One of my favorite parts of FinCon — and there were so many things I loved — was getting the chance to talk to bloggers who are ahead of us on their FIRE journeys, including several who are already retired.
The first question I had for nearly everyone who’s already living their “next life” was: Did it get harder to put up with work in your last year or two before you retired? Because it sure feels that way for us.
Joe from Retire by 40 said that his last two years were harder, and the fact that he was so close didn’t make work much less stressful, as we all suppose it might. But then a different blogger who I won’t name (because the conversation might not have been entirely sober) told me that my problem is that I still care too much, and that I’d be better served with a “DGAF attitude.” That, he told me, would make the last year-ish a lot more fun and less stressful. Another blogger reminded me that it would likely take at least two years of me phoning it in before I’d get let go, and we’d be long gone before then.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot since then. It’s probably evident from reading here that I generally care about things. I care about people. I care about creating quality. I care about keeping integrity in my work and life. I care about leaving a positive legacy. I don’t want to overburden others around me because I didn’t pull my weight. All of this is true for Mr. ONL, too. We are carers.
But, we also work more than we strictly have to. We put in more hours and we do more than our share of the work. We do our best to say yes to work needs even if we can’t say yes to everything in life. We check email and sometimes work on vacation. My company tracks billable hours, and I’m high up on that chart. So if we assume these things are correlated, then caring equals working more than we’re expected to, like that blogger called me out for. Which leads to the question:
Is it possible we care about work too much?
And if so, would caring less in our last year of work make us happier?
A Continuum of Caring
Like with introversion vs. extroversion, it’s possible that there’s a spectrum of predisposition to care, from caring not at all (“zero Fs given,” as the kids would say these days), to caring way way too much:
And we probably all enter the workforce at some natural place on that spectrum, and for different reasons. My love of gold stars is well documented, so my early caring was clearly driven by that, but over time it evolved more into caring about the people and the product more than the accolades. Mr. ONL, a more laid back guy by nature than I am, started out caring a lot less than I do by nature. But he also evolved into caring more, perhaps from early fears of getting fired that he’s never quite let go of. (You’d think nearly two decades in his job and many promotions would ease that concern, but this stuff is never rational.) Plus, he’s a generally conscientious person, so with the level of responsibility he has now, I can’t imagine him not caring.
Of course other people may naturally fall somewhere else on this continuum, and some may even naturally be smack dab in the center.
Related post: Why We’re Not Going to Complain About Work Anymore
Moving on the Continuum
We do think we’ve both continued to work our way leftward on the scale, toward caring too much. And our reasons may not apply to everyone. For example, we’ve been with our companies for a really long time (both over a decade), and feel invested in the companies themselves and in our colleagues who would be affected if we started phoning it in. We have long-term relationships with our clients and don’t want to let them down. And — just being real here — we get paid a lot and want to feel “worth it.” (That’s exactly what raises are supposed to achieve, right?)
So now we’re both probably in this zone:
It’s not happy news to acknowledge that. We know our career growth in our particular jobs has only been possible because we are invested in our companies and clients, but we never set out to be those people. We certainly never set out to be people who work all the time. “Workaholic” is like the worst insult you can give someone in our books. And yet it’s possible that it describes both of us at this point. Not because we can’t imagine not working, but because we care too much to set it aside completely.
Facing Down the Last Year
Though the exact timing is still up for debate (and highly TBD based on year-end bonuses this year), we know that we’ll be quitting some time next year, in 2017. And even though the longest that could be is only 15 months, a pretty short time period in the grand scheme, the thought of going at our current pace for 15 more months fills us with something very close to dread.
I know it’s at least slightly ridiculous to think this way, but I have thoughts like, “If my hours go down, they’ll think I’m less committed.” Or, “If I say I want fewer projects, they’ll assume I’m looking for another job.” But then in the same thought string, I’ll think, “I am speeding up my demise with the way I’m working right now. This has to stop.”
A Note On How We Want to Leave Things
From the beginning of our early retirement journey, we’ve both had a clear vision of how we want to leave things with our employers. They’ve been good to both of us for many years, and we feel like we’ve grown up at our respective companies. We’re close with the senior management and count virtually all of our long-term colleagues as friends.
It’s important to us that we make it clear when we announce our retirement that we aren’t leaving to take another job, we’re leaving to take no job. This is why we haven’t looked for other jobs, even though we know we could earn more. And it’s why the idea of phoning it in and leaving on a bad note fills us with ickiness. Call it caring too much, but we want to go out on a wave of good vibes and positive memories. So while caring as little as possible might be the right approach for some people in the home stretch of some jobs, it doesn’t feel right for us.
Caring and Happiness
A question that feels central to all of this is:
Does caring so much about work make us happier?
The answer is: We’re pretty sure it doesn’t. On some level, our high level of caring seems driven by various anxieties: that we won’t be given interesting assignments, that we’ll be let go because we work remotely and aren’t as visible as our on-site colleagues, that we won’t be considered for promotions or raises, that clients won’t hire us for additional projects and we’ll have to hustle harder, that we’ll get smaller bonuses than we deserve. We certainly don’t care so much because we love every second of our work and can’t imagine doing anything else.
In fact, I was talking to my dad earlier today, telling him about my FinCon experience, and he told me that it had been years since I’d sounded as excited about anything as I sound when talking about this blog and the FIRE community. I never even want to talk about work. So, safe to say, work isn’t fueling my stoke. Mr. ONL would say the same.
So if caring isn’t making us happier, should we try not caring?
Final Year Goal
Not caring would probably appeal to us a lot more if we’d had a more typical career of multiple employers and jobs over the years, and less investment in any single employer or group of people. Then maybe we really would be comfortable making the minimum effort and unplugging more often. But since that won’t work for us, we’re aiming for a more balanced middle ground in our last year-ish:
I told my supervisor today that I need to get my hours down to a more sustainable level, and she was completely supportive. That probably still means 50 hours a week, but that’s a whole lot better than the 60-70 a week that have become the norm the last few years. Who knows — maybe I could even go crazy and get down to 45. ;-)
We’re both also thinking seriously about ways we can retrain ourselves to care less and work less in our last year. We’re calling it our “senior slide,” but without a plan, we could easily fall back into the habits we’ve ingrained as our careers have progressed. So we’re thinking about instituting changes:
- One full offline day a week (most likely Saturdays)
- Work ends by 7 pm no matter what (or maybe we allow one late night a week at most)
- No work from bed in the early morning or late night
- Reminding ourselves that other people can handle things
I bet you have some other ideas of things we can do to get to a place of more balanced caring — please share them in the comments!
Where Are You on the Continuum?
We’d love to hear from you guys about this. Any other over-carers like us? Or folks who’ve mastered the art of caring less? What wisdom can you share? And for those who’ve already retired, what can you tell all of us about how best to get through the home stretch? Thanks, as always, for continuing the conversation in the comments! We so appreciate you reading and engaging! xoxo
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Categories: the process
With 78 weeks and one day (and counting!) until FIRE, I feel less stressed about work stuff and continue to do the best I can alongside a great team that I care about and respect. But I don’t volunteer for the extra gigs anymore. I really like this post – it’s something I re-read once a month to keep it all real: http://www.thinksaveretire.com/2015/10/19/the-awesomeness-of-not-being-important/ – particularly that other people can handle things.
I’m sure you’ll find the right path as you approach FIRE – and you’re closer to it than we are.
Yeah, who’s counting? ;-) We’d be counting the weeks, too, if we knew our exact date! Haha.
Unfortunately, we’re already too far along to go back to being unimportant at our companies, at least without leaving entirely, so we’re just playing the hand we’re dealt for a little while longer. But we’re focused now on creating better boundaries in our last year!
Oh no… I still have 6.5 years to go and I’m already starting to “phone it in”. Better try and find myself some motivation!
Great post, thanks for getting me to give it some thought!
Check out the comment here from Lucky Girl — she makes a great point that you can’t get that caring back after you let it go. So maybe don’t divest yourself emotionally just yet! BUT, do create lots of healthy boundaries for yourselves so you don’t end up like us! ;-)
Don’t feel bad about caring! To be good at something, to give it the right amount of dedication you need to care about it. Caring about what you do creates really good results. So no matter how much you work, or how happy work makes you, caring is a good trait to have, as long as you’re not being taken advantage of, or over working.
