Detox. Now there is word with a lot of different meanings. For a drug addict it means a lot of pain to give up their drug of choice. For the health nut it means cleaning out the toxins from your body. Then for the early retiree, detox means getting all those side effects related to your job out of your system.
If you read enough blogs and forums on early retirement the detox phase is typically the three to twelve months after you initially leave work where you adjust to your new life of freedom from your old work life. The theory is your work life has usually left in with an excess amount of built up stress in your life and you need to learn how to relax again so you can find out who you really are before turning to building a new life without work.
In my case, I’m a bit different since I’ve been reducing my stress at work for years already with staying out of upper management jobs and keeping very clear boundaries between my work and home lives. I already spend most of my weekend not even thinking about work so I would say I have a health distance to it. Also I’ve been asking myself the question: who am I, for years now. So I’m fairly familiar with myself. I know what I like, what I don’t like and what I just don’t care about. So in short I don’t expect a very long detox period for myself. In fact, I’m only planning on giving myself around three months or so as my detox period.
Yes, I know that is short, but like I mentioned I don’t expect I will have as much as an adjustment as some others. Yet to be fair I’ve developed some rough ‘rules’ to help guide me to my new found freedom.
- No Long Term Commitments – This might be obvious but let’s state it for the record. I will not get a fun job or commit to a multiple year term as a volunteer for my detox period. This does not prevent me from doing fun things, but I should avoid adding to my life until I work out my post work looks like.
- Leave the House Once a Week – This might seem odd until you realize I could very easily become a hermit and never leave my house for weeks on end. Give me a stack of books, Netflix and a pile of computer games and I might not go anywhere for a month. So to avoid that fate and to give my wife some time of her own I plan to do something outside the house at least once a week. It may be just writing in a coffee shop for a few hours or seeing a movie by myself, but the point is to see the world outside my house.
- I Don’t Have to Be Productive – This one is going to be a bit hard for me to adjust. I’m a ‘to do list’ type person so learning not to be productive every second of every day is going to be difficult. For example, I can manage about three hours on a beach before I feel the need to do something else. So to meet in the middle on this I’m going to do something every day, but that something could be a quick a five minute task like paying my Visa bill. That way my mind thinks I’ve been productive if it is was only in a tiny way. The point is to learn how to take a day or two off and realize the world won’t end if I am relaxing for a while.
Then I have one last item on my list. After my initial detox period I plan to review how things are going. How do I feel about my new life? What do I want to do more of? What do I want to do less of? And of course, I will give myself permission to extend the detox period if I want. The point is to get used to my new found life of freedom until I feel like I want to go explore the world again and get involved in new things.
So follow early retirees, how long was your detox period? Did you have any ‘rules’ for that period? What did you enjoy most about your detox? And for everyone else, any other suggestions or insights into the detox period that you have read about and want to share?
It may come off as bit self serving but I’ve been somewhat avoiding my own blog lately. Why? Because honestly I’m trying not to think too much about how close I am getting to the end of my early retirement goal.
You see my current tactic is to keep busy so that the time flies by and before I realize it another month has past and I’m even closer to the end. Oddly, this tactic seems to be working for me. I’m keeping myself occupied at work, my chores list at home is longer than I would like and don’t even get me started on how long my Netflix queue is right now.
The other reason I’m being cautious here is frankly I can be a wee bit obsessive about early retirement (as if you can’t tell by over 10 years of blog posts). So when I do start thinking about early retirement in depth I can can so consumed that I almost cease to think about much of anything else for hours. This of course then get me dreaming of my post work life and then I get a surge of disgust of having to go back to work then next day which then leads me to being distracted at work. After all, it is hard to do good work when your motivation died and is buried out back.
On the pure math target I’m about 99% of the way there so it really isn’t particularly healthy to start counting down by 0.1% segments. I suppose I could but it seem sort of silly. Also I’ve also figured out that I’m not that good at countdowns. I actually find them more demotivating than motivating for myself.
What I am working on is trying to guess on some of the emotional impacts I may feel going through this process of leaving work later this year and prepare for them. Yet with that I’ve come to the conclusion isn’t that useful since I don’t know what I don’t know. I think that this level of change is really beyond the average person’s ability to predict your reaction to, so the only way to really know how it feels like to early retire is to in fact do it. Hence I’ve been spinning my wheels on some draft posts.
So that is lead me overall to avoiding this blog and of course that means less posts recently. Yes, it does suck for you dear reader, but on the upside I am building up a nice list of items to talk about in future posts. You you have a bit of drought now but you likely will have a bit of a flood later on this year.
So how do you deal with being close to the end of a big goal? Any other tactics that work for you?
Habits are an interesting beast. On the one hand, they can be incredibly helpful to allow you to automate things that you know you should do but just never seem to get around to otherwise. For example, I’m a big fan of setting up automatic savings from bank account into your investment accounts. That way, you know you are saving what you should each month.
Habits also have a dark side, which often seems to get discussed using the phrase: falling into a rut. We talk about people that stop trying to climb the corporate ladder and stay in the same job for ten years as being in a rut. Or sometimes when someone always does the same thing every weeknight (eg: watch TV) or eats the same meals all the time (eg: Sunday roast chicken) we say they are in a rut.
Yet are ruts always bad? Not entirely. I do think that some change in our lives is a good thing but I can understand the desire to not rock the boat as well. It just depends on the context. For example, if you are working on getting a small business off the ground you might very well appreciate being in a bit of a rut at your day job. After all, knowing what is expected of you each day can be rather nice when in the evenings and weekends you are constantly pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
I personally think the real issue is when that is all of your life is nothing but a set of ruts. When you get up at the same time, do all the same things in a day and never go outside of your ruts, then you have a problem. Why? Because you can never learn anything new when you are in a rut and for me that would be an incredibly boring life.
I like trying new things even if I fail at them. I might try a new recipe that a friend gave me and have it turn out bad. But often I at least learn something from it (even if it is not to try that again in the future 😉 ). Or I might try to watch or read something different from my usual fare and once in a while I discover something wonderful. But most of all, I like to keep exploring the world even if it is just my own backyard because it keeps me from mistakenly thinking that I know everything.
For example, when you comes to personal finance I know a fair bit after ten years of blogging, but I still skim new blogs just to see what their point of view is. Often I don’t come back, but a few times I come across someone who challenges my point of view and makes me reconsider my assumptions. I won’t always agree with them but I do enjoy at least questioning if I should leave my rut on something.
Do you think ruts are a good thing at times? Or do you try to avoid them?