Friday, November 13, 2015

So, what will I do with all of that freedom? Post 40 Week Plans

One thing I've asked myself (quite a bit) & others have asked me, is what do I plan to do after I leave my current job? What are my goals? What am I looking forward to? Because, let's be honest, not many people willingly leave a job that's well compensated, and that they are reasonably good at. My reasons for leaving are clear, but what do I plan to do after June? I'm still giving it some thought, but here's my initial set of ideas (and, not in priority order):

  1. Take the summer off. This is a short term plan, but I know myself well enough to know that if I don't plan to take a block of time off, I'll immediately pressure myself to start looking for something else. I need this time to relax, destress, spend time with the kids, and think more about what I'd like to do.
  2. Spend more time with the kids. And M. This goes without saying, but my current schedule doesn't allow for this. My kids have never had a week of summer vacation (or, even a few days, for that matter) where we just chill at home, going to the park, meeting up with friends, etc. Last year they asked for a week without camps, and I couldn't make it happen, schedule wise. This year, they may be begging to go to a few camps. ;-) 
  3. Rush less. Every day is a mad scramble. A mad, mad scramble, in a week of mad scrambles that comprises a month of craziness. I feel like I'm constantly hurrying everyone - myself, and the kids. In fact, it's something they comment on. It would be very, very nice to rush just a little less. I understand that having two kids & activities means there will also be somewhat of a rush to get out the door, but less would be great. :-)
  4. Stress less. Work is the last thing I think about before I go to bed, and the first thing I think about when I get up. It's consuming & occupies virtually all of my brain space. And, it goes without saying that's stressful. I get called on weekends, evenings, holidays. You name it, I've worked from there. A professional soccer game with the kids? Yep, worked for 2.5 hours. Christmas Eve with my family? Yes, worked from my parents laundry room for hours. My birthday? Yes. When I was supposed to be on vacation? Until 2:00 am recently, on a bug? Yes. Yes. Yes. 48 hours straight after traveling? You bet. It would be amazing just to reduce the enormous burden of knowing that, at any time, I'll have to drop everything & work. Losing the "always on" feeling would be incredible.
  5. Support M's career more. Up until the past five months or so, my career has been more demanding. We've made many, many tradeoffs to support that, and M's career needs the same boost. It's impossible to devote that kind of time to both careers, so this will give us the flexibility to spend time allowing him to work late, go in early, etc.
  6. Be more flexible. I've never had a job that's less flexible than this. In my industry, flexibility is one of the hallmarks of the crazy schedules. Sure you work a lot, but you also get the flexibility to (mostly) set your own schedule. Not really the case when you're managing a team in three time zones. 
  7. Enjoy the holidays. I'm on call, always, at the holidays. And, I'm not just referring to Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, New Year's. . . I'm talking about Memorial Day, Fourth of July, etc. Any time other people have time off, that's when our schedule is the busiest. I can't imagine what it will be like to not dread pending holidays, when everyone else is looking forward to them. I can join in!! :-)
  8. Manage my own life. This sounds strange, but I really have no time to myself. I know this is the case for many people, but my work schedule demands 80% of the waking hours, and as soon as I come home, it's a mad dash for homework, dinner prep, laundry, and bed time. The possibility of creating my own schedule (around the rough parameters of the kids schedule, as well as M's work schedule) is freeing in ways I can't describe. 
  9. Work out more. My health & fitness have taken a huge back seat to my career & our schedule. I want to run regularly, join a gym or yoga studio, and take care of myself. 
  10. Volunteer. At the boys school, but also more generally. I used to be a Big Sister, and while that's a time commitment that I think could be challenging to swing with our life, I do want to find a way to give back.
  11. Work for myself. This may be short term, but I'd like to explore the option to freelance, and see if I can cobble together enough money to make it work. I'm pretty motivated & have some in demand skills, so I'd really like to put this to the test. I'd love the freedom to take on jobs that fit my life and schedule.
  12. Spend more time with friends and family. My mom is retiring at the end of this school year, and it would be great to have the flexibility to spend more time with my family. Every trip is currently benchmarked by when I need to be back in the office. Spending time with friends falls to the bottom of my to do list at the moment.
  13. Write. I used to write for myself quite a bit, and loved it. To say that all of my creative juices are gone would be an understatement right now. I don't have any expectations of writing the next great novel, but it would be nice to have the time and energy to do something creative again.
  14. Learn something new. Take a class, learn a language, learn a new sport or hobby. Push the boundaries of what I'm comfortable with.
  15. Say yes more often. We ruthlessly prioritize everything we do, to manage the basics. It would be really fantastic to say yes to more opportunities that come our way. To help the teacher in the classroom at the last minute. To meet a friend for lunch who happens to be in town. To get away for a night, to go see my sister. Saying no always starts to feel very negative - I'd love the freedom to be able to say yes more often than we currently do, because eventually, people stop asking . . . 