70 hours is a lot. 10 hours a day. But I guess that’s one of the reasons why you guys are able to retire early – you’ve worked hard, earned well, saved hard, invested well.
I can’t offer you much advice about caring less, I wish I care a little more actually lol.
You guys are awesome!
Thanks for this, Tristan! You’re right that caring isn’t a bad thing — and if I didn’t have that wiring within me, none of us would be here on this blog chatting about whether caring is good or bad! :-)
A lot of those hours are time spent traveling, so it’s definitely not 10 hours every day! We still mostly have our weekends off(ish), though there is always some overflow work that we’re doing on Sundays. But as you said, that’s what it’s required to get where we are, which has accelerated our FIRE plans big time. So, pros and cons. But I think we’ll work on creating better boundaries this next year, while still caring about doing good work. :-)
Maybe it is an age thing. In my 30s and 40s I was just the same, much too caring and I worked 50 or 60 hours a week into the night and weekends, worrying about my staff, worrying about targets and just worrying! Looking back I am horrified at how much care and effort I put in to my position as an public health service manager and I am just grateful that I came through that still well and happy. We decided to have a gap year in 2009 / 2010 and it was this 12 months of relaxing that pulled me up and made me realise that I didn’t want to go back to being that person and so took a lowly admin job (on about half the pay) in my beloved NHS. Having worked as a public health manager I think I make a brilliant PA – I know what the boss needs before they know themselves – I can’t get rid of the need to always do my best, but after seven hours I switch off the phone and the laptop and don’t give it another thought until the next day. I am the proud mum of a wonderful son with a good and well paid job but we are always telling him not to work too much and I think he has developed a good attitude to work, putting in the effort and to a high standard but only working beyond 6pm in a real emergency and the company respect him just as much. I now find myself worrying about your work-life balance and your health (I’m sure your family are too) – only one day off a week!!!
We often joke (only half jokingly) that we’d happily go back to our entry-level assistant jobs — now that we’ve been in senior management roles, we could do a kick ass job anticipating the managers’ needs, and we’d relish the lack of responsibility on nights and weekends. :-)
Please don’t worry about us. We’re still managing to find time to do some fun stuff, and a lot of those work hours are travel time, so it’s not QUITE as bad as it might seem. Plus, the end is in sight! :-)
I oscillate between dgaf and caring way too much for the safety of my job.
I definitely think you should cut back on the hours and start delegating tasks a lot more to others. Even if you care a lot about your work, I can’t imagine doing 50+ hours of it per week will be at your optimal performance (and sanity). Plus transferring over existing tasks to others will set up your employer better for when you leave, and give you more room to invest yourself in a last push on the couple of projects you want to leave as your legacy.
Oh it’s definitely not our optimal work! That’s for sure true. I’m convinced that anything over 40 hours just results in crappier work, and we’re doing a big percentage of our work beyond that threshold, so…
We’re starting to take more of a facilitator role in terms of bringing in business but then handing it off, or staffing our projects so that we’re empowering more junior folks to do more of the heavy lifting. But it’s a work in progress!
I started off towards the left side of the continuum. I always give my best even if it’s just a lovely retail job. However…. I’ve started to slide to the left now. My employer has made it clear we are expendable and doesn’t care about me. I’ve still been doing a good job. I’m just giving 110% anymore.
PS I feel like most of the best conversations at FinCon happened in the presence of alcohol ;)
What a crappy situation! I cannot understand why any employer would ever make an employee feel that way — have they not read the research on how important it is to retain good talent?! (And I KNOW that YOU are good talent!) (And, haha, I definitely got the most unvarnished truth out of folks as each evening progressed!)
Except that you’ve already had the talk about reducing hours, Iw as going to suggest you could phrase it more towards avoiding burnout. It’s awesome that they are supportive with that. The first step towards fixing a problem is admitting there’s a problem, so you’re already headed in the right direction. The direction away from workaholic – yep I said it. :) Just because you’re down to the last year doesn’t mean you still can’t burnout or over tax your body with stress and bad workaholic habits.
As the least eager FIRE’r that you know, and based on my last post about finally telling work “no” for the first time ever, you can probably guess where I sit on the scale. I would say a little to the right of balanced caring because I do give more than zero F’s about this place even though I know ultimately I’m just a number on a spreadsheet.
I also care about the people I work with and like doing what I can to help them succeed. It’s been fun getting more of a mentor role and getting to fulfill that aspect as well. Since we’re still looking at less than 2 years, if I really do pull the plug in 2018, I still am engaged and contributing and having fun at work.
That’s key though – having fun. If it wasn’t fun, I’d be counting weeks, days, and minutes….
Until that changes or something else unexpected comes along in life to affect things, we’ll just keep plugging away and sticking to our plan.
Avoiding burnout IS totally how I phrased it. And that was completely sincere, because I’ve been on the verge for a while. (I’ve taken a whole five days of vacation this year, and Mr. ONL has only taken three!) And you’re SO right that even in the home stretch, it’s possible to burn out and overtax ourselves — we know what that feels like. :-)
But despite all that, today’s super wise commenters have helped me see that caring it’s the problem, it’s the lack of boundaries. You can still care tons, but also have firm boundaries that let you have a healthy life outside of work. So in our last year, we’ll work hard on those boundaries, but still stay invested in doing a good job and supporting and mentoring others we work with.
In my experience, the important (but still hard) thing is to care about the right things. For example, as a teacher, learning to care more about what was best for the students, and less about some of the administrative BS, or how students or parents perceive you. I’m not sure what that looks like for your jobs. I’m definitely an over-carer by nature, though, and for whatever reason my husband is pretty great at balanced caring, which I admire.
Believe it or not, we’ve actually gotten tons better about WHAT we care about. Probably it’s because we know we got our last promotions years ago, but we don’t care about titles or accolades any more. We stay out of internal politics. We just try to do good work, mentor and support those coming up behind us, and also to maximize our earnings to support our big financial goals. Right now the thing making it all crazy is just the volume of work, not that we’re worrying about the unimportant stuff. But we’re going to try hard to dial it all back in this last year!
I care way too much about work. A lot of my identity comes from my job. But I’m also not sure I could do my job as effectively if I was anywhere else on the spectrum. Don’t get me wrong. I do know a handful of teachers who are probably more balanced, but I also think this is why so many people leave education. Right now, as DINKS, giving most of ourselves to our job and “our kids” works for both my husband and me. But I do see a lot of new moms and dads struggle a lot with this. I’ve worked other jobs, and I’ve also probably always erred on the side of caring too much. But that somehow seems better than caring too little?! I don’t know. Interesting thought puzzle.
Today’s comments (worth reading!) have actually helped me formulate a theory: caring is not the problem, it’s the lack of boundaries that are the problem. :::Mind blown!::: But that makes total sense to me on a deep level — do you agree? So I think this last year we’re not going to stress about how much we care, but are instead going to try to be stricter about personal life boundaries to find a little more balance.
Balance is definitely the key and I think your rules to try to get there are really good. I am generally in the “care too much” category naturally. Instead of trying to care less all the time I work to set up hard boundaries. At my current job, I am disconnected as soon as I leave the office. I am the hardest worker you’ll find while I’m there, but once I walk out the door I’m gone. My boss knows this and my coworkers know this, so if there is an upcoming deadline and they plan to work at home at night or work on the weekends, they know they need to talk to me ahead of time because I won’t be responsive to those last minute after-hours requests.
I am definitely lucky to be in a workplace that I can actually set up that hard line and I know that is not the norm at all these days, but I think some form of boundaries to separate your life from your work can be really helpful.
I think your comment is super wise! We don’t need to care less, we need to have better boundaries. The way you work sounds fantastic, though it wouldn’t fly in our companies just because of the deeply ingrained culture. (I have actually been criticized in reviews for not being reachable enough at off-hours. No joke.) So we’ll get to work on those boundaries!
I have been taking offline days or weekends over the last few months, it is great to step away from the phone and computer screen for an extended period of time.
