December 14th, 2018 was the last day of my job. Since then I’ve had a month to unwind as of this writing. I’ve focused on easing into a new routine and starting to figure out what’s next for me. It turns out there have already been many things that I misjudged. Here’s a look at 7 of them that 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.
Before getting started, here’s the super-quick primer on me. I’m Adam. I grew up in Florida and moved out to Salt Lake City for a job when I was 35. I spent most of my career as a software developer teaching others to code before retiring early at age 36. I’m married, no kids but with one super-cute dog. I overshare my financial numbers and try to be an open book. Nowadays, I help people learn how to invest here on Minafi for free. Check out my free course if you’re interested in learning how to invest.
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 after 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 this site 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 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 much higher. 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 too deep into a side project 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 some 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.
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 tasks 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 to 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 the 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 that external pressure.
What fills that void will be up to you. It could be an internal motivation to complete long-standing projects. It could start with time to unwind and decompress after a stressful career. It could even mean a longing to go back to work. There’s no right or wrong.
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.