Back in the Fall of 2020, I made the decision that I would be taking a sabbatical to test out Coast FI starting at the end of January 2021.
The plan is to try out my ideal FI schedule now, which includes 10 to 20 hours of passion work, even though we have not reached our full FI number yet. The income generated through my passion work would thus allow me to cover my share of our average yearly family spending while allowing my investments to compound and hit my individual FI# sometime in my early 40s.
The first month of my Sabbatical to test Coast FI has already come and gone. This is a bit cliché, yet it truly flew by. Time perception is such a funny thing. At the time of writing this, I’m already 53 days into my 1 year leave from my 9 to 5. I can clearly recall having the same amount of working time left before my sabbatical and it felt like an eternity away!
In order to immortalize these first few months into this sabbatical and share my experience with you, I’ll be doing monthly updates on how this experiment unfolds.
I’ll first begin with a quick rundown of what my weeks looked like. I’ll then do an overall reflexion of the past month structured around the core values and activities that I want my financial independence to support: spending more quality time with family & friends, learning and pursuing my passions, and finding ways to incorporate a sense of adventure into our life.
If there is anything else you would like me to include or that you are curious about, please let me know in the comments below.
Week 1: The errands.
The first week it felt like a dam broke and a flood of all these little things that needed my attention fell upon me. My dreams of a quiet week of getting lots done on my planning for the year and also resting were somewhat shattered.
In the last hectic year of juggling pandemic life with two little ones and both Mr.Mod and my public servant positions being considered essential, I had focused on what truly needed to get done. Furthermore, I’d also been spending more and more time on my coaching business.
It kind of makes sense that as I removed work from my mind, my attention would catch these undone tasks. It felt unreal though that as I ran from one thing to the next I would catch myself thinking “Oh no, must check work emails” only to remind myself that nope, that time is behind me, at least for the next 52 weeks and perhaps more.
I was quite glad I had planned the first month to be more quiet as I made my way through this transition. I may have underestimated how busy I would be with all these little errands to tend to. Lesson learned: be prepared for those unplanned external realities or undone tasks to catch up to you. They’ll likely take up some of your time in those first few weeks if you ever take a sabbatical, other form of mini-retirement or decide to leave your work to begin your new FI life.
Week 2: The exhaustion.
Things got quieter in the second week. It helped that I decided to reevaluate the long list of things I had put on my agenda for this quarter. For example, my plan to declutter our home à la Konmari in two weeks became a plan to declutter in 2 months and will likely take longer.
The exhaustion I felt mentally and physically from the last week, and even the last several months was telling me something important. I can’t do it all. Even when I take out the 9 to 5 from my plate, I have a pretty busy life with lots of things demanding our attention. I can focus on what matters most while allowing recovery time to find the right balance.
Week 3: The learning begins.
After allowing plenty of time to read, chill on the couch while catching up on some Netflix, my energy and focus seemed to be returning. I spent more time on my business, planning out my next steps.
I reviewed my schedule and added more space for what I call Client Material Prep. As my client and I work through their unique challenges, it often gives me ideas of tools to build up to provide them more information and guidance. Allowing extra time around that gives me the opportunity to improve those tools and create templates that can support other of my clients to get unstuck.
In addition, I started a course dedicated to improving and building up my communication skills around my entrepreneurship endeavors. I added blocks of time in my schedule for that and then basically spent only a bit of time on decluttering while returning to my chilling activities as I was still feeling tired.
Week 4: Highlighting the productivity guilt.
While I kept on allocating time to learning during week 4, I also made extra space for family time. Our youngest turned 5 so I took a whole day off, keeping her home from daycare to have a special day all about her. I did not spend any time in the evening or during the weekend on the computer.
This sounds lovely but as I met up for a virtual chat with my friend Purple (who is the queen of the slug life, basically leveraging unproductivity to increase her happiness and energy she has left over for what really matters) I came to a realization. I had been feeling an immense amount of guilt and shame for not being productive every minute of every day. No wonder I’d been feeling tired all the time with this additional pressure I’d been putting on myself.