I have never been good at following rules like the ones you talk about (no work or no blogging after a certain time) – I find if I don’t have something to do my boredom takes over and I will start doing something. Occupying my time with other activities is the only thing that consistently works.
60-70 hours is crazy! You need to start the detox!
That’s great you’ve been doing the offline days! I realized at FinCon how much more I reach for my phone than other people do. I’m usually surrounded by colleagues and clients who have the same twitch frequency as I do, but being around “normal people” was a wake-up call! And yeah, can’t wait to start the detox!
Perhaps you’d want this work-life balance whether you’re financially independent in 2017 or planning to work another two decades. This is more about your sustainable morale (maintaining a good pace at work) than about sprinting across the finish line.
I think the key to your solution is to imagine yourself five years from now, looking back on your departure. Would you feel you’ve left on good terms, with a reasonable quality of life before you left? Or would you end your jobs feeling exhausted and grumpy, needing months of naps to recover from the final stressful year?
This is also the point where you think about turnover. Maybe it’s time to find ways for other co-workers to start taking over your clients, or (at the very least) to cut out the company’s services which have a small profit margin..
I think if we were planning to work more than another year, we’d be exploring entirely different career paths! LOL. We fully recognize that we’re in an untenable situation for the long term, and are only willing to do it because the benefits outweigh the downsides over the short term. I think our reality is that we’re going to need months of naps to detox either way, but that we wouldn’t feel right if we phoned it in. I feel pretty strongly that our happy nostalgia will come from knowing we gave it our best and our all… but could be wrong! It’s pretty clear from today’s helpful comments, though, that we can still care a ton while introducing more boundaries. So that will be our goal for our final year: more boundaries!
My “Happiness is cloaked in not giving a shit” article that I wrote some time ago comes to mind when I read your post! And although the answer you got from the not-so-sober individual sounds *exactly* like the answer that I would probably give (even if stone-cold-sober), I promise that I was not at FinCon this year in disguise. :)
I firmly believe that not caring so much is very, very helpful – even if we had no plans to retire early. But, it’s also important to keep in mind that “not caring” doesn’t mean that you start doing crappy work, become a dick to people or just otherwise turn into a whole different person. If this ever happens, then you’re doing it wrong.
Not caring so much is 100% a mindset change. You can still do good work and not really give a shit about what you’re doing. And when that happens, you begin shrugging a lot more and saying “whatever”.
Caring too much = stress. Almost every time.
I can’t help myself but quote from my article: “Imagine the energy we’d have only giving a shit about the things that make a difference in our lives. Suddenly, the little things no longer bother us.” And it’s true. If we focus our energy on caring about the things that *truly make a difference*, we’d have a lot more of that energy in which to focus. And, I would argue, a heck of a lot less stress.
I liked your F’s Given timeline above. I’m much more closely aligned with the Mr. – maybe even to the right of him. I find there’s a whole heck of a lot of fun in not caring so much about…well, just about everything.
I was thinking about your post a lot while writing this! Honestly, I think we are just wired differently from you, and that mindset is just not going to happen for us. Plus, I sometimes wonder if you know how lucky you are to earn six figures without having to work long hours or be “all in.” (You’re super rare!) ;-) Our labor day post on slowing down has lots of stats on that, and a full quarter of salaried workers work over 60 hours per week — so we’re not some crazy outliers.
I think that today’s comments are helpful in framing for us that our problem isn’t caring too much, it’s lack of boundaries. (Because, though I didn’t write about this, we HAVE actually gotten great at letting go of the stuff that isn’t important, and focusing on the things that actually matter.) So our goal for 2017 is: MORE BOUNDARIES. :-)
Oh, there’s no doubt that I take this to the extreme. Some things I SHOULD care more about, and I know that. But like you said, that’s the way I’m wired, and I don’t care enough to try and change that (<– see what I did there?).
Like with everything else in life, balance is key. :)
I DO see what you did there. ;-) Balance, here we come!
Oh, and I didn’t intend for my original comment to sound judgmental. If it came across that way, I do apologize!
Not at all! We’re friends. You can give it to me straight. :-)
Even though it’s in shambles currently, the oil industry is another one that you can hit 6 figures in just a 40 hr week OR overwork yourself easily. It’s all up to how much you want to be at the office or be “that person”.
Lately, I’ve been slowly releasing the caring and instead I just focus on doing good work. Boundaries are key though.
I don’t check email after hours, and for sure not the weekend. I have been on one project that led to after hours work for a few months, but that’s one in almost 8 years now… I don’t count late nights/early mornings watching wells drilling because that’s exciting, lol. Even then it was only 6 different nights…
Maybe you did pick the wrong profession. :)
Hmmm… so maybe all the guys with the cushy jobs are to blame for sinking the industry… ? Let’s think about this…
Hahahahaha. I’m thrilled for you that you are one of the lucky few who pulls good money without selling all of your mental real estate. And maybe occasionally I wish I’d chosen a different career path. ;-) But then I wouldn’t have met Mr. ONL, and that would be a whole lot less fun, so I guess I’ll take our crappy lot. Haha — kidding. #firstworldproblems
A task worth doing, is a task worth doing well. I agree with Steve that caring is not always correlated to quality work. Maintaining balance between work and non-work life is all about setting and sticking to boundaries. The boundaries have to be setup and enforced by the individual, because it is too easy to claim that this is an emergency or different this time.
I found it hard for me place myself on the continuum because I really care about my employer purpose (to safe lives), but do not care very much for a lot of my day to day activities. I have handled this by prioritizing my work tasks and spending effort on the items at the top of the list.
You raise a super critical point about IMPORTANT vs URGENT. You can focus on the important stuff, set boundaries and still care. Totally agree that anything is worth doing is worth doing well, and I believe that does mean caring about the purpose, the end product, the people, whatever. But in your case, it sounds like you do care, but try to focus your energy on what’s important, which is great!
I’d go into the office and give your two weeks notice and tell your boss that you’ve reached financial independence and you’re moving on to other things in life. It shocked my boss when I did it and the entire trading floor
You don’t know how badly we want to do that some days! ;-)
I’d like to think I’m in middle of the continuum of caring. Before I discovered FIRE I was probably more towards the left, but then once I discovered FIRE I moved closer to the middle.
I find it quite funny at work sometimes when people think the job won’t get done if they weren’t there. Our company has been in business for 100+ years and the job has always gotten done, even without a specific person there.
I think what has helped me move more to the middle is my experimentation with saying “no”. Saying “no” has not hurt my career in one bit. At one time where I would just do things when I asked it put a strain on my personal time. Now I say “no, I don’t think that fits in with my schedule right now” or “sure I’ll get to that tomorrow or Monday when I free up.”
I definitely still give F’s because I’m still many years away from FI and need a paycheck. But at the same time I know with my skill set and network that there is always more work out there. Puts the mind at ease.
It’s interesting that you’ve moved more to the right of the caring continuum over time. It makes sense! And I think the tough thing is we know that the world will keep spinning without us in our jobs, but once things are OUR responsibility, we want to be sure that they’re done well. My goal this next year is to shift to more of a facilitator: still bringing in work, but handing it off to people after we win it rather than feeling like I need to have a big book of business myself. I think that will be seen positively (look what a team player I am!) without making my workload unmanageable.
I’m so old I had to stare at DGAF for a minute to figure out what that meant! :-)
It’s not as easy to stop caring as your other blogger friend mentioned. If you naturally don’t care, then that’s probably the same attitude you would have near the end of your career anyway, but you’ve probably also been that way throughout your entire work career as well.
However, I can tell you’re not like that. You guys have got your %^&# straight and you care about what you do. No need to burn any bridges or make anyone else’s life miserable either.
I’ve been stressing out a lot lately like Joe@RetireBy40 was near his last days at the company, but I’m still putting in 110% at work every day. Granted, I’ve got a few years left before I can retire, but anyone just throwing their hands up in the air and not caring is just not a great person in general in my book.
Good luck to you guys!!
