Going back to the question: what am I going to do with my days? I usually tell them that instead of doing any one activity for a lot of my time, I'll do a lot of little things, like spending a few hours playing with my future kids, or helping them with homework, and then blogging a bit, and exercising for an hour, and picking up new hobbies, and probably just being lazy a lot of the time, too. This last one drives them crazy. But, if I am being truthful, if you give me ten extra hours of free time every day, on some days I'm going to spend a couple of them watching a bad movie. And you know what? Then I'm going to take a nap, dude. And I will love it. Naps are the best.
But back to the main point: the thing I want to gain with my early retirement is activity diversity. I want to divide my time more evenly between a lot of things that are important to me. I'm only awake for seventeen hours every day. Because I work from home now, only eight of those weekday hours (47%) are devoted to work. That's still a lot. Worse though, in most of my working situations, another two hours would be needed just for getting ready each morning and commuting in traffic, bumping my hours devoted to work up to ten (59%).
Here's what my weekday looked like, when I include the commute that's typically been part of my job:
And here is the kind of weekday I'm hoping to achieve in an early retirement:
Even though I'm great at my job and I enjoy it, there isn't a thing in the world I love enough to devote almost sixty percent of my life to. When we consider the weekends, it lowers that percentage down considerably (from 59%, to only 42% of all waking hours). But still, forty two percent of my time for just one thing is still way too much, and that's assuming I never work more than forty hours in a week. This is a pipe dream in most corporate environments. I refuse to try to squeeze the time with my wife, future kids, friends, God, hobbies, and alone time into the remaining half of my day. If I view all these hours as equally important and assume they are intentionally allocated, when I live like I do in the first pie chart, I am saying that work, all by itself, is worth more to me than my family, friends, God, personal interests, and everything else in my life, combined. There is no way that can be true. As noble as a career can be, at least for me, it's probably at the bottom of that list in terms of what is important.
Quick disclaimer: This kind of conclusion is not going to be applicable for a lot of people, and that's okay. For some people, their career is a key part of their identity and might even be the foundation for their life's purpose. I do not mean to say that you are in any way shirking your other duties or roles by working a fifty or sixty hour week. People can be wonderful spouses, parents, and friends without devoting several hours to those roles every day. I only mean to say that the kind of life I desire for myself needs to make the work "slice" of the pie more equal to the others; and it's currently taking up more than half of my pie.
Of course, the kind of day I actually have in early retirement is probably not going to look like that pie chart most of the time. It's a bit naive to think I can have that kind of balance on the regular. But the concept itself is still pretty foreign: my take is that a lot of us want to have a singular sort of purpose to devote our lives to. If it's not a career, then we might devote ourselves to being the best parent we can be, or the best spouse, or volunteer. You know, maybe get a plaque with our names on it. But what if I want to be a jack of all trades with my life. Is that so bad?
*Photo is from das911s at Flickr Creative Commons.