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How To Retire the Day After Tomorrow

How To Retire the Day After Tomorrow

Retirement

Fed up with work? Not enough time for the things you want to do? Here’s the answer: decide to retire! You don’t have to be 62 ½ years old, and you don’t have to be rich.

In fact, you can usually make plans to retire in about 36 hours. That’s the average time it takes to pack up your office, check on health insurance options, say goodbye to friends, and so on. What are you waiting for?

Let’s Not Do Anything Drastic

There are two kinds of retirement: full retirement, where you really do quit your job and walk away, and partial retirement, where you just quit doing the things you don’t want to do. The second option is easier, but if you really hate your workday, don’t discard the idea of walking out completely.

(Of course, it may take more than 36 hours to do this… but really, don’t wait too long. Life is short.)

Instead of leaving everything behind, you may choose to retire from part of your work. Is anything causing you unnecessary stress? Do you spend more than 20% of your workday doing things you don’t like to do? If so, those are the things you need to retire from.

Most of us will opt for partial retirement, and that’s because most of us are not working at jobs we completely hate.We just don’t like certain parts of them, and those tasks are what we need to retire from.

One of my professors told me last year that he only teaches one class a year, and never to undergraduates. (The undergraduate classes at the University of Washington are pretty large, with an average of 300 students in each one, while a graduate class has less than 30 students.) He said that he had a disagreement with the student union a few years back and decided to stop teaching.

“You just told them you wouldn’t do it anymore?” I asked him.

“Pretty much,” he said. Apparently there was some negotiation later on, which always takes a while in academia, but he never did teach another undergrad class.

The pay scale for full professors at the top ten public universities in the U.S. brings up an average salary of $108,921 at the University of Washington. How would you like to teach one class a year for $108,921?

Write Your Own Job Description

If you want to retire from the things you don’t like, you need to do some thinking. First, think about what you do like.

What are you really good at? What do you like to do? Take those things and write your own job description, complete with an executive summary, specific responsibilities, and specific outcomes that you will influence.

Your existing job description probably doesn’t mean much, so instead compare your self-written job description with the kinds of things you are actually doing from day to day. If there is little congruence between the two, you’ll likely identify what’s keeping you unsatisfied.

Write Your To-Stop-Doing List

Next, you need to find out what you’re tired of doing and what gets in the way of doing what you want. The best way to identify these obstacles is to make a “to-stop-doing list.” This is better than a to-do list, because it helps you see what’s bringing you down. Your to-stop-doing list is exactly what it sounds like: a list of things you simply don’t want to do anymore.

Think about the tasks that drain your energy without contributing to anything worthwhile. There will always be tasks that drain your energy for outcomes you believe in–it takes a lot of energy to be a social worker, for example–but focus the to-stop-doing list on tasks that bring you down without helping anyone else.

Other Questions To Ask Yourself

  • Do I need retirement, or just a break?
  • Do I need a different job, or different circumstances?
  • Would it help if I could set my own hours?
  • What do I really enjoy doing at work?
  • What do I really hate doing at work?

The answers to these questions will help with your self-written job description and your to-stop-doing list.

The Next Plan of Action

Once you have a good understanding of what you need to be partially retired, the next step is to create a plan of action to put it into place. This is usually composed of several different steps. In the case of partial retirement, you may need to do one, several, or all of the following:

1. Turn in your notice. This is the notice you give that you simply won’t be doing something anymore. It works surprisingly well, perhaps because it’s so underused.

2. Negotiate your retirement. Alas, you can’t always give notice that you’re done with something– although you may be able to do it more often than not. Other times you’ll need to negotiate the parameters of retiring from a specific task or project. But just because you have to negotiate doesn’t mean you have to give in. Instead, work to find a win-win situation that makes both you and the other party look good.

3. Remove the obstacles. When you think about the to-stop-doing list, try to figure out what obstacles you can remove so that you can actually stop doing something. For example, does your voicemail message promise callers that you’ll always call them back? If so, do you always do that?

If you don’t like the pressure of an automatic commitment to return each call, consider leaving a message simply saying you’re not available. You’ll then be under no obligation to return a call you don’t want to.

4. Raise your prices. You can do this literally or figuratively. Raising prices in business is often a good strategy for when you start to get overwhelmed. If you raise prices and people keep paying, great. If a few customers leave, it will allow you to focus on higher-paying ones.

Even if you’re not in business, you can figuratively raise your prices. Ask for a raise, or ask for some other increased benefit for the work that stresses you. However, take care to avoid the appearance of being manipulative. That’s a totally different attitude that no one appreciates.