Haha — yesterday I had a moment of feeling old, too, when I misunderstood what “zero chill” meant. ;-) Thanks for this kind note — you know us better than you think! And you’re right that not caring just isn’t in our wiring, though we sometimes envy folks who can operate in that mode. But yeah, we want to end things well, so I think the key this next year is just creating more boundaries, not caring less. :-)
It seems you have become invested in the people you work with over time, which is understandable, and you care a lot about them both professionally and on a personal level. I certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with that unless it is impacting your health and quality of life.
My experience has been somewhat different. After being a high achiever for over 10 years and caring a lot, I got fucked over. Which means I got fired in a very messy situation. Technically I resigned but I walked away with a hefty severance package after signing non disclosure documents and promising not to sue my employer.
So while I now go to work and do an excellent job (I have great appraisals and my numbers are good) I give very very few fucks. I recognize that I am expendable and if the company thought it was in their best interest financially to downsize me they wouldn’t hesitate one second. So I don’t feel bad that once I leave work I don’t give any of my life energy to it. It doesn’t hurt that I know I’m 3 years and 9 months away from FIRE.
I’m so sorry that happened to you! What an icky way to end a long-term job. :-( (Though I’m glad for you that you got a severance!) I can definitely understand why you’ve changed your level of emotional investment in your work based on that, and think that’s completely reasonable, and probably good for your own self-protection!
I care hardcore for 8ish hours, but then I try not to care at all (although even though I’m not doing work, it’s still hard to shut off my brain). I try to make a point not to check emails, but I do it more because of a twitch more than anything else. I know my work there is never done, and I know I could work really long hours, but I’ve always been a fairly balanced person, and my health is too important to me to not pay attention to that kind of stuff. I easily feel the effects of burnout so I always try my best to avoid it as much as possible.
I think you care a lot, but with boundaries, and the comments are helping me see that caring isn’t the problem, it’s the lack of boundaries. So our goal for 2017: BOUNDARIES. :-)
Please take this very much from the heart because what I am reading here resonates so much from my experience of being overworked. Over work, stress levels rising only results in deep unhappiness and can take you to places you don’t want to go to.
Trust me, I have been to hell and back and nobody wins – partner, family, friends and most importantly yourself.
I see two people who are grossly overworked and the question you have to ask yourself is why? The second set of question is – are you going to look back on this situation with pride, smile about it and treasure it fondly. I can’t answer the first question for you but based on my experience, the second set of questions are no, no and no.
Please reduce your workload, cut back significantly, live a little more. Jeez, live a lot more. Anything but the utter madness of 70 hr weeks. It. Is. Not. Normal.
Mr. PIE – a follower and reader who cares about you.
Thanks for your concern. I completely appreciate it. :-) It’s hard to know how we’ll look back on it all, but to play devil’s advocate, how would we feel if we looked back, knowing we hadn’t tried our best? I feel pretty sure we wouldn’t be proud of that. So I think figuring out better balance while still staying invested in this final year will be key. (And on the “normal” note, see our recent “slowing down” post — it’s CRAZY how many people work more than 60 hours a week! We are definitely not alone in that. Now whether it’s healthy is a very different question — clearly it’s NOT.)
I’m an interesting enigma in that while I give off an attitude that I DGAF, inside I actually do care and a lot of my self worth comes from my ability to be successful at work. I don’t define success in how much money I make, but rather my ability to succeed at my job in an efficient manner. I go in the office 8 hour per day, but it’s almost a game with myself to see how little time it will take me to complete the required tasks. I’d say that I’m really just baby sitting a phone and an e-mail box for at least half of my day. Of course some days are busier than others. Some days I really do have 9 hours of actual work, some days there might be 1. And I’m always putting out fires remotely probably because I care too much. One reason I want to move on is that i’m just not challenged and kept busy every day.
70 hour weeks though? I could never do that. And it’s one of the many reasons I’m not interested in taking over the family business. Too much stress and pressure. I don’t need that much upside potential and I also don’t want to take on that much risk.
You couldn’t pay me enough to work 70 hour weeks. I’d sooner learn to live on half my income than learn to work twice as much. Yuck.
Your guys’s willingness to devote so much time to your career is definitely one of the reasons that you are in a place that many people can only dream of. That’s obviously admirable, but when you’re this close to the finish line, is it really necessary to keep giving 300%? I’m proud of you for telling your boss that it’s time to cut back. I hope Mr. did the same.
What is that like to only have 1 hour of work to do in a day???!!!?!?!?! What a novel idea! I’m more in the camp of trying to fit 14 hours of work into 10. And to be fair, a lot of my 70 hours is travel time. So if I’m driving to the airport at 4:30 AM or driving home after midnight, that all counts. It’s not strictly 70 hours of desk time, and some weeks are more like 60. (This week might only be 55. Wohoo!)
Part of why I share all of this is to deglamorize the mythos of the six-figure job. I know some people (:::cough:::Steve:::cough:::) can pull 6 figures without working long hours or giving too many shits, but most of us with this level of earnings sell all of our mental real estate to do so. So yeah, if we could go back and get 40-hour-a-week jobs that pay less, we probably would happily go down that path instead! Stay tuned for how it goes to scale back. :-)
When you have 1 hour of work to do in a day, you spend a lot of time staring at the clock. You might read blogs and comment on them. Realistically I’ve been cross trained in enough areas and have enough skills, that I’m more than willing to help out that I will help other people do there job in order to make my day go by faster. Because I’d rather have the time go faster. It’s awkward because nobody would ever ask me because i’m the boss’s kid, but if offered they are grateful. I’m not “too good” to get my hands dirty. The more efficient we are as a company, the less we have to pay some hourly warehouse guy over time, that’s good for the business’s bottom line and makes me feel like a more valuable and useful employee.
My biggest complaint about working is the time that is spent staring at the clock.
Hence the need for a purpose in retirement or it’s just going to be more of the same of what I have now. We’ve discussed this before. :)
Well okay, if that small workload some days is what lets you be a great blog supporter, then awesome. ;-) And I definitely think it’s important that you’re thinking more about purpose in retirement (and in life!) — no one wants to feel like they’re just biding their time. I love that you’ve started blogging about all of it and are planning to travel on an epic adventure — I think all of that will help give you a lot more clarity about how you will get the most out of life!
I started seeing my work in two categories: the important things we were trying to accomplish (the big initiatives and improvements that would create lasting change for our team and our clients) and the ancillary bullshit (unnecessary meetings, people with bad attitudes, impossible-to-work-with clients, and a culture of working around the clock).
Once we had decided we were actually going to quit, I made my best effort to stop caring at all about the latter. I’d go for a run in the middle of the day, deflect phone calls I didn’t want to answer, and work more on my own schedule. Those changes actually helped me care more about the things I valued.
Oh, you’re so enlightened. ;-) Believe it or not, I’m in a similar boat — I no longer bother with the internal politics or client BS. I focus my efforts on ultimate work product and on legacy stuff like mentoring and empowering junior colleagues. But there is just too much volume at the moment! (And, yeah, I’ve totally done conference calls from the trails — let’s hope none of my colleagues read this comment in the future. Ha!)
I should have kept a list of all the places I took conference calls! Off the top of my head, they include: in the kitchen cooking dinner, in the shower (on mute, just listening — I hoped!), in a different city on a during-the-week mini-vacation my colleagues didn’t know about, on a chairlift at the mountain, on a golf course during a U.S. Open practice round, outside a bar, at a trailhead…
You really can work from just about anywhere these days!
I LOLed at the shower — though it’s entirely possible I’ve done that too. God I hope my phone’s mute button works! Hahahaha
I’ve had a really strange journey about caring at work. Namely, the closer we get to FIRE, the more I seem to care about work. This might be because I changed jobs and am still in the “honeymoon period,” but I honestly hope it will stay the same.
All that said, I work 40 hour weeks. Like, once or twice a year I might actually work more than that, but even then by less than 10 hours.
Once we reach our “number,” I’d like to try part time or a part time on call kind of arrangement. The best scenario for me might be three months on, three months off (or more…) – but that might be tricky to manage!
