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What We Won’t Miss About Working // The Joy of Aspiring Early Retirees

last week we wrote about what we’ll lose when we stop working, which in our case includes a lot of perks. and today we’re sharing the flipside of that. we love reading other aspiring early retirees’ blogs, and definitely see a lot of diversity in the careers that folks are working to retire from. (though, as others have noted before, there are a disproportionate number of engineers in fire land — and not many folks who are consultants like us, as far as we’ve found. please raise your hand if you are!) we love making this blog as personal as we possibly can without giving away anything that could out us to our employers, and today we’re giving a glimpse into our work lives. we’d love to get a glimpse into others’ working lives, too — maybe we can make this a blog series? anybody game?

here’s what we most certainly will never ever ever miss about our careers:

conference calls. because we both work remotely for companies on the other side of the country, conferences are the story of our lives. we spend hours each month listening to the hold music that you get before the host has dialed in. and while some calls are useful, the majority are a waste of time, a chance for people to hear themselves speak, and little more. most of all, we won’t miss them because they prevent us from getting our actual work done.

clients. some of our clients we love, but the whole notion of clients is something we will be happy to say goodbye to. they are demanding, they make unreasonable requests, they change their minds and expect to be able to get something new on the same timeline with no additional money spent. which leads to…

the all-nighters. clients have this belief that they are your only client, which is never true, but they often want things delivered on a schedule that suggests you have nothing else to do. this often means having to work through the night just to have the time to get things done. here we are, closer to 40 than to 30, and still working college hours sometimes. our favored phrase when one of us stumbles into bed as the sun is coming up is “i suck at life.” can’t wait to ditch that feeling and sleep like normal people.

the crazy travel hours. though we love travel, it’s definitely another culprit robbing us of sleep. given where we live, we don’t have endless options about flight times, and most often we end up having to take 6 am flights, which means getting to the airport at 5, leaving the house at 4:30 and getting up at 3:30 or 4 to get ready. that would be fine once in a while, but this happens at least once every week. then, the way the flights are scheduled, we often don’t get home until after midnight, either the same day or a day or two later. let’s just say this has gotten old.

feeling removed from the decision-making. we told you last week about our fancy pants titles. ostensibly we are part of the decision-making group for our organizations, but our companies are both a little old school. they are not of the startup everyone-is-remote variety, where it’s in people’s dna to include those off-site in conversations. oftentimes we get left out of decisions just because we’re not there in person. it’s demoralizing.

revenue projections. these keep us up at night. if you’ve never done revenue projections, they’re basically your best guess about how much money the firm will make from your clients this month, next month, and through the end of the year or beyond. the problem is that business decisions get based on these numbers, and so you have to be accurate when in fact you’re just guessing. these stress us out. we can’t wait to leave them behind for good.

the revolving door of junior staff. our companies both have high long-term retention, so we work with a lot of the same folks we’ve worked with for upward of a decade. except for the junior staff, who cycle in every year or more often. so much of our work relies on junior staff doing their part right, getting us good information, double-checking things properly. but because junior staff have a lot less knowledge and experience, they have to be trained, which is a seemingly never-ending process. and worst of all is that some just never quite manage to care. please, if you’re going to do a job, care. we can’t wait to get out of our careers, but so long as we’re doing them, we’re going to keep caring a whole lot about delivering quality work, keeping our clients happy, and supporting our colleagues. those all-nighters we mentioned above? those often happen because junior staff have not done their part.

pretending to care. we do care, but it has a limit. and sometimes our only option is to pretend. pretending to care about a boss’s pet project, pretending to care what a client thinks. worst of all is long-term planning. we do these meetings where we map out the long-term strategic plans for our companies (which we know don’t involve us — though they don’t know it yet), or we map out our own career paths within the company (also irrelevant, but we put on a good show).

billable hours. this one is almost metaphysical for us. our favorite days are the ones where we can’t even tell you exactly how we spent them. one hour runs into the next, we don’t schedule ourselves, we just let things happen. but at work, we are both overscheduled on conference calls and videoconferences at a level that makes it impossible to get actual work done, and then we have to account for every quarter hour of time that we worked. billing the hours isn’t the bad part — it’s the conflict that comes later. we get ranked against colleagues to see how our hours stack up, which gives us an inherent interest in seeing those hours be high. but, on our own projects, we’re judged on whether we stay on budget, and on how many hours we write off, which gives us an interest in keeping our hours low. it’s more complicated than that, of course, but that’s what it boils down to. every day, every hour we work, creates a conflict. and we won’t miss that for a second.

do you deal with any of these in your job? what is the thing you are most eager to get away from when you retire early? or if you’re not on the fire path, what do you dream about escaping? ;-)

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33 replies »

  1. I can definitely state that I don’t miss any of these things either. Especially the meetings, status reports and performance reviews. Even when I was “the boss”, I never liked doing performance reviews of my staff, and they definitely didn’t like participating, either.