5. Deal with conflict once to avoid dealing with it repeatedly. Have the hard conversation you need to have so you won’t keep having so many awkward ones. If there is any conflict in your life that causes you stress, it should certainly go on the to-stop-doing list, and the way you get rid of it is usually by doing something simple but hard. Most of the time, it’s worth it.

These are a few of the most common action items for your 36-hour retirement plan. You’ll probably have some of your own, so just use the above list to get started.

Following at least a couple of these action items can work wonders for your creativity and overall well-being. If you get rid of all of the things on your to-stop-doing list, congratulations– you’re partially retired. And the work you spend the most time on, presumably, will be the work you want to do.

***

If your work isn’t what you’d like it to be, you have a few options. You can keep slaving away at something you hate, try to change the system somehow, or make plans to retire. That’s it.

Inertia is a powerful force, and if you decide to do nothing, you’ll probably keep doing the same work you’re unhappy with. Are you okay with that?

On the other hand, you can plan to retire or plan to make some changes. The changes may not be easy, but in the long-run… you know how the rest of the story goes. Are you going along with it?

###

Did you enjoy this article? Please pass it on to others at your favorite social networking site, or share your own thoughts in the comments below.

Image by Eperales

21 Comments

  • Saravanan says:

    Hey dude,

    Great post. I was wondering about my retirement. I am just 24 and I have 3 years of experience. I am already bored of kind of work that I do. I wanted to know how should I go about it or do what? Your article does throw some light for my troubled mind. I loved the “To-Stop-Doing List” – I had never thought of such a thing.

    Thanks for such a nice post.

    Saravanan.

  • Ginger M says:

    Great article, Chris.

    I was having a very difficult time working for a company a few years ago. I have my own “job description list” which I wrote about 10 years ago so I knew I didn’t want to retire from my work (because I love my job), I just wanna retire from my workplace.

    I figured one way to do that is to set up my own business, however I only took action after suffering a major nervous breakdown. It took me nearly a year to get my confidence and health back on track.

    Working for myself hasn’t been all smooth-sailing either. There will always be extremely difficult clients, the worst being those who disrespect and demean the value my work. I’ve learned my lesson though. I “retire” from bad clients so that I can focus my energy on the good ones.

    I’m gonna echo your advice — if you have thought about your retirement carefully and have a good plan of action, do not wait too long to execute it, else you could potentially waste a good chunk of your life.

    M

  • Angell says:

    Yes – that “to stop doing” list – brilliant idea – made me laugh out loud. And humour can be a great motivator.

  • Great post.

    For anyone out there looking for supporting/complimentary ideas (or tips on negotiating your way to ‘partial retirement’ – cool term Chris) check out:

    - Marcus Buckingham’s book Now, Discover Your Strengths, a great read that turns the whole idea of ‘work’ on its head, and…

    - Dr. William Ury’s book The Power of a Positive No, which helps you negotiate for what you want from strength without making who you’re negotiating with a boob! Fewer burned bridges – always a good thing.

  • Cheng says:

    Damn, just what I needed today. Great article Chris. I’m going home and trying the list exercise tonight. I’m pretty sure I’m quitting my job soon (I’m good at it, but I hate it) and this might be the last little push I needed.

    If it matters, I’m a long time reader, but this is my first comment. I plan to rectify that starting now.

  • Chris says:

    Hello everyone, thanks so much for your comments and additional resources! That is awesome.

    FYI I am now using Gravatar images in the comments, which means that if you comment on other blogs, your picture can show up wherever you go (like mine, or like Angell’s here). If you are interested, go over to Gravatar.com to sign up.

  • Psiplex says:

    Recovering from cancer and the rest of my life before me. What do really like to do? What are you good at? Figure that out and the rest unfolds. Thanks for the great post!

  • Jann Freed says:

    I enjoyed your piece on retirement. I am also interested in this topic. Are you familiar with the term “sage-ing?” You might want to learn more about that also. Thanks. Jann

  • Chris says:

    @ PSIPLEX –

    Wow, that’s amazing. Congratulations and good luck with everything!

    @ Jann –

    No, I haven’t heard of “sage-ing” before. I’ll check it out, thanks.

  • michael says:

    Why bother retiring; just do the things you like doing. That’s what I do and every day I enjoy what I do because I don’t know the difference between my hobbies and my work. I am reinventing myself again right now, and sceptics can see the result at bizlearn.biz.
    I cannot envisage retirement and and I intend to stay relevant so that my active clients will regret my passing.
    I do feel sorry for the wage slaves in our society, but I chose the path less traveled 35 years ago and I have never regretted it. People who don’t like their work simply need the courage to discard their self imposed shackles.

