Hiya! Quick note that there’s just one post each week this month, as we process all of the craziness of our end to work. Back at ya with more next week!
Mark did something incredible just minutes ago: He got to inbox zero in his work email.
I think I might have achieved this once, at least 12 years ago. But it was fleeting and never to happen again. Even as my emails slow to a trickle, and with that the realization that our careers as we know them are really and truly ending, I still know that inbox zero is not happening for me before we wrap things up in a few weeks. Because I decided years ago that that was not important to me. I respond to the notes that need responding (sometimes verrrrrrrry slowly when it’s not for work, because toomanythings), but then I don’t stress about whether I’ve properly filed or deleted all the remaining notes.
That’s a boundary I set for myself long ago, that I wouldn’t spend time on things that didn’t ultimately affect my productivity or the productivity of my teams, and I’d almost call it a survival skill more than a boundary. When I’m getting up at 3:30 AM to catch a 5:30 AM flight, rushing to a 9 AM meeting, presenting for an hour or two, grabbing client lunch, meeting another client, getting back on a plane and flying home late at night, I’ve got to focus on the parts of my work that actually benefit my clients — and that let me get at least a little bit of sleep. The nonessential emails that come in while I’m on those flights or in those meetings? I could spend hours deleting them, or I could just let them be. The latter takes less time, so I chose that.
Now, on the verge of our next life, we’re contemplating a new set of boundaries. New opportunities are starting to arise, and many of them are so tempting — less because of the money and more because they sound interesting or fun!
And everything we’re facing now is NEW and EXCITING and DIFFERENT — it’s the thrill of the new all the way. It’s easy to want to say yes to everything. But with that comes peril. We didn’t save for all these years to replace one career with another, after all. We want to retire, really and truly. For work-like projects to be the punctuation, not the content. And that means not only setting new boundaries, but sticking to them.
Psst. The DC meetup is this weekend! Come hang out with us Saturday, December 9, at 2 pm at Fado Irish Pub in Chinatown!
The last few years have been an interesting study in contrasts. Our original early retirement vision was that we’d never work at all, because that was the opposite of the stressful work life we were living when we first developed our plan. Slowly, we realized that was silly, and that there was some work we actually want to do in retirement.
And the life we envisioned for ourselves in the next phase was what we deemed our “Life of Yes,” in which we could say yes to all the things we want to do, instead of being tied up by work or work travel, or just too tired from them to do the things we wanted. And to achieve that, we called this year the Year of No, in which we’d create boundaries at work so that we could get through this year without being unduly stressed when we got to the finish line.
It’s a lot of no, yes, yes, no.
The Peril of Too Much Yes
Now that early retirement is this close to being a reality, we’re looking at actual opportunities instead of just imaginary ones, and to be totally real, things sound fun. I know it only sounds fun in a “kid who asked Santa for homework” kind of way, but what are you gonna do.
The point is that it’s not hard to envision all of the new things that pop up taking up a big chunk of time, like almost the equivalent of full-time work if we let it, especially on top of existing blog and podcast and new podcast projects.
And that’s most certainly not what we want. But we also want to be able to start saying yes more, especially when the opportunities excite or intrigue us.
We’re realizing, though, that life will likely always have to be an exercise in balancing both yes and no.
Defining New Boundaries
We know that some of this will be trial and error, but we’re thinking about new boundaries on a few different levels, through these questions:
Are there big chunks of time when we want no work, like early winter, when we’re catching up on sleep and adjusting to our new arrangement?
How much are we willing to work in an average week?
How much total are we willing to work in a year?
How much money would need to be involved, and what other terms might be attached, like how we’d need to be able to travel?
What type of deal would be big enough to convince us to bend the rules?
We don’t have rock solid answers to all of these questions, but we have a good start. We know we want a few months off at first. We know we want work to be a small part of our weeks when we do it, and that we don’t want to say yes to anything that requires us to set an alarm or be on email every day. We know we want other months completely off, too. We know that if we do have to travel, we are going to be more particular about when and how (and maybe sometimes what class of travel). And we have a sense of how much it would take to bend the rules. (Hint: It would have to be enough to materially change our standard of living for a year or two.)
Sticking to Those Boundaries
So of course now the trick is sticking to these boundaries, which we historically have not been perfect at. We’ll definitely take tips if you have ’em, but we’re starting from a place of reminding ourselves how hard we’ve worked to earn the free time that’s almost here, and how we wouldn’t have done that if we’d known it was just to trade one type of work for another.
Share Your Thoughts!
Who’s got stories or tips to share on boundaries, or the perils of saying yes too much? It’s been interesting to observe how many different things I find myself wanting to say yes to, which risks filling up so much of my new free time, and while that’s totally in character, it’s also unexpected. I’d love to hear from others who have similar impulses or have had similar experiences. And for those who’ve set boundaries and stuck to them, what’s your secret? Let’s chat about all of it in the comments!
Categories: we've learned