    But more than that, I definitely won’t miss the feeling that the work that I’m doing…just doesn’t matter. I’ve worked with a variety of companies – both big (and I mean BIG) and small, and you’re bound to run into that project where the work you do just doesn’t seem to matter. Nobody really cares about the project. It feels like busy work. All the time that you’re putting into writing a solid piece of well-tested computer code…what for?

    I pretend to care a lot. I mean, a LOT. And that’s unfortunate. The line of business that I’m in, unfortunately, has a way of draining the life out of you. Most of us start as eager young lads ready and willing to contribute in any way that we can, learn from those around us and do the very best jobs that we can. But, this business also has a way of removing a lot of that motivation over the years, through endless meetings and hostile working environments, the schedules, the deadlines, the documentation, the reports.

    There’s a lot that I won’t miss about work.

    • We definitely have the “draining the life out of us” feeling too, Steve. and that’s even when the work does matter. We’re lucky that our work has a visible impact in the world, at least sometimes, which helps a LOT in terms of motivation. But the clients whose work truly does NOT matter always seem to be the worst ones to deal with — the meanest, the most demanding, the most inflexible. Ironic. And on your motivation point, too, that’s something we’re hoping to beat. We want to quit before we have all the motivation beaten out of us!

  2. I miss the intense intellectual stimulation of working, the pleasure of teaching, and the feeling of helping people. I don’t miss office politics, attending stupid seminars on topics I just don’t give a hoot about, keeping my mouth shut on certain topics where I don’t accept the current paradigm, and I especially don’t miss writing grant applications.

    • Hear, hear! Agree with you on the stuff we’ll miss, along with the perks specific to our jobs. But yeah, that stupid stuff has such a demoralizing effect! And grant applications — that’s not part of our work, but it sure seems complicated and tedious!

  3. Oh the meetings! I’ve only been working for 18 months and the meetings already drive me crazy. How am I supposed to do work when I’m in meetings all the time? If I’m the one scheduling the meeting, I refuse to schedule an hour (the default) unless I really need an hour. Give me back my day!
    As for caring, I’m thankful that I truly care right now. I am the worst liar in the world and planning out fake career paths sounds like hell to me. I have no poker face. I need to get a poker face.

    • A poker face is a good thing to have generally, especially if you play poker! ;-) We’ve even taking to scheduling 15-minute meetings, to try to get as much of our time back as possible. But it’s kinda hopeless, and makes us eager to escape. As for caring, it’s good to care! And it’s good YOU care. If we didn’t care, going to work every day would be torture. We’re thankful for so much about the careers we have, with the employers who pay us, and have a lot of good reasons to care. But those few things where we’re pretending are things we’ll happily leave behind.

      • Don’t think of a poker face as lying or hiding your true self. Think of it as really trying to understand the other person’s point of view and bringing forward the part of yourself that best related to that. Plus, we don’t KNOW that we’re going to retire early. We HOPE to, but we can’t predict the future, so the long-term convos are another possible future for us, albeit one we hope to avoid.

  4. Oh boy. Your job sounds much more stressful than the ones we have. We don’t really face most of those things. But there is always the “pretending to care.” It will be great to focus only on what we truly care about.

    • Ha — Yeah, it seems like everyone can relate to “pretending to care”! Glad you guys don’t have a super stressful job situation now. That’s way healthier, regardless of your early retirement plans.

      • We’re definitely thankful and realize that because we can enjoy life a lot now, it’s okay if early retirement takes longer than people making a lot more than us! Glad it’s easier for us to enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

  5. I definitely won’t miss meetings. I telecommute, too, but I’ve managed to cut down my monthly conference calls to about two sessions, instead of the previous 10+ sessions. I have a lot of flexibility with my job, as well as good benefits and great vacation, so it’s hard for to say if I’d be relieved to stop working. I really like the structure it provides. I’ve found (through bouts of unemployment), that I get a little nuts without routine and structure in my day :). But yes, meetings and the occasional late nights will definitely not be missed one day!