I realize this list isn't terribly precise, like many of my other goal lists. I think that's kind of the magic of it. Until I get there and experience some of these things, I'm not quite sure what doors it will open for me. But, I want to be willing to open some of them and get out of my current, very precise, scripted & scheduled way that I live. I'll always be a planner and a goal setter, but I also like trying new things and taking risks. I've had to put away some of that in order to stay afloat in our current lives.

What do you think? Have you made a transition like this? Any input or guidance to share? 


  1. Out of curiosity, what industry are you in?

  2. You have the right kind of plan - it is impossible to know what the future holds until you have the proper time to explore it. The idea of taking the summer off is great - the kids will always remember that. Kids are too busy these days and by doing what you are planning to do you are teaching them that money isn't everything and you sometimes can have a better life on less.

    1. It is really hard to plan until you give it the time & potential to come together. I don't like that type of free form planning (it makes me so nervous!), but I know it's what I need to do. And you are right, I think it's really important for the kids to understand that there's more to life than money. Balance & happiness are also critical parts of life.

  3. Have you considered talking to your employer and either going down to part time or changing positions? I think you will love having the summer off but I think you will be bored after that. I think I've broached this subject before and you've said that it's either what you are doing now or nothing at all but they would probably be willing to look at something different if they know you're leaving.

    I totally get that you want less work stress. The description of your work demands sound terrible, absolutely terrible. But I would think that they could change to fit what you want and need rather than letting you go.

    1. My current position & team does not allow for part time - this was recently explored when I had an employee ask for similar accommodations after a return from maternity leave. She was also a highly valued team member, and our director has been very clear on this point.

      Obviously, anything can change, and who knows what might happen when I actually give notice. I think the other thing is that this isn't an industry I'm interested in working in, long-term. I'd like to make a switch. I've been in tech 20 years, and would like the opportunity to do something else.

      If they made me a super compelling offer to work part time, flexibly, I'd consider it. But, my particular role & team doesn't lend itself to that. My role is also very senior, & I'd have more flexibility & options if I had a more junior level position.

      I plan to go back to work after the summer is done. I'd prefer not to go back in a full-time capacity, but I'll explore that as it gets closer. I want the option to be home with the kids in the afternoon, which means part time, or a more flexible schedule.

  4. Hi HP! All I can say is been there, done that! You are in the same boat that I was (I quit a highly compensated - highly! - job that I was extremely good at in May) and you and I have/had the same goals minus the kids/husband part. It is very hard for people to understand especially in the States - it's always rush rush rush...usually for everyone but you. That wears you down and drains you and can destroy your health slowly. Oh and I hear you on working holidays, evenings, and personal vacations. My work laptop traveled everywhere with me.

    I don't have a lot of input to add. You are doing the right planning. Take the summer off but I would target a date - perhaps 2 weeks after the boys start school in Sept 2016 - to launch the freelancing or look for a part-time. Unless there is a change of plans (always allowed) don't linger too long and get something to keep a hook in the business. Even if it is just networking - lunches with former colleagues etc.

    Btw - Summer 2016 may be THE summer your boys look back on with the fondest memories :-)
    ~ Pru

    1. It is super draining - you are exactly right. And yes, working from everywhere, which makes you feel like you never work. When I do get time off, I feel like I"m just about back to human level of stress, and then I go back & it all starts again.

      With the summer thing, I'm worried a bit about the opposite - that I won't give myself a chance to rest & relax before I'm off looking for the next thing. It's a delicate dance between staying on top of things, and giving myself time. My savings will allow me to go for quite a while, but I'd prefer to find something part time by say, fall.

  5. I walked away from my teaching job nearly nine years ago. Although it was no where near as demanding as your job, it did take up a great deal of time (the classroom hours were part time, but the planning, grading ,etc. plus long commutes to work added up to full time). I've never regretted it either, although our family income took a hit at the time, and when my my husband's income was cut two years later we struggled for a while. But, the whole family was much, much happier when I wasn't working - I don't know how else to describe it. And, within a couple of months my husband and I were both wondering how I had ever had the time to work - I was so busy with family and household stuff that I couldn't see how I used to fit work into that as well. I eventually went back to work, but with a less demanding schedule, and way fewer obligations. Although it wasn't easy at the time, in hindsight it was the right decision, and for many of the same reasons you outline above.

    1. I so hope this is how we all feel! I've never experienced it, so I'm unsure what it will be like for all of us, but I'm very hopeful that it's as you described. I know I want to do something part time, after I've achieved some sort of balance in life. Can't wait!!