When my father first semi-retired, he commented about how quickly his days still went – they just filled up. You might sleep a little later, move a little slower, do a few day-to-day chores and suddenly find that half or more of your day is gone. He un-semi-retired shortly later, working much of the day, and I’m pretty sure getting just about as many of those “chores” done. This is one of the conundrums about ceasing to have a standard job – in theory you have gained an enviable and near-infinite pool of time, but in reality you may not get that much more done.
Though I haven’t spoken about it much yet, I’d love to be among those who can hit a reasonably early “FIRE” date (Financial Independence, Retired Early – the short version is not having to work for money, longer post forthcoming but check out MMM for an idea). I imagine myself one day, freed from obligation to work for my living, suddenly awash with time to do everything I’ve always wanted to. Yet I find myself in more or less that position today – while I have a little part time work, if you measured my day only by my paid hours, you’d probably tell me I have just about nothing to do.
So what have I done? How haven’t I fulfilled all the goals I set out on day one, starting numerous blogs, cooking daily, writing my fiction and economically chopping yet more and more dollars off our home budget? Ok, it’s obvious that accomplishing every goal by day four isn’t realistic. I have returned to at least this blog daily, applied to a job or two, brought the sink up to above-average cleanliness, shoveled quite a bit of snow, laundered clothes, did some paid editing and consulting, trimmed $10 off our Verizon bill (FYI, if you use <10GB, prices dropped today, but they won’t tell you so you have to claim it)… I clearly did some things, but it still feels a far cry from the bounty I should have achieved in 32 hours of glorious non-workday thus far.
This is where I need to remind myself that there are only so many productive hours in a day, paid-with-benefits or not. I’ve never been a master of efficiency, though it’s something I continue to improve on as I understand myself better. Don’t tell my previous employer, but outside of maybe one day a year, I don’t think I ever worked eight consecutive productive hours (which of course nobody does). However, with a job, whether it takes you four hours or six or eight, when you’ve completed your work you’ve done a day’s work. What’s a day’s work now? I’m still figuring that part out.
One of the keys I take away from my father’s experience is that it can be helpful to treat your lack of employment more like you would a job – push yourself to wake up early and move with purpose – but it’s wrapped into a lesson that there are only so many hours in the day. This is both a forgiving realization and a burning motivation not to take time for granted that I will try and keep with me.