019.
9 min read. Financial Independence, Personal. 16 comments.

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December 14th, 2018 was my last day my job. Since then I’ve had a month to unwind, ease into a new routine and start figuring out what’s next for me. It turns out, there have already been many things that I misjudged. Here’s a look at 7 things I’ve already learned from this short break.

One thing to keep in mind – when you leave a job you have a bunch of options on how you can fill your time. For me, I decided I didn’t want to jump shoulder deep into a new project immediately and instead focus on my physical and mental health before taking on new projects. This is a self-assessment on my experience transitioning from work to non-work. Your path will no doubt be different, so take this as one person’s example.

adam at antelope

1. You Won’t Have 8 More Hours Each Day

Leading up to leaving my job, I started exploring what a perfect week might look like. For someone who loves to create, having 40 extra hours in a week to be productive seemed like a windfall of time! Oh, what I could do with it!

What I soon realized is that a lot of time gets taken up by slowing down. Slowing down is one underrated advantage of having time. What that looks like for me is spending a day closer to this:

  • Wake up at 8 AM.
  • Get coffee then read and do a few Duolingo courses in bed for an hour or two.
  • Take my dog on a longer walk than usual.
  • Make & eat breakfast.
  • It’s 10 AM – try to do something focused for an hour or two.
  • Go to the gym from 12-1 PM
  • Shower and have lunch
  • Focus on something else from 2 PM until Mrs. Minafi gets home.

Instead of 8 free hours, it’s actually closer to 5. That’s a slower pace and budgeting time for other goals (reading, learning, and exercise). 5 hours is still a lot! That’s plenty for creating, for chores, cooking, and a backlog of todo’s that have been aching for time.

While it’s completely possible for you to have 8 focused hours a day, do you really want to? If you can plan your own pace, it’s tricky to know what feels right until you try it out and see.

2. You Won’t Work on Side Projects as Much As You Hoped

Not right away at least. I’ve worked less on Minafi in the month since leaving my job than in the previous few months. I have many projects I want to work on – someday. When I think about what I want to do in a given day, working on Minafi hasn’t been number 1 (but that’s OK!).

Instead, I’ve been improving my ski skills, cooking new dishes and binge watching a few shows. I’m watching Billions now after a coworker kept recommending it and loving it so far. Add to that a slower a pace of life with a focus on physical and mental health. This has left little time for side projects.

That’s not to say you couldn’t focus on your side project above all else. I thought that I would prioritize them myself. I quickly realized that I wanted to get many other things of my life in order first THEN turn up the side project time. There’s no need to dive into a side project too far too soon. You can ease into additional projects and find out what role they will serve in your new life.

3. Your Resting Heart Rate Will Drop

I wear a FitBit HR at almost all times. One metric it tracks is your resting heart rate while you sleep. For the month leading up to my last days on the job I saw my heart rate fluctuate between 58 to 60.

Two weeks after leaving my job this would be down to the 48 to 50 range. That’s a full 20% drop in resting heart rate!

I have a few guesses on why mentioned in this Tweet. A few people responded to my Tweet mentioned they saw a similar decline when they left their jobs. This is now settled Twitter science.

4. You Still Won’t Have Enough Time to Do Everything

There are two types of people who leave their jobs: people who retire FROM something and people who retire TO something. Those that are retiring TO something have a list in their minds that they want to do.

I schedule things to do each day using Todoist and love it. I aim to start mornings with a calm morning routine. I’ll use Todoist to help keep myself accountable.

my todoist

Outside of this routine, I’ll add anything else I want to work on that day. Even with more time, that doesn’t mean I’ll magically accomplish everything I want. Instead, I overload my days with even more things than I estimate possible.

It takes time to build up focus. Determining priority is just as tough when there is no external pressure to do something. This is something I’m still figuring out. Some sense of urgency is good! Without it, nothing difficult would ever get done.

Trying to get the balance right is dependent on what your end goals are. For right now, my focus is on mental and physical health. With those as my goalposts, it’s OK if some other things aren’t a priority (for now at least).

5. You’ll Still Struggle with Motivation to Do Things

Let’s say there’s something you know you need to do. During your working career, you may put that something off until the weekend only to dread doing it on that day. Maybe you overcome your momentum and get up and do it. Maybe you postpone the task another week.

When you have 7 days to do something, it’s even easier to say “I’ll do it tomorrow”. The only one pushing you to get things done is you.

6. Getting Started is Just as Hard As Before

Building momentum is tough. If there are a bunch of things you want to do in a day, getting starting isn’t any easier. Having more time means you have more time to procrastinate!

I’ve found one thing that’s helped me is spending 5 minutes and layout out a schedule for the day. Each morning I open up Fantastical on my phone and put in the broad strokes of what I’m going to do that day. Fantastical is my go to Calendar app for Mac and iPhone that syncs with my Google Calendar.

This isn’t an exact science, but it helps organize my thoughts. After a few weeks (or months) doing this the hope is that I’ll have a better understanding of how I enjoy filling my days.

I try to not put anything in that’s going to take less than an hour. These are broad strokes that keep me moving. If I end early, I relax for a bit, but with a set time to pick up and get moving again.

