Pretending I’m Retired
Other than a couple of slow years in StartupVille, work has usually been the focus of my life.
Even that first year in academia, I was pretty busy at work and didn’t have a whole lot of energy left at the end of most days.
A bit into the second year working for the university, though, my major projects ended and left me without much to do. I had perhaps an hour or two of work each day, which meant that I had a lot of free time on my hands. Even better, I found — as I had before — that when I’m not busy at work, I have much more energy in the evenings when I get home.
Like I said, I’ve blogged about this before, but there’s one difference this time around: this lifestyle is going to last indefinitely, until I pull the plug on employment, as best I can tell. There may be occasional flare-ups for a week or two here and there, but for the most part, I expect work is going to be easy.
I found that after a couple of months of work being slow, I felt better about everything. If there’s any trend in my overall levels of happiness throughout life, it’s that I feel better when I’m working less, and it hardly matters what else I’m doing with the time away. Being constantly pressured to do this and that, check in on emails, wake up early to implement some crap on a website, provide status reports and updates on initiatives, attend meetings, and so on — well, the cumulative effect of all of this nonsense is frequently fatigue, plain and simple.
In my mind, I’m basically done at this point. I look around me at work with the sure knowledge that I’m leaving all of this within a year. I won’t be locked into a rigid schedule. I won’t have to talk to the same small group of people every day. No one will ever send an irritating email to me with a one word body reading “Update?” to request status on a work item.
It’s all very surreal, if you want to know the truth.
Meantime, I started doing other things in the office on days that allow it — reading, blogging, some casual internet browsing. Some readers might tell me that I’m stealing from my university by not working all day. But that’s not really true. A large part of my job is simply being available to respond to needs of the business on demand. Sitting in the office is working.
Example: Users can’t update their phone number on the company portal right now. <LAF> look into it immediately.
One of the main reasons I’m paid is to be around to handle this sort of thing when it happens.
During many weeks at work I almost feel retired nowadays. These weeks I might put in 35 hours and spend perhaps seven or eight of those actually working. Most of the people I work with are friendly, and the ones who are not, I ignore. I don’t get involved in politics, I skip university functions including department meetings and christmas parties and ice cream socials and requests for volunteers to test out the new email system and any and all optional work.
And do you know what’s happened to my yearly evaluations and job performance as a result of all of this apathetic slacking? Nothing but good things.
- I got an off-cycle raise of 8K, from 84 to 92K.
- My manager said — direct quote — “You’re my favorite person to work with. You’re always upbeat and willing to help out.”
- Then he proceeded to give me a 4 out of 5 on the employee rating scale. Everyone else on the team got a three.
I felt a bit like Peter in Office Space after he starts completely fucking around, showing up late, gutting fish on his desk, that sort of thing — and gets rewarded for it ! — while his coworkers are staunchly trying to do their level best while at the office — and they get fired.
At any rate, overall I’ve become more relaxed with the idea of going into work and having very little to do. I have to admit, the first couple of months of this were very, very strange. I had to stop myself from going to my manager and asking for busywork. But in the end I was always able to talk myself down. I’d say things like “Dude, why would you do that? Didn’t you want to work somewhere slower? Let yourself relax and adapt to this environment. Stop being so fucking ambitious — the ambition makes you unhappy. It’s ok to just chill out and exist.”
One last note: I barely have any meetings anymore. Maybe three hours a week if you include my 1:1 with my manager, and hell, he cancels that at least 50% of the time. I’ve come to believe that he’s internally uncomfortable around me since he knows I’m FI. Our little conversation changed everything, and for good, it appears, as he tries to please me most of the time, instead of the other way around. I think he worries about doing something that might prompt me to leave.
There’s bad news in his future, though. I’m most likely going to quit anyway, in April of 2015.
There’s something else we need to talk about.
People should not emulate my behavior. (Really!) It’s risky. I believe that in my core.
If I had suddenly stopped working at any of my other jobs — SoftwareCompany, FinancialCompany, Startupville, Mega, or Hell — I would have ruined my relationships with management and peers, almost certainly been put on a performance plan, and eventually fired.
I was only able to behave in the way that I did because I’d achieved the Holy Trinity of Slackerdom.