Is my last priority really work? Yep, my 9 to 5 job really is the last thing I care about in my life. Many people will find this counter-intuitive to retiring early. But if you asked me to rank my priorities, my daily work will always be last. Work pays my bills, but it doesn’t do much else for me.
Why do I feel this way?
Think about how quickly employees are replaced at work. No matter what work someone performs, whether it be a teacher, nurse, chef, or firefighter, they are all replaced easily. As soon as one person quits, retires, or is fired, it’s on to the next one.
It may be days or months, but the company easily moves forward. The company does not close because someone left. Within a year or two, the place you have donated so much of your time (and life!) to pretty much forgets you were ever there. I’m really not okay with prioritizing something like that.
My job must not be that busy if I don’t prioritize it.
Haha. Yeah right. My job requires me to oversee the compliance program for a multi-million dollar business, which is no easy feat. I also manage all international investigations that are reported for my company, which equals a pretty large number.
These activities require a ton of work and I am always juggling multiple projects as part of a very small team. If I wanted, I could easily put in 12 to 14 hour days every day. But, I don’t want to do that. Not now. Not ever.
I must hate my job.
Funny thing is that I don’t hate my job. I actually really like the people I work with and I like the hours that I keep. Plus, I like that I get to work remotely from home. And on a daily basis, I interact with people from all around the world on International projects.
I just don’t find work to be the best part of my day. So, I put in my 8 hours and then I’m done for the day. I don’t check my email or answer my phone after 5pm. And guess what, my work still gets done, I’m happy to stop working, and the company doesn’t shut down.
I must really suck at my job.
What’s really interesting is that since I’ve de-prioritized work, I haven’t noticed any difference in how much positive feedback I receive. In fact, I think people respect the fact that I have other things going on in my life besides sitting around checking email and answering the phone.
I must be lazy.
If you think managing a million dollar plus property portfolio in my spare time is being lazy, I’d tend to disagree. To me, running the property portfolio isn’t work at all. It’s fun. I guarantee you so many people who are famous for their “work”, didn’t think it was really work at all.
I hardly think Jacques Cousteau thought he was working when he was diving all over and discovering new species. Same with Elon Musk, Thomas Edison, or other great inventors. I realize I haven’t done something as substantial as them. However, I think the message is still the same. Find something you love and it won’t be work. Then use the thing you love to make money.
Does my boss know that I de-prioritize work?
Yep, in fact, I have told everyone I have ever reported to that I don’t plan on making work my #1 priority in life. I have no ambition to climb the corporate ladder when I can make my own ladder and clim just as high.
I’ve also told my co-workers and direct reports the same things I’ve told my boss. Time and time again, I have said I’ll work hard when I’m on the clock, but I don’t talk to them outside of work hours, barring a real emergency. And guess what, I’ve never had a boss, co-worker, or direct report (and I’ve had a lot of all of them!) try to make me change that. I have set boundaries that work for me and I have made those boundaries clear to others. In fact, I encourage my direct reports to do the same.
Don’t I feel guilty?
I’ll be honest, I did feel guilty in the beginning. When I started in the corporate world, so many of my co-workers stayed in the office for long hours. Arriving early, staying late, and not spending a lot of time at home seemed to be the thing to do. Naturally, I wanted to fit in and I wanted people to think I was a hard worker and team player. I thought I had to be like them, and work these crazy long hours in order to succeed. But, I hated coming in early and staying late and not feeling like I was accomplished anything additional.
Suddenly, there came a day when I was stayed late and I just broke down crying. I didn’t see the point in being at the office. To make matters worse, I was late to softball, which is something I love to do. Such a small, trivial thing, but it made me so very sad. It was after that day that I started to evaluate what was really need in my life to make me happy and successful. And turns out what makes me happy, well, it isn’t going to be my day to day job.
I stopped staying late after that and guess what, I never cried again about being late for softball. I’ve never felt guilty about missing anything at the office either. I’ve worked enough long hours to realize nothing really happens after 5pm in the office anyway.
What are my most important priorities?
Friends and family. Especially my husband, my dogs, and my close group of girlfriends. They won’t replace me and they respect the fact that I make them the number one thing in my life. Very few things are as valuable to me as friendship. When I am old, a call or visit from a friend will always be welcome.
And what would I rather have when I’m old? A plaque on the wall for working 40 years for some company? Or the actual company of friends I’ve spent the last 40 years enjoying life with? To me, that answer is very easy!