Bad At Moderation

I’ve been tracking everything I eat and buy food-wise the entire month of April (post to come). One thing I’ve learned, or I guess that I’ve always known but is just highlighted in the data, is that I’m terrible at moderation. I am and always have been an all-or-nothing kind of gal.

For instance, I have a general rule not to eat processed carbs. But once I’ve broken that rule I go all in. Ate some bread? Well some chips won’t hurt. And, here, let’s add a cookie in there too why don’t we.

On the other hand I am very good at abstaining from things in the first place. For instance, I almost never have alcohol– I never buy it, it’s not a part of my daily consumption, therefore it is easy for me to make the healthy choice without too much thought. (Luckily, I’ve not drunk enough to have acquired that much of a taste for it so moderation in that particular sphere is not terribly difficult.)

Really it’s where I deviate from the boundaries I’ve set for myself that it feels like all the flood gates have been opened and things go haywire.

I see this in the way I treat my work. Either I’m the superstar who’s getting everything done or I’ve messed something up (even something minor) and have decided that nothing matters and I’m the lazy duck who can barely string a sentence together. Actually, no, it’s not quite that severe anymore though it used to be. Still, success does seem to snowball into more success, failure to more failure. And so it goes.

It’s also apparent in the way I treat FIRE. I wake up in the morning and think: Man I don’t feel like working, but at least I make good money. And then I lean into that super hard. I optimize how much money I make, I save it, I kind of even hoard it. And maybe retire in ten years? That’s all a totally reasonable reaction to kind of sort of not wanting to go to work, right?

Anyway, that is all to say: maybe I should work on this moderation thing? Or at least create glide paths from minor failures back onto the regular track. Because the world is not all or nothing, even if my brain wants me to feel like it is.

Are you an all or nothing thinker? In what areas do you have difficulty with moderation?

Senioritis

Whenever I read threads about retiring early, people talk about feeling elated and almost nostalgic at their jobs before they leave. They often say things like how leaving takes the pressure off the office politics, how for the first time in years they’re able to really focus and crank out their work. Sprinting to the finish line.

On the one hand I definitely feel less annoyed at office politics. Knowing that I’ll be gone in two months has helped me take a lot of really painful changes in stride. Though I still continue to think about the long term wellbeing of my group– and in particular about the colleagues I really care about– I no longer feel like each change at the organization is going to upend our team. They’re bad business decisions that require annoying workarounds. And that’s okay. Not my circus, not my monkey. It won’t affect me for much longer anyway.

On the other hand, I don’t feel any less stressed doing my actual work. I still feel this need to make clients happy, to be “on” weekends leading up to a deadline. Lately too I’ve started having work dreams where my brain works on projects while I’m unconscious. This is something that hasn’t happened to me since college, when I’d debug difficult assignments during the course of my most restless sleep.

Sadly though this stress hasn’t translated into motivation. As I get closer to my leave date I can feel my motivation levels suddenly and precipitously drop. I find myself sitting in front of my computer minutes at a time blankly thinking, “Just type. Just type. Just type.” Or, “Why am I here? This is meaningless. Maybe I should quit sooner.” In some ways I feel like I’m in those couple of weeks leading up to finals and my brain’s convinced if it don’t do well I won’t graduate or something. So it’s procrastinating, hard.

I’m still two months out from when I leave, so maybe my mood will change a month out, a week out, on my final day. Right now I’m feeling a bit of senioritis, but I’ll try my best to push through until the end.

How did you feel on your last days/weeks/months before leaving a job? Were your motivation and performance affected?

 

Burnout

My manager and I had one of our monthly check-ins. Apparently I’m not putting in enough hours at the company each week. They expect X hours of productive work time per week (a reasonable number, to be fair) and I’ve been doing X-7.5.

Which means I have to some combination of:

  1. Leave for work earlier than I normally do (adding extra to go through rush hour).
  2. Finish work later than I normally do, pushing my dinner deeper into the evening.
  3. Cut my lunch break down.

When I think of how many hours a day I dedicate to my work, I get bummed out. There’s the work itself, the hour and a half commute round trip, the time I spend wallowing about my job in the after hours (unpaid, clearly). Often lately I’ll bring my computer home weekends to try and catch up but even if I don’t open my laptop once, I can feel in the back of my head the stress mounting.

Even putting in X-7.5 hours a week, I’m not capable of being productive the whole time. I’d say I have about 4 hours of productive work time in me per day, max. Especially since I’m constantly interrupted at the office, breaking my flow.

What keeps me here is the pay. Also feelings of: who else would want to hire me? and would I really like any other job better than I like this one? If I’m being honest with myself, the hours are still pretty good. Almost any start-up environment would expect way more time from me than my current employer, the big tech companies probably around the same amount. And in order to switch jobs I would need to spend probably 100+ hours skill-building and putting up portfolio projects on github. I guess I’m choosing the known sub-optimal versus and unknown sub-optimal scenario+high initial cost.

One of the reasons I pursue FI is because I can’t imagine staying in this industry until 65. I’ve met very few people over 55 in this line of work, and even fewer women over 35. I feel I need to squirrel away money while I still have the opportunity.

I used to have a clear sense of what I wanted to do after semi-retirement. Write short stories, go after my PhD, start anew in an entirely different vocation, etc. Right now, though, those ideas feel very hazy and effortful. I’m reaching the stages of burnout where all I really want to do is nothing. Which is entirely unhelpful in digging myself out of my inertia.

For now, I’m hoping my upcoming two week holiday vacation will help me reset. But in a way, I know I’m just biding time. The “right” course of action is probably to figure out what type of work I want to do and resign myself to the associated pay cut. Then again, the numbers say FI is only eight years away…