Your point of view is so refreshing! It’s GOOD to care, and to invest yourself emotionally in your work, so long as it doesn’t cross over into unhealthy levels. And I’ve found similar feelings emerge — as we get closer to FIRE, I think more about my legacy and what impact I’ll leave behind, and it makes me want to try harder, not revert to a DGAF attitude. But everyone’s different, and I don’t think my way is “right” — but I’m happy you can relate! :-D
Yeah, it all comes down to moderation, which is why your visual spectrum of caring worked really well in this post. :)
Either end can be damaging. In my previous job, I didn’t care, basically at all, and read early retirement blogs and forums all day most days. It also paid decently, plus it would have been hard to get fired. But I felt awful at the end of the day – depressed, even. Even though we could have retired in a few years, it wasn’t worth it.
Now I’m thinking I need to add an axis to that diagram and have caring be the X axis and boundaries be the Y axis. ;-) And I have had that kind of job! My very first one — it was super easy, no one wanted to actually check things off their list, and I would have had guaranteed raises. But I also got depressed doing it! So glad I moved on to something more challenging, even if that now means I’m in a job that has become more and more demanding over time. Grass is always greener, right? ;-)
Love the idea of adding a boundaries axis!!!
I’m thinking about a follow up post, and it will definitely include the double axis. ;-)
Mr. AR and I are both perfectionist over achievers, and work and the accolades associated with that work were very high priorities for both of us, although probably more for me than him at the end. I knew I was way too emotionally invested in my job. I knew I was too quick to take on too much work, too unwilling to ever say no, too fast to give up personal time in favor of work, and in way too much denial about how all of those decisions impacted the quality of my life and my health (both emotionally and physically). I was the “get it done” person, and I took great pride in that well deserved reputation and sacrificed a tremendous amount to maintain it. The last year or so I worked, I began to develop a deep resentment regarding how taken for granted I’d become. It was simply understood that every single time the proverbial shit hit the fan, I would soothe the client, formulate the appropriate response and do all of the follow up with every entity involved in order to ensure the company’s stellar reputation would not suffer. I started to realize that none of senior management was willing to step in, and that regardless of the nature of the issue (even very serious, potentially expensive or even production stopping issues), everyone else seemed to slide right through by kind of floating over the top of the incident while I labored for hours and hours on the nuts and bolts of the problem. I was paid well, but in retrospect, not well enough. At the end of the day, it wasn’t my company or even my job function to deal with the ever increasing incidents, and it wasn’t an equitable distribution of the workload by any means. I began to realize how much my deep seated need for approval was causing me unhappiness right about the time Mr. AR was hospitalized for a serious illness, and I decided that when he was released I would no longer work beyond 5:30 p.m. (although I typically was at the office by 6:00 a.m. and rarely ever left for meals). The change in the attitude of ownership toward me based upon the decision to put Mr. AR’s need for my time ahead of the company’s was illuminating, to say the least. I had been doing so much for so many for so long that any reduction in hours was viewed as disloyalty. That was the first step toward my eventual realization that the company existed before I arrived, and would exist in some form after I left, and it was not my sole responsibility to fix everything for everyone all the time. I was cleaning out my personal email messages on my phone the other day, and was reading through old messages I’d sent while Mr. AR and I were searching for retirement destinations, and I was shocked to read how overworked and stressed out and unhappy I sounded. The last few months were particularly difficult, and from the tone of my communications I was clearly just done. I couldn’t become a marginal employee; it’s just not how I’m wired. I tried doing less, giving less and caring less and I didn’t like the person I became. I know that works well for most people, but for me it’s go big or go home, and that’s exactly what I did.
I was secretly hoping that you’d comment on this one, because I know that you are wired similarly to us and would have great insights to share from the other side — so thank you! :-) We’re completely in that “go big or go home” mindset, and while we’re going home soon, we can’t really fathom “going small” in the meantime! That’s just not us, or at least it’s not me (Mr. ONL might have a bit more inner slacker within him — haha). It will be an interesting experiment this next year to dial things back without divesting emotionally from all of it — because we DO still care about our companies, and probably will always care to some extent, because they do good work and are run by good people. Fortunately I don’t think we’re at a level of deep unhappiness — it’s just too much. (Volume problem not an inherent work problem.) So the next year will be interesting!
I would truly have loved to leave the work at work, but I was just never able to do so. Only my eldest son manifests that enviable ability, and he’s an anomaly to the rest of us, but a much more balanced, content working person than I ever was. I made peace with my “all in” personality long ago, but I wouldn’t recommend it! Much better to softly back pedal yourself out the door; it just wasn’t in the cards for me and I’ve come to accept that about myself. I have the benefit after nearly two years in retirement of understanding with clarity that it was, in fact, just a job (as I was repeatedly told by friends and family), but to me it wasn’t what I did, it was who I was. How grateful am I that one of the kids has a healthier attitude toward working for someone else than I ever did? I worked as hard for others as I would have worked for my own company, and while that may have made me an exemplary employee, it certainly short changed the people I love the most – my family, as well as myself. I hope those younger than I am learn to temper their contribution in order to preserve their health and their relationships. It’s simply too high a price to pay to build someone else’s dream.
Hear, hear on it being too high a price to pay! That is something that has hit home for us big time in the last few years: Yes, we are getting paid, but ultimately we’re harming our health and relationship to make money for someone else (and worse, the shareholders — although as shareholders generally, there’s probably some tiny trickle down benefit to our portfolio). Haha. Yeah, we need to keep reminding ourselves that it’s just a job, even if we’ve been lucky to have jobs long term for good companies run by good people (I’m not talking about the people who own my company — that’s a different story!).
I would respectfully that using the “continuum- caring v. not caring” frame is not doing you or your work any favors, and that you should have the goal in your last year about caring about different things. I’m thinking about the “good to great” monogram (I’ve only read the version for non-profits)– the highest role of a leader is to create organizations that are healthy enough to thrive even after the leader leaves. Since you know you’ll be leaving soonish, the more you are able to dial back now, in a way that is supportive and empowering to your colleagues and clients, the better off everyone will be. Billable hours may help the firm’s bottom line, but there are other things that matter!
I have thought about this a lot because I am also thinking about quitting my job in the next year (not due to being FI, just because I need a change), and while it does cause me to care less about gold-stars for myself, it has also caused me I think to be a better supervisor and colleague, because I want to leave everyone in good shape. And that doesn’t mean working more, just different.
Not to mention, setting healthy boundaries is good for your workplace overall for all the reasons people have already mentioned– avoiding burnout, etc. If your colleagues think of you guys as superstar workers but assume that you can do everything because you are young/don’t have kids/are able-bodied, etc etc., that isn’t the greatest, either. All people deserve and need work-life balance.
I think this is fantastic advice, and totally in line with what we’ve been focusing on. We’ve dialed up our mentoring BIG TIME and have been doing as much as possible to empower people who report to us to take on more responsibility and do more interesting projects. Unfortunately that hasn’t resulted in less work for us, at least not yet, but I absolutely agree with thinking this way. Thanks for the great comment!
There’s a big difference between caring with boundaries and caring without boundaries. Your goals for the next year are perfect!
I couldn’t just phone it in either. What’s the point in doing things poorly? Maybe other people do it that way, but my conscience and my concern for others are like yours and I want to do the best I can and not make others suffer because of my negligence or laziness.
I love this way of thinking about it. So maybe we don’t need to care less, but just focus on boundaries more. Because, yeah, we’re also not wired to phone it in!
Yeah, the last 2 years were a slog for me. I didn’t care that much about work, but I still had to go into the office. My health was deteriorating and that’s a huge part of why it was so tough.
I think you guys should reduce your workload a bit too. Hopefully, in 2 months things will be better. For 2017, you should make it a goal to work normal hours. I think that will make the last year more bearable. Good luck! Thanks for the mention. ;)
Thanks for the great reassurance that it’s not just us. That meant a lot. :-D I’m so glad that your health bounced back after you quit — thankfully our health hasn’t suffered *too* much, but I can’t wait to sleep more, stress less and have time to eat healthily on a consistent basis instead of sporadically! We’ll definitely reducing things next year, though it will be a learning process to do so. :-)
This post raised a lot of deep thoughts for me, so thank you for that Ms. ONL. I’m the opposite end of the spectrum, for a long list of reasons. I’d like to care a bit more, but not go to the workaholic end of the spectrum. Both behaviors are unhealthy, but finding balance is a difficult thing.
