I felt like taking a break from the FI Fundamentals series to talk about the retirement side of FIRE.
This past week I played in the orchestra for a local community theater production of the musical Annie. I had a great time and met a bunch of awesome, like-minded (amateur) musicians. It was nice to be outside in the summer evenings and play trumpet, something that I have loved doing for the past 14 years.
It was, however, kind of exhausting. The rehearsal schedule itself wasn’t too demanding, but with working full time, it made for 15 hour days and getting home at 11:00 pm each night.
Now that it’s over, I feel like I can think clearer. I now have the energy to resume things like biking to work. I’m more willing to sit down and write for my fledgling blog, which given its newness, probably needs more attention than I’ve recently allotted for it.
Music and playing trumpet is one of the things that I use to define who I am. I genuinely enjoy playing in groups like this, so why do I feel like such a weight has lifted?
Most of my best thinking occurs while I’m in the shower, and I know I’m not alone in this. There is science to back me up.
Two researchers from the University of Central Lancashire performed a study to evaluate the effect of boredom on creativity. It involved two groups of people: one group was tasked with coming up with different uses for two Styrofoam cups, and one group was tasked with first copying down numbers from a telephone book, and then doing the Styrofoam cup task.
According to the researchers, the group that performed the boring task first (copying telephone numbers) was more creative with the creative task (creating different uses for the cups) compared to those who started with the creative task first.
It’s actually good to be bored sometimes. Because you don’t have a specific thoughtful task to accomplish, your mind can wander, allowing your subconscious to think in the background.
I think like this is why I feel like I have more free time. While I actually do have more free time, nothing was holding me back from blog writing in the mornings before work.
Since my mind is now less occupied by the thought of being constrained in the evenings, I can now plan on filling my time with other things.
I don’t see my life slowing down when I retire early. It might even get busier. There is so much that I would rather be doing with my free time than sitting in a cubicle all day that I actually fear doing too much and getting burned out.
How does rest fit into early retirement?
This seems like a really odd question. It’s as if I’m asking how to take a break from something that is already considered a break.
Like retirement, rest is often construed as laziness. Our culture overvalues the importance of employment, as if that is the best way to contribute to society, and doing anything else is selfish. A 22 year old fresh out of college who hasn’t found a job and feels like traveling for a year? Lazy. An accountant who doesn’t immediately find a job after being laid off? Lazy.
Even the FIRE community is guilty of this, to a certain degree. Many bloggers hate the idea of idleness and warn against filling your time with unproductive activities. Obviously there is truth in this, and this message is more about moderation than complete abstinence However, I still get the feeling that some FIRE’ers pride themselves with completely eradicating unproductive indulgences from their lives.
There is one instance when society thinks kindly of laziness: traditional retirement. They’ve paid their dues, so now it’s okay for them to lay around on a beach in Florida.
Early retirement isn’t like “normal” retirement. Most people who have the drive to save and invest to limit their career to 10 years aren’t going to want to spend their days playing shuffle board. Early retirement is still filled with activities and aspirations. The only difference between your career and early retirement is that you get to choose what you focus on, and because of that, you are more passionate about it and you enjoy it more. But, even when doing things you love and enjoy, you still need rest.
I plan to approach my activities in early retirement the same way I approach my work right now: by planning out my time and prioritizing.
I think the best way prevent burnout is to create a schedule and stick with it, which also prevents procrastination.
By creating a list of things to do, I can focus on one thing at a time, check it off, and move on to the next activity. I feel a sense of accomplishment, which keeps me focused.
Breaks should be included in your activities. This helps keep you on track, and gives your mind a rest to re-energize and stay focused on the activities that you consider important. I find this encourages productive work time.
Early retirement won’t be the end of working – just the end of going to work. It’s important to create healthy habits now and continue those habits into retirement to keep a sense of purpose.