  • Dan says:

    Wage slaves, that’s right on the money. I had a boss who was bipolar, hot and cold and you never knew where he was or what he was up to. 27 years I worked for the Company and the past 12 under him. I swore I would never become a victim but there I was. My position got displaced without notice, so I retired. I have not been happier. Stress levels are at an all time low. You do have to have some resources, like a savings account, 401k that you can dip into, or better yet , have all your expenses in order, before you jump off the track. There are tons of opportunities on the internet to research. Inertia is hard at first, but is key.
    Chris, great idea on the stop doing list. Thank you for this article.

  • Bethan says:

    I retired last week from my job in a shipping company – If I’d read this artical before I would have retired sooner. I’m 24 and was doing data entry for a company that I didn’t like, odly enough, yesterday I found out that my boyfriend – was being moved into my position instead of being made redundant. So it worked out for the best. All you need is the courage to take the first step.

  • Fran says:

    A few years ago, I had a job that I didn’t like going to. Three quarters of the time I was doing things that I hated, with a lot of busy work. My relationships there were also horrible. So I decided that I wouldn’t waste my time doing what I didn’t want to do in an atmosphere where I was uncomfortable. I’ve never been one to live that way. No job is worth that. Instead of retiring, I told them that I wanted to go to part-time, doing only the aspects of the job that I enjoyed when they needed me. It worked out for both of us. Now I’m happier and they’re happier. I still do it even though I now work a different full-time job that I like. They count on me and trust me to do what I’m good at and enjoy, and I’m happy to do it for them because the relationship is so much better. Deciding what I wouldn’t do made all the difference.

  • Lisa says:

    Great post Chris! I know I am a bit behind here as I just started reading your site, but I wanted to drop a note and let you know how right on you are. I am in the process of trying to implement many of the things you are talking about here. I am finishing up Grad school this summer and am trying to figure out what to do after that, the idea of writing your own job description is great! I can identify with so many of the comments as well, I work (full-time) at a job that while I don’t hate it certainly doesn’t challenge me in the way that I think a “real” job should. Too much time is spent pushing papers and wasting time just to collect the paycheck.

    Keep changing the world Chris!

  • Great post! I enjoyed it and agree with it 100%. However, it is hard to believe how many people prefer the slavery route rather than freedom. I hope you had a good time in The Dominican Republic.

    Carlos
    HolaDR.com

  • Sue says:

    Hi Chris,

    I really enjoyed this post. Life is indeed too short to spend at a workplace that is draining for whatever reason, so the “things to stop” list is a good idea. I used to really like my work and the work environment and actually had a fairly wide latitude of freedom, but the addition of a few really toxic people (and one them a work place bully) has made me completely rethink where and how I want to make my living, not to mention that being targeted by said toxic bully caused enough distress on all levels of being that I’ve ended up on stress leave. (To Ginger M–I’m sorry to hear that your work place pushed you into such a difficult place, but inspired to hear that the result of your breakdown–or maybe breakthrough–was to walk away and start your own business. It certainly can take a while to get one’s health, confidence, etc, up and running again after such a depleting experience.)

    I like most of the work I do (survey design and data analysis, writing the occasional literature review, integrating data from various sources into a coherent, user-friendly report) and I’ve realized that while I can take those skills to any number of other workplaces (and probably will have to do that in the short run), I, too, would ultimately like to start my own small business doing what I’m good at (research and writing) and in a way that can contribute to making a positive difference in the world–even if it’s for one person at a time. Chris, I may soon be looking at some of your e-books on starting up small businesses! Look forward to reading your next post!

    Cheers!

  • xenia says:

    I am a huge fan of the whole site, and have read many, many posts about all sorts of topics. but one thing continues to nag at me … how does one stop doing work they hate, and work at something they enjoy, when they need the money to live on? my only hobby is reading, and I enjoy very, very little else. how can I stop being a “wage slave” if I need at least $500 a week to pay the bills?

    I aspire to be you, Chris, and I would do anything to be just as you are – travel constantly. But I need the money and would hate doing whatever it would take to get that sort of capital :)

  • dan says:

    Save money in your 401k to the max. Eliminate credit card debt totally. Refinance your mortgage down to the lowest level you can. Don’t re-finance and borrow against the equity unless you ABSOLUTE need to. Cut your monthly expenses, newspaper, cable, cell phones, home phones, all subscriptions. KEEP your expenses low and NO ONE will OWN you. It is as simple as that!! If I would have only adopted these principles in my 30′s versus my 50′s!

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