After that conversation I made plans to reflect on this productivity guilt over month 2 of my sabbatical and see what might help overcome this.
Reflexion around the Values and Activities that I want FI to support
Spending more quality time with family & friends
Okay this one is a little tricky with the constraints of a pandemic. For this first month, I found spending quality time with my close family easier than trying to add on planning things with friends. We set up about 4 Zooms with our parents and siblings, celebrating a few birthdays this way. We even went on a socially distanced hike with our nephew which was truly lovely.
One amazing overall change is that I’ve felt more mentally present for our kiddoes. After working my 9 to 5, I would be left drained and exhausted. Now even on days where I spend many hours working on my business, I’m feeling energized and present. We’ve spent lots of time outside playing, building a big slide in our front yard and just enjoying our time together. I’ve even found myself motivated to listen to parenting related podcasts.
Learning and pursuing my passions
Honestly, I had way too many things that I wanted to accomplish on my passion work list. I wanted to do all the things. However I reevaluated and reminded myself that my word for this year is SPACE. Space to recover, to face unplanned circumstances, to be creative, to do spontaneous activities and to truly connect with those I love. That’s why I am aiming for no more than 20 or so hours dedicated to passion work.
This is really important to me as a test for Coast FI. My ideal schedule will allow me to reduce my working hours during the Summer and spend that time with my kids. I also want PD days or days where my kids end up having to stay home to not completely throw off my schedule. It’s all the more important now with the additional constraints of Covid and the flexibility that it requires.
Now onto the things that I did do around learning and pursuing my passion. There is that fun training course I started surrounding communication which fills me both with joy and also discomfort. Periods of growth can be super uncomfortable and so can be putting yourself out there as an entrepreneur. However, it’s a big part of owning a business and allowing people to discover what you offer. I’m therefore learning to be courageous through uncomfortable moments of growth and opening myself up to learn and improve.
In conjunction with all of this, without the obligations surrounding my 9 to 5, I’ve had the opportunity to say yes to collaborations with inspiring people on other projects which will allow me to learn tremendously. I’m very much excited for the months ahead as these projects unfold!
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Incorporating a sense of adventure into our life
This one has required some creativity in light of living through a global pandemic in the dead of Winter. We are home ALL THE TIME. Yet we did find a few ways to feel like we’re incorporating a bit of a sense of adventure into our life by:
- Hiking at a new and different local spot we had never explored.
- Playing some scenery videos with music from different parts of the world as a background to our daily activities.
- Trying out a different recipe every couple of weeks.
It might not seem like much, but it’s been enough to fulfill this desire in my first month of sabbatical. Truth is I am still recuperating. I expect it will take me a few months to recover from the intensity of our last year.
Let’s not forget the fact that the pandemic is still at play and remains a big weight on all our shoulders. It’s okay to keep some things easy and simple as we continue to navigate this reality and that’s how I’ve been approaching incorporating a sense of adventure into our life.
That’s it for my first month of sabbatical to test out Coast FI! Overall I’ve been realizing that a sabbatical still has the constraint of our busy life in the background. I have a limited amount of energy and time. Finding the right balance that incorporates the values and activities that I want my financial independence to support requires reflexions and continuous adjustments.
Over and above, it’s been pretty darn amazing to be in control of most of my schedule and not having to dedicate so much energy and time to work.I feel absolutely grateful for everything that has allowed me to get to this point of testing out Coast FI through this sabbatical.
From my upbringing to discovering the FIRE community back in my early 20s and having a job that allows me to take a one year leave without pay, I’m pretty darn lucky to get to explore a different path than our initial plans. I’m more than excited to see how this plays out in the next 11 months ahead.
I hope that sharing this experience will give you some insight to guide you to a path that is right for you.
Is there anything specific you would like me to incorporate in the monthly updates on my sabbatical? Otherwise, I’d love to know what you’ve been up to during this first quarter of 2021. Please share in the comments below!