Being in the last 15 months of your work career, I think it is natural to reduce the amount of caring as you turn your attention to Your Next Life. At the same time, you don’t want to burn any bridges or have any regrets. I think the FIRE path naturally will allow you to not care once you are fully done, but don’t turn it off too soon. It can be very difficult to start caring again once you stop.
I think this is the quote of the day: “It can be very difficult to start caring again once you stop.” SO TRUE. Thanks for that insight — it helps me feel better about caring, though maybe we can still scale it back *a little.* And you’re right, also, that we would be filled with regret if we burned bridges or went out on a bad note. So we’ll follow your advice and not turn it off too soon! :-) <3
Wow, quote of the day! It was a tough road to get to that wisdom–similar to Sarah Schlockett–so I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Very glad if it is helpful to others.
I’m super grateful that you shared that! I am sure it has gotten some folks thinking. :-)
You know what? Good for you. I don’t have to deal with this at work all that often as I’m usually doing my own thing, but this was one of the main frustrations I had in the office. When my projects got stuck without someone else that simply didn’t care, they halted harshly! So you keep on caring!
As usual, you said exactly what I need to hear. :-) I agree — I can’t stand working with people who don’t care (fortunately I rarely have this issue — my company tends to weed those folks out pretty fast), just as I don’t want to be friends with people who don’t care either. I think we need to set better boundaries next year, but thanks for the affirmation on caring generally! :-) xoxo
There’s a fine line between caring and caring too much/becoming a workaholic. Boundaries are good. But not caring is bad. :)
#Truth. New motto: Care a lot, but with boundaries. :-)
It’s no secret that I dislike my job, but it’s hard to say where I fall on that continuum. I seem to move around in the middle of the scale, some days working and caring too hard and other days goofing around, reading blogs. The problem is that our plan depends on my income for the next five years, so I really should care more. A little extra work could earn me a raise or promotion that would accelerate our schedule for semi-retirement :/
I think I’d probably describe caring as “being emotionally invested” — and I DO believe you can do good work without being super invested, though I think it’s harder. You have to figure out what works for you, especially given that you have five years to go (we could definitely not sustain this for 5 years, but it feels less daunting on our shorter timeline). Being less invested makes it easier to unplug and to focus on the work that’s important, but caring more also can turn into more promotions and money. :-)
If I were in your boat I’d still care about work but I wouldn’t stress myself out over every tiny task. I believe the important part is to care enough so you leave on good term with co-workers and employer.
Yeah, that’s definitely how we’re thinking about it, too. We’ve let go of all the political/annoying stuff (well, mostly…), and try hard to focus on what’s actually important. But it’s still just too much. So we’re really going to focus hard on scaling back in our final year!
My level of caring was always pretty high and it had to do with the teams I was on. If we were high performing, getting along, and otherwise functional (vs. dysfunctional); I cared a ton. So much of my effort would translate to progress on our projects and I loved it. I thought about it and cared deeply.
There were times when I DGAF (or gave fewer Fs than average) and most often it had to do with how the team functioned. If we had a bad lead, or we spent more time fumbling around than doing work, my level of caring seemed to fall.
It had nothing to do with how close to leaving I was (in fact, I worked for a few years after I could’ve left — usually because the work was fulfilling in a technical way), it was about the work and team.
FWIW, I liked my job, even when it was stressful; but having some financial freedom also meant that the stress didn’t hit me as acutely as others. That may have mitigated any downsides to working. :)
It’s cool to hear your experience, and I can relate to a lot of that. I’ve been lucky to work with awesome people for a lot of years, both as colleagues and as clients, and that’s undoubtedly boosted my caring level. Of course there are the random outlier projects that I don’t give my all for the same reasons you listed, but those are the exception. I’m still fascinated that you worked longer than you had to — I’m ready with my finger on the trigger the SECOND we hit our number. Hahaha.
I stayed longer because I didn’t 1. calculate a quit/retire point; 2. it was more of a “quit day job to run another business” calculation and I was accumulating assets to weather down periods.
When you do press the button, savor it a little. It’s a weird/wild experience. :)
Makes sense! And yeah, I’m definitely going to savor it — I fully expect it to be among the weirder and more awesome moments of my life. Like when I went skydiving (early date with Mr. ONL — he surprised me with it, which tells you a lot about him!) — I wished that I could have had longer to stare out of the plane before jumping. Instead, the instructor I was strapped to just jumped, and I didn’t get that time to get extra nervous and excited. I won’t make that mistake again. ;-)
I personally don’t put an ‘I care’ value based on how many hours someone works. I very much so believe in putting boundaries up between work time and the rest of ‘my time’. And by the way, i do care about my work. I just don’t live to work. I work 40 hours a week and could probably easily work 45-50. I just feel very comfortable with leaving work with a to do list sitting on my desk. emails that come in after hours can almost always wait until the next day. In my industry i observe lots of people who work a lot who simply don’t have to. They almost choose to increase the stress load and think they need to work more but i usually view this as a lack of efficiency or a lack of prioritization on their part. I often times focus on the what’s going to get me into trouble if i don’t do it stuff and just about everything else is optional. I just recently had someone hand me a report and told me he had stayed up all night working on it. I asked him, “why?”. No one had asked him to do that but he had put an importance factor on the report all by himself. I wonder how often he does that making up reasons to be overly busy and stressed about things that weren’t required.
I can see how surreal that would be to see so many people who work long hours for no good reason other than they think they’re supposed to for some reason. (Or, worse, people who fake that they’re busy all the time.) Sadly, that’s not our situation, and everyone we know who works the long hours really has to. And the diminishing returns thing is still true, but even if we’re totally focused and efficient, it’s still impossible to get it all done in 40 hours. Good for you, though, for calling out that guy who stayed up all night for no reason! It does no one any good to encourage that stuff!
Fantastic post. It’s important to show up and do your best, if for no other reason than to set a good example for your kids and quite simply for personal pride.
That said, with less than 3.5 years to go, I’ve made a commitment to my family that I will use all of my vacation time every year, and limit my hours to 45 a week. Having brought in a couple of monster projects in recent years gave me the “cred” to do this, without impact to bonus or promotions. I always tell my team to work smart and hard, not just hard. You’ve got to have a balance to sustain consistent performance. Makes the rest of the journey to FIRE less ominous, imho.
Thanks! I love how you’re thinking about this — still caring at work and setting a good example, but also creating some limits on work that will make it healthier and more sustainable. High five for committing to that!
I remember a year ago when we paid off our mortgage I had this grand vision that I would no longer have to care about work. But then 6 months later I’d figure out our exit strategy and realized that in order to not need my job, I’d need it more than ever, for exactly 6 more years… :) I know that caring will actually help the time pass easier, but at the same time I want to be very careful about signing up for more stressors at work when I neither need nor want more responsibility or authority than I have. So when I’m at work, I do try to care and take care of the people who depend on me and my work to do theirs. But like others have mentioned, I’m trying to keep my working hours to 45/wk, I no longer work Saturdays or from home after hours, and I’m trying to use my vacation time as much as possible. I take a mental health day every month. And it helps.
For me, too, the challenge is the distinction between caring about the quality of my work, and feeling stressed and personally responsible when things outside of my control don’t go well. I’m trying to let go of a “the more stressed I am, the better an employee I must be” mentality. It’s surprisingly hard to shake, but I think I’m getting there.
It IS an interesting paradox: To not need our jobs forever, we need them even more for a short time! Hahaha. It’s great that you’re making progress on letting go of that need to be busy/stressed about work. We’re HUGE believers in not talking about being busy, and it genuinely works. Same goes for not worrying about the stuff that doesn’t matter. But when the expectation of your job is that you work 50-60 hours per week and you are invested in that job, it’s awfully hard to step away. Good luck finding a new groove for yourself!
