Make Sure Time Is On Your Side

Calendars

Someone recently asked me if so don’t like my job.  Their line of questioning seemed to be based on the idea that you’d only quit your job and retire early if it was BAD – instead of the idea that not working would be better.  

For me, my planning to retire early is secondary to my hapless at work.  Truthfully, my job is very interesting and varied. It’s not the most senior role I have had in my career, but it comes with a lot of responsibility, recognition, and flexibility in terms of what I do. 

If you have your retirement nest egg well funded, the ultimate decision to work or not work comes down to how interesting your work is in terms of the time it takes from whatever else you are doing.  The opportunity cost.  

Being a bit analytical, a few months ago, I went over my office calendar from before Christmas, and marked each day (over 45+ days) into three buckets: 1) days that were fun / work I would miss; 2) days that were “busy work” – not bad, but boring; and, 3) bad days.  Days I wished I didn’t have to go to work.  

Here was the distribution: 

  •   4 – Fun Days (9%)
  • 34 – Busy Work (74%)
  •   8 – Bad Days (17%)

As you can see, most of my days at work (74%) were pretty boring.  These days were marked by the bread & butter of corporate life: staff meetings, budget meetings, and planning meetings.  In my view, these meetings were purely a trade of my time for MegaCorp’s money.  They are the basic building blocks of corporate life and have added very little value to my overall life.  I’m sure there were some fun moments on these days – good conversations or sneaking out for lunch – but most of the time was spent in unmemorable meetings. 

Four of the days were genuinely fun. The thread between these days was that they involved working with newer employees, getting them excited about their opportunities at MegaCorp, and allowed me to feel I was making a difference.  One of the days, we had the stadium suite at a NHL game booked for a recruiting event.  I loved that – corporate luxury at its best (although I spent more time talking to job candidates than cheering on the local team). 

The Bad Days – all eight of them involved intense discussion & political positioning resources for our 2016 plans/budgets.  This can be fun when done for the right purpose, but MegaCorp has been spending a lot of time trying to cut costs, streamline operations, and laid off 1,500 employees in 2015.  Nothing I am going to be proud of in my old age.  I don’t feel like my pay came close to being a good trade for my time on those days.  

This little analysis was insightful in terms how much time I spend doing busy work for MegaCorp.  Even with a fancy title and big team to manage, most of my time is pretty boring.  I think these 45+ are pretty representative of most weeks at work over the last couple years. 

Do I hate my job?  No, not at all.  That’s not why I have announced my early retirement.  Instead, I like to say that it is a great big interesting world, and I am excited to have more of my time to immerse myself in it. To have the time to travel, read, learn & experience it all.  I like to think that by retiring early, I am appropriately valuing my time – and I feel it is worth more than what MegaCorp think it is worth to me.

What’s your count of days over the last month?

12 thoughts on “Make Sure Time Is On Your Side

  1. My count is ugly – very, very ugly. There have been about 2 days that I would qualify as ‘fun’ in the last several months. Most are incredibly boring and unfulfilling – probably why I am so anxious for a change… but the paycheck is too good! So, I just keep on saving…

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    • Save time or save money? – ultimately that is the choice. I’ve saved enough money that I’m happy to save my time now. Two days out of several months is definitely ugly!

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  2. I Love, love, love the data analysis of this. Charting out days to see if you’re actually having good ones would be a useful exercise in any situation. I just may start tracking!

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  3. I love this simple and insightful framework for assessing your time. I completely relate to your mix: some great days that are genuinely fun and meaningful, some rough ones that leave you feeling demoralized. Interestingly, it’s not the bad days that made me eager for FI. Almost no activity comes without unenjoyable components, so I’ve tried to accept those. My desire to pursue FI(RE) was all about the huge portion of busy + boring days. Nothing miserable or intolerable, just uninteresting and unremarkable. For me, the idea of spending more years living like that was reason enough to seek alternatives.

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    • Agree – it’s the boring days that take their toll. Partly because they are so common. I also wonder how many good days does it take to offset one of the bad days? It probably depends on your attitude, but it’s not a 1:1 relationship, that’s for sure!

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  4. Love the analysis…but I’m a data geek. I can tell you however, that in retirement you still have some of the “boring” stuff to do… clean the house, pay the bills, do the laundry. And yes, sometimes there are even the boring meetings – with part time/consulting work (you said you’re on the board somewhere). What’s cool is you get to choose when to do it. You control your calendar as opposed to it being controlled by someone else. (Yeah, you really didn’t control your work calendar – you had to go to those budget meetings.) So control and choice in retirement. Would I classify every day as a “fun day”…not sure. But I DO find JOY in every day… in the small things like time to have a leisurely cup of coffee and read blogs. And I cannot remember when there was a bad day!!

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    • Well put. I spend plenty of time on household chores now, so that won’t be different. I just getting back from a Board meeting today in Michigan. These are quarterly, so they are interesting to see what challenges and opportunities arise over the course of three months. The board gets along well, so it is usually a fun meeting.

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