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?
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Image by Eperales