One thing I’m aiming to try is setting more “focus” hours for different days. For instance, MWF from 10-4 might become my “focus time”. I like the idea of scheduling “undivided attention time” while letting “partial attention time” be flexible.

I’m still figuring this out. If you have a set schedule or set of guidelines for how you plan our your days I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

7. You’ll Work Through Your Backlog Before Starting on The Fun Stuff

Before jumping into the super-fun-things-to-do, it’s good to tackle the boring things you’ve been putting off first. For me, this provides a clean slate so that I’m not constantly thinking about the other todo list in my mind.

This could be home improvements you’ve put off, decluttering, organizing, or otherwise simplifying things. Basically getting your house in order.

What’s great about this is you can start today! Before we moved to Salt Lake City, we spent the previous year cleaning out and decluttering as much of our house as possible. When it was finally time to move, we had already cleared away so many things that the move went as smooth as I can imagine. We did still end up calling a service to cart away a medium sized truck-load of things to throw away, but after more than a decade in a house, that can happen.

In other words – your backlog of things to do isn’t going to magically disappear. You’ll still have to tackle them. The only way out is through!

Your First Month

There’s nothing that says you should or shouldn’t do anything in your first month after you stop working. Any pressure to act is purely internal. After years, or decades working in a career, it’s been a major change for me to no longer have external pressure.

I’ve always struggled with pushing myself very hard. The same way it’s useful to schedule work, give yourself permission to do nothing every once in a while! You’ll thank yourself later for the chance.

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!

16 Comments

Sounds like a great month! I always wonder what people do when they first FIRE. Billions is awesome!

Have you tried out the “fabulous” app? It does what your Todoist page is doing (morning, afternoon, evening routines) and has inspiration short letters and tracks all your actions. It’s meant to be a habit learner.

I downloaded Fabulous to give it a shot – thanks for the heads up! It’s funny to me that some of the starter habits are the same (or almost exactly the same) as some of the habits I’m trying to form already!

I love fantastical! I have it through SetApp which is a fabulous way to try out new apps without having to pay full price for them. Your first month looked a lot like my first month off the corporate teat. Trouble was, for me, I wasn’t FI yet. I am loving being back on a W2 job now though. So much better to get paid every two weeks than struggle to force myself to do stuff.

I hadn’t heard of SetApp – that’s a neat idea!

Going through this last month gives me a ton of respect for people who transition to entrepreneurship. That’s shifting one form of stress for a new one.

Ever written or plan to write something on how you organize / setup Todoist? I’m always interested in other people’s productivity methods.

I’d be interested in this too! I love all things related to To Do lists. Also, do you keep any quarterly/yearly To Dos related to your finances (e.g. rebalancing, tax loss harvesting etc)?

That’s a good idea for a post! It’s been shifting lately as I try to use it more. Its slowly becoming my go to place to organize anything and everything I do.

Your first month seems very relateable, it’s amazing how fast a day goes. How do people with full time jobs get anything done? I had three weeks off for a rotator cuff surgery around the holidays. Despite not being at my best I quickly realized that there are no “full days” of work. I was pushing my side hustle and helping with a local high school basketball team which took almost all of my normal working day. Once my kids got off the bus in the afternoon I was even less able to complete anything. Now that I’m back to work full time I realize this is why I feel a sense of dread for Mondays. It’s a non-stop grind until I go to sleep. I even get up 1.5 hours early to get some personal stuff done but it’s not enough and not the same because my brain isn’t fully functioning at 4:30am.
I’d like to hear your thoughts once your routine becomes the norm … maybe compare life at 6 months or a year out to what you’re dealing with now. Enjoy!

Sounds similar for sure. Getting up early when working is a great way to keep productivity going – one of the only ways to get that focused time.

Hey Adam, thanks for sharing this honest sneak peek into your new ER life! I think it sounds about right. I’d also love to see the comparison between 6 months from now, etc. once you settle into a routine.

Every time I’ve been in between jobs I loved it. I was able to accomplish so much without structuring my day. But I know it’s definitely not going to be exactly the same if I actually FIRE and have days on end to play with. And I’d be down for a Billions Netflix binge!

Doing a 3, 6 and 12 month look back does sound like a good idea. I’m curious right now if I’ll have some form of structurw by then, or if I’ll still be playing it mostly by ear. I suspect as soon as I get wrapped up in a new project (or new goal here on Minafi) it’ll very quickly fill all available time. 😅

Please write a 3, 6, 12 month update on ER to see if things change, thanks!

That settles it – will do!

Congratulations to you. I like how you took the time to think about your mental and physical health as you dive into this next chapter of your life (stunningly beautiful photo btw). In general, this is really interesting, honest, and underrepresented information. I find the heart rate metrics to be especially interesting and unique for a post like this. I think the idea of it really being “5 hours” instead of 8 is insightful too. Best wishes to you.

Thanks for the article. I’m 17 months away, according to my timeline, so reading up on how people have done in the transition is a real help. Very interesting reading, and I’m glad to have you on my blogroll.

This is a fantastic situation to look forward to. It will a good decade before I will be wearing your shoes, best case scenario, and I am looking forward to reading more about this phase of life.

I have many hobbies and too little time for them all. It is interesting to see how you are adapting.

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