The sentiments expressed by a couple of the people you talked to at the conference (paragraph 3) make me feel really sad. No, scratch that, actually they make me feel really annoyed and self-righteous (haha — obviously I’ve got my own issues to work on). The more I think and write about personal finance, the less comfortable I am with the perspective that work is just a way to make money and that we should therefore try to make as much money as we can for the least possible amount of effort. I could go on a much longer rant here, but I’ll contain myself and just say that a world in which some people (not you, but apparently some people) are getting paid large sums of money for “phoning it in” until they retire early while other people are getting paid peanuts for working really, really hard and caring a LOT until the age of 70 and beyond seems like a really, really unfair world.
The question of how many hours one works in a week honestly seems to me like a slightly different question than the question of how much one cares (though I do agree they’re often related). It’s important to take care of ourselves in terms of our sleep, stress, and personal relationships, etc., and this level of self-care may be mutually exclusive with working a billion hours a week, but I don’t *think* it’s necessarily mutually exclusive with caring about your work. Maybe in some jobs it is though.
Anyway, I really appreciate that you do talk a lot in all your posts, including this one, about caring about your work, as well as about your plans to do volunteer work and contribute to society in other ways after you retire. I think this does a lot to combat the “get rich as quickly as possible for as little effort as possible so you can go lie on a beach for the rest of your life” mentality that I feel like I see way too often on the Inter Webs these days.
(Apologies to your blogger friends at the conference, who are probably great people and don’t deserve to have me painting them as the bad guys. This topic just hits a nerve for me, I guess.)
I completely agree — there is nothing fair about our work world at present, and bringing an attitude of entitlement to all of it only makes things worse. I’m definitely going to write a follow-up to this post, because I think that what I really wrote about here is our lack of boundaries, but I didn’t realize it until talking with commenters. And, for what it’s worth, I think the “DGAF crowd” wasn’t talking about spending a whole career in that mindset, but rather just adopting it once you’re close to retiring. Either way, I don’t see us ever NOT caring, but some boundaries would be a very healthy thing. :-)
Senior slide! When I left my job a while back, I ended up giving something like 8 weeks notice, thinking I was being nice and how screwed they would be without me. In reality, once I was on my way out, they didn’t want me on the projects (even though I was the best person to work on it) because they were obviously going to last much longer than me. So I didn’t have much to do and really slacked off those last few weeks!
We wonder about that, too! Our current plan is not to set a hard end date when we give notice, but instead to ask our employers how long they want us to stay on. (I suspect it will be maybe a month for me, six to eight weeks for Mr. ONL because of the nature of his work.) But yeah, I expect to be instantly marginalized, and at that point the senior slide will definitely be in effect!
That’s a good idea. Unless they try to talk you in to staying 6 months…
Good point! Maybe I’ll offer an upper limit of three months, but expect that they won’t take that much. :-)
It’s amazingly hard to turn off the caring part. I took on a part time consulting project recently. It quickly spiraled into 20 hours a week, then 25, then 30. My hubby was “WTF are you doing!?” I said no to a trip …I had never said no to something asked of me before. The world did not end; the project did not crash. I’ve now set the goal of saying no to something every week that I might not have said no to in my workaholic days. Once a week. It’s HARD! But the project is back to 20 hours a week for me…and the project manager is still giving me positive feedback to the quality. You’re a goal setter…set a goal of saying “no”. From a recovering workaholic who cares too much and still needs help setting boundaries!
What a good cautionary tale! I could definitely see us falling into that spiral if we aren’t careful — thanks for sharing! I’m glad you’ve gotten your project back down to 20 hours! And yeah, this post and the comments definitely solidified for me that caring isn’t the problem (caring is good!), it’s the lack of boundaries. So that’s what we’re going to focus on for the next year!
I think this this quote is key: “Our high level of caring seems driven by various anxieties…” None of the things you listed are relevant given your time frame for leaving and the upcoming year end bonuses being your last. You aren’t laying the groundwork for a career anymore. Who cares if you aren’t considered for promotions or raises, if your clients won’t hire you for additional projects, if you are on track for smaller bonuses, etc. ?
WHY WORK EXTRA HARD TO EARN THINGS YOU’RE PLANNING TO GIVE UP ANYWAY? It’s just going to make it harder to leave. There’s no reason to go from 100mph to zero overnight. Start tapping that brake now, if for no other reason than to leave your valued colleagues in less of a lurch when you retire out of the blue.
There’s so much wisdom in your comment — thank you! Writing through all of this and responding to people’s thoughtful comments has really helped me separate a few things: 1. The problem is not caring too much, it’s our lack of boundaries. And 2. What we call “caring” is actually multiple things: true caring, but also fear, anxiety, a sense of responsibility, etc. We’re definitely going to write a follow-up post to this one! But your advice is definitely solid, and we’re thinking hard about what “tapping the brake” looks like for us. :-) Thank you!
I’m exactly where you are this week. I hadn’t felt the level of excitement that I experienced at FinCon in a long time. Unfortunately, I’m not near FI and need to continue slogging along before I let that attitude make it harder for me to cope. I think I behave differently when I have one foot out the door even if it’s in my mind. I tried the IDGAF method of coping with the hours I need to put into my job but it’s not helping. My old boss used to reprimand me when he saw me sending emails at night or on weekends. He also would call me out if I had too many meetings in the day and didn’t give myself enough time to think and plan. Now I realize I had it pretty good. I chose money and a shorter time to FI over a good worklife balance and regret it sometimes.
I do think the post-FinCon comedown magnified all of these feelings this week! I had my worst work day in ages yesterday, but I’m slightly better today. :-) Having spent a few more days reflecting on this, and reading people’s thoughtful comments, I’m convinced that the lack of boundaries is our problem (and we used to have them!), not the fact that we care. So we’re going to focus on the former and stop worrying about the latter. We’ll always care, it’s just who we are. :-) But it does sound like you had a pretty sweet set-up before! I get it, though — getting to FIRE faster has to require some sacrifices, right? You can’t just get the reward of decades of freedom for free. :-) (I know that doesn’t actually help, but sometimes when I am having a pity party, it helps to remind myself of that.)
Work/life balance and phased retirement from a FIRE perspective! I struggle a bit with the same challenge. Most of us FIRE folks know how to “optimize” the system (hey, we figured out the personal finance game after all) which means we coast at the end if we wanted. But if this makes you feel worse, then it’s not such a great option. One idea is to think ahead into FI and image looking back onto your last year. Which path will you regret the least? Figure that out and follow that path. Your current feelings with fade quickly but the longer term memory of your choices will remain. I personally think you’re following the perfect path…..reduce your hours (so you aren’t bitter about your job) but stay engaged (so you don’t feel like you let yourself or others down). You’ll be going out on a positive glide path.
That is totally how we’re thinking about it. We feel 100% certain that we would feel icky forever if we stopped caring in our final year. That’s just not us. And yeah, boundaries would be a good thing!
This has been an interesting post. I am struggling with the same things myself. Like you I work in a client-focused business. I care a lot about my clients (well, most of them) and work hard to bring them good value and excellent results. On the other hand, my colleagues are incredibly toxic. I am being actively screwed over and out of a share of the business. It’s a long story but it’s basically a common story of underlings and loyal lieutenants, having been promised a lot, are not in fact going to be handed any keys to any kingdom. The top dogs will continue to make a lot of money and the rest of us are here to make them profits. I personally am infuriated at the way my long term loyalty has been rewarded. Anyways, what that leaves me with is that businesses are profitable for a reason and they will always work to put you on the other side of the profit equation e.g., you are making profits for THEM and never, ever the other way around. Anyways, the connection to your post is that I’m guessing that someone(s) are actively using you to pad their own profits and taking advantage of your work-ethic and “caring” to do so. Such is the way of American business, after all. It’s pretty hard (for me) to be earnestly dedicated to helping my boss buy his wife’s next Land Rover, furnish their second home, and pay for their cruises. It just makes me feel icky to be used in this fashion! So no, I don’t care, and in fact, I’d really, really like to put a stop to being used in this way. Luckily, I am no more than 6 months out from being gone from here and on my merry way to my next career. It’s hard keeping a decent attitude. Depends on the day whether I’m simply resigned or incandescently furious. lol
Ugh! I’m sorry that you’re in that situation! That sounds terrible to feel abused in the name of someone else’s high profits. We know that we’re super lucky to work for companies run by genuinely decent human beings. And while we’re under no illusion about how the profits work, and who mostly benefits, we’ve also been taken care of over the years and feel that it’s been a fair trade. But we know that not everyone is so lucky! Another thing for us to be thankful for. And sending you good vibes to get through your last six months! Hope your next gig feels less icky!