    • Two calls a month?! Wow, we’d practically kill for just two a day! You have a nice gig. :-) We will miss plenty about working, including some of the structure (although we’ll also be happy to say goodbye to a lot of it!), but there’s lots we also won’t miss!

  6. Now that I’ve quit my job, I’m a soon-to-be consultant! And not an engineering consultant either! I’m willing to bet we’re working in the same industry. :)

    Your jobs sound a lot like my previous job, where I was a consultant and did the whole all-nighters + international travel + high pressure + dealing with clients. I moved into a bigger company doing similar work on paper, but my role is now more junior and less stress/pressure (but better paid). I’m going back to consulting soon, but this time as my own company. I’m hoping to feed off of this never ending stream of supporting jobs that no one in my company wants to do or has time for. It’s not exactly the most dynamic or exciting job, but hopefully it will pay the bills while giving me the flexibility I need.

    Nice idea about job-snapshot blog series. I wouldn’t mind participating, but would probably bore people with my tedium!

  7. Haha sounds like we lead very similar at work lives. I’d say the thing that drives me nuts the most is the arbitrary super aggressive deadlines for sure. Also pretending to care is tough. I catch myself not pretending as much as I should lately :)

    • Arbitrary aggressive deadlines — grrr! :-) Will say, from our experience, that the not pretending to care happens cyclically. Sometimes it’s hard to force it, but then we get over it and get back into the swing of things. But man, when you’re in one of those ruts, it’s tough to motivate! At least it’s easier to motivate when we know there’s an end in sight!

  8. I can relate to a lot of the things on this list – the world of a consultant mustn’t be drastically different from working in a big accounting firm!

    And I know exactly what you mean about junior staff – they just keep getting pumped in at the bottom of the structure as quickly as they fall out of the system, so it’s a never-ending cycle of training. It gets old very quickly!

  9. Don’t disagree with you on the meetings. Meetings used to be the bane of my existence. I used to have to host one every morning and I can’t say I miss them. I also don’t miss all of the emotional drama that would occur day in and day out. Not sure why people display so much emotion on the job. I also don’t miss training, and as you stated, “all nighters”. I used to go to work on Monday and come home in the same clothing on Wednesday. Now that I think of it…now that I’m starting my own business, I can’t say that I miss much about the corporate world. You two will do just fine once you see the other side!

  10. Definitely won’t miss the meetings. My last boss LOVED meetings! I had about 6 recurring weekly meetings that were pointless. SO much wasted time. Now I might have 1-2 short meetings a week and love it. Billable hours – that was a key factor in me leaving my last company, so I made sure my new gig didn’t do time coding/billable hrs/any of that. Yeah! I also won’t miss pretending to care and feeling removed from the decision making. I’m great at pretending to care, and offering up a “pleasant” poker face in inane meetings, usually followed by a “lift of the finger and quick head nod” in case people think I’ve checked out, lol. Classic cliché meeting sort of move. :)

    I think you guys will be just fine, but I enjoy reading about all the things you’ll be walking away from.

  11. I don’t miss most of that either. When I look for future opportunities, there are two things I will steer clear of:
    1. Managing any staff whatsoever, junior or not. I want collaborative work where I am only responsible for my own performance. Like you both, I am a high performer and I just want to get my work done and move on.
    2. Regular travel. I don’t mind the occasional conference or visiting a project, but I wouldn’t want to travel for non-personal reasons more than about 3 times per year. That would burn me out fast.

    • We agree with you 100%. We plan to work in the future, but want purely collaborative work, and far, far less travel. Even once or twice a quarter would be a huge decline from now, which we could completely live with!

  12. What do you call it when you dress up from the waist up for a video conference? I call it my work mullet – business on top/yoga pants or baggy soccer shorts on the bottom… the best was taking my dog for a walk dressed like that and my neighbor calling me out for my outfit.

    • LOLOLOL — I completely love that! Can I borrow that term? ;-) I sometimes call it the newscaster look, but have never created my own term.

      • Go for it… since I’m so close I will admit that yesterday I wore a tshirt for my video conference and no make up. It was only within my company so I didn’t feel like I was living life on the edge. I sort of did my hair. But I’m trying to conserve my effort given to make sure I make it through 6/30.

      • Oh my company is VERY used to seeing me dressed down on VTC when it’s internal. My team knows that if I’m wearing a big scarf, that’s code for “I still have my pajamas on.” Hahahaha