While I’m not 15 months away, congrats by the way, I have found myself taking more time to develop the employees that work for me. This has allowed me to provide increasing work duties to them so that they are properly developed. In turn, I find myself caring more about the people and less about the work. So in many ways I’m more on the F side of your scale when it comes to work I’m on the caring too much side on people.
I love that you’re doing that! Mentoring is so important, and it will give you a wonderful legacy of people even after you leave work. And you’re right — caring can take many forms. We definitely care most about the people we work with and on behalf of (clients), and care less about the dumb stuff like office politics.
I love your continuum–especially the giving 0 F’s part. One struggle I have with teaching is caring about my students. I sometimes lose myself a little bit as I’m trying to fulfill their needs. So I think my continuum might have one side being “caring about others too much” and the other “caring for myself too much” or really “being a heathen and only thinking of myself.” I’ve been swinging between the two trying to find a balance, and I’m getting closer!
This past semester, I could just about pinpoint when I started to care about my students. I think it was the second week of the semester. I started thinking more about classes while outside of work and I was like “Damn. I’ve started to care already!” I truly believe this is how I’m built; if I’m doing work with people, I”m going to care, and ultimately that’s what I want anyway–even if I have to grieve the loss of when my students move on.
I can’t imagine being a teacher and NOT caring. I think it’s an important part of doing your job well! And there’s no shame in caring a lot, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your self-care and sanity. ;-)
It is great to read that you acknowledge the “problem” you have of caring too much. And even better to read that you have a plan in place to deal with it. All the best. I do hope you find it easy to stick to the 50 hours week and do not fall in the trap to say “yes” to another last minute thing they ask you. That will happen. There is always work to be done. You can work 80 hours and still finds to do.
Over time, I have learned to delegate a part of the work, and to put a strict stop. Does that mean I do not care? NO, I do care. I care about my well being, my life, my wife and kids and the success of the company. When at home all is fine, I can give 100pct and even more at work. And vice versa. There are just boundaries. When these are crossed, compensation (not necessary money) is needed. I have worked while on vacation, I drove once for a day from vacation to work – I even did it 3 times last 2 summers, I did a con call in the hospital 3 days after the birth of your first. And that was crossing a boundary. This means, that sometimes, I cross the boundary in the other sense as well…
A challenge… post your weekly succes to see if you stay within the boundaries…! ;-)
You’re so right that it’s all about boundaries — and last week I only worked 48 hours! So that’s some early success! How about if I report on it on Twitter instead of here? ;-) We don’t have kids so didn’t have the conference call right after having a baby, but we’ve otherwise been there… working on vacation, calls early in the morning and late at night, you name it. But so far, so good on creating a new approach in our last year!
Congrats on the 48h week. Twitter works as well I guess.. !
Thanks! I will keep reporting on how it’s going… plus I’m going to do a follow-up to this caring post that’s more about boundaries. :-)
First off, I LOVE your blog! I’ve wanted to comment many times and just never have.
I made the transition to semi-retirement from a highly stressful, very demanding job 10 years ago at the age of 36. I had been essentially working at the same company for 15+ years (started in college) so I completely understand about how caring transforms from being mostly about personal achievement to also being about caring for the success of the company and colleagues. I knew for about 6 months before leaving that my chosen end date was in sight. The pace of the work kept me fully engaged up to the point where I found it hard to mentally disengage and finally forced myself to give my 2 month’s notice. Would not necessarily recommend such a long notice but that’s another topic.
With regards as to care or not to care, I think that is more a reflection of who we are — we either fully engage or we don’t, either we seek outside approval or we don’t. Achieving “balanced caring” is very elusive. So, I would say be who you are and care but start caring in a different way. For me, I did that by talking with my peers and subordinates about “choice opportunities” that I no longer could or wanted to commit to due to my pending departure. I believe that in most jobs there is an opportunity to shine, be recognized and promoted when given the right opportunity — especially when one has the proper angle on how to pitch it & communicate its benefits to the higher ups. I spent my final months setting up people I respected and/or mentored for future success. It was a win-win. I won because I got to care with a degree of separation and they won because they got insight and opportunity. Since I have stayed in touch with several of my past co-workers I have been pleased to see them get recognized for their hard work and commitment. Some even hold higher positions than mine was when I left. :)
Thanks so much! It’s so wonderful to hear from you. :-) Totally made my day!
Your situation sounds SO parallel to ours, but you’re just a decade farther along and have more perspective, which is so helpful to hear. We’ve been pretty focused on mentoring for a while now, but really do need to make this shift to handing the opportunities over to others in a bigger way. Such great advice for a lot of reasons — and how wonderful that you’ve kept in touch and found that your approach paid off for folks! What a wonderful legacy to leave behind. Part of me wishes I could give notice now and make it clear that that’s why I’m doing (*not* grabbing opportunities is very much anathema to our company culture) and why, but that’s not possible. C’est la vie! ;-)
I finally read through all the wonderfully thoughtful and insightful comments (there were a lot!) and saw that you have already been actively mentoring which is awesome. I also saw you’ve invited the challenge to create boundaries which is doubly awesome. But, for someone who tends to “over care” this can be hard since it essentially means saying, “no”. A few commenters hinted at this by suggesting experimenting saying “no” which I think is great advise. I think you will find, similarly to Fervent Finance, that it will not hurt your career one bit. Saying “no” is an incredibly important life skill that should be embraced by all — done unapologetically and with respect by someone operating at 110% results in the creation of a bad-ass.
Finally, with regards to you working in a culture that expects people to grab opportunities, when your departure time gets closer you might think of spending some (cough) extra time developing road maps on how you foresee your in-progress projects unfolding (i.e. what hurdles may arise, tactics for resolution, critical path items to be watchful of, particular skill sets of colleagues/clients, etc) and/or creating/optimizing standard operating procedures to help guide junior staff. You may also consider allowing colleagues to call you for input/insight after you leave. I did these things and it helped me have a clean mental slate when I left. And, believe it or not, I enjoyed the few phone calls I got from past co-workers in which we brain stormed together. The calls completely petered out after a few months which is what I expected.
You happened to pick an especially long comment chain to read. ;-) You definitely get points for that! I think, given our timeline for leaving, I’d really like (speaking only for myself) to focus not so much on saying no, but on becoming a channeler of opportunities. So if I bring something in, I’ll build up a great team that’s more senior than I might have in the past, and delegate more of the work. Maybe it even means sharing the credit/revenue — that’s a trade-off I couldn’t accept if I was in this long-term, but it’s fine by me now. Or maybe on other things I help win them but then hand them over entirely. So it’s more of a “yes, and…” than a no, but the result is the same. That’s the plan for now, anyway. ;-) I love the idea of optimizing some of the SOPs, but that would be harder to pull off without giving LONG notice, and we’re still unsure about how to handle that. You’ve given us lots of good thoughts to consider, though, which is so helpful. Thank you!
I worry about over-caring with my business. The work I do there is not highly remunerative, but it is highly satisfying and I want to make people’s lives better. However, I also want balance in my life. I am trying to start with good boundaries, which will hopefully become a habit. I can’t fix all of their problems and I can’t be their Emergency Fixer since that is not what they are paying me for. It is wonderful that they trust my judgment, but I also need time to have dinner with my girlfriend without responding to emails.
Satisfaction counts for a lot! I think it’s completely legit to focus on that as much as the money part — that’s how my side hustle was for years. Good luck on your quest for more balance — we completely understand that challenge!
Thank you. I really needed to hear this. My wife and I are down to 101 days before leaving my corporate job and going FIRE. I have been really struggling with keeping focused and positive. Thank you for this excellent article. If you are interested in our story please reach out. Take care, Mike and Alyssa
So glad to hear that, Mike! We understand the grind at the end, but don’t check out. You’ll be so glad you went out on a positive note, still contributing until the end!