Achieving financial independence was a major milestone for Mr Wow and me. Although we had a profitable business, we chose to retire in 2020 as we wanted to experience other aspects of life without the burden of full-time work.
Early retirement was awesome, to say the least. Every day felt like a vacation: we spent quality time with our loved ones, pursued our interests and picked up new skills. Then came the baby — our labour of love, our pride and joy, the object of our affection.
You’re looking at the baby now. This blog, our precious baby, has completely taken over my life and it’s about time that I do something about it.
- The Dark Side of My Early Retirement
- Finding Balance in Early Retirement
- I Need to Change
1. The Dark Side of My Early Retirement
Since the blog came into existence about 10 months ago, Mr Wow and I have painstakingly nurtured it. Our aim is to help people gain control of their money so that they can create options for themselves. We also enjoy documenting our journey in a “digital diary”. It’s our pet project and the process of building it has been both fun and rewarding.
Frankly, we’re extremely happy and proud of the work we’ve done thus far, so what could be the problem?
Well, I’m the problem. Again.
I’ve always had a tendency to become obsessive about the things that I love. This is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to pursuing retirement hobbies, especially time-consuming ones like blogging. On the one hand, my passion for this blog has driven me to give my absolute best and achieve a level of satisfaction that I might not have otherwise experienced. On the other hand, I’m having great difficulty shifting my attention away from it.
I was very controlled when we first started. Although I was busier than before, I still engaged in a range of activities. Nevertheless, my old ways began to creep in some time in April. It was an extra hour in front of my laptop at first, then two, three, four…
Things became worse the following month when I decided to establish social media presence, specifically on 𝕏 (fka Twitter). I basically threw myself into engagement like my life depended on it. My efforts paid off as we began to see more traffic coming from the platform. That drove me to work even harder.
It eventually got to the point where there was no longer balance in my life. I stopped exercising completely. I drank coffee like water and ate more junk food than proper meals. I took navy showers because I couldn’t wait to get back to my tasks. I hardly slept, but I was always in my pyjamas.
Check out: One Year In: Our Blogging Insights
A couple of weeks ago, Mr Wow finally told me off. “Look, this blog is supposed to be a hobby, remember? I know you want it to be successful. So do I. But look at you now. Your eyes are glued to your laptop day in, day out. Are we trying to build a multi-million-dollar empire here? You need to stop slave-driving yourself in your retirement.”
Naturally, I wasn’t too pleased to be lectured by my dear husband, but he was right of course. Deep down, I always knew this would happen. I even wrote about it in Why I Didn’t Want to Start a Blog but Changed My Mind. I had taken the plunge because the idea of being involved in such a meaningful project with Mr Wow was just too appealing. I love working with him and we make a great team (when I’m not so obsessive).
So… I took his words seriously and reflected on my behaviour. Last Saturday on 9th September, I posted this message on 𝕏:
It was for myself.
2. Finding Balance in Early Retirement
I think I’ve found mental clarity and there are two lessons I would like to share.
Lesson 1: Don’t Turn Your Retirement Hobby into a Full-time Job
Retirement is a great time to pursue your passion. Be it gardening or blogging, working on something you love gives you a sense of purpose and prevents you from stagnating. You wake up with a spring in your step and enthusiasm in your heart. It’s an awesome feeling.
However, it’s important to find balance and avoid turning your passion into an all-consuming full-time job (e.g. you start setting ridiculous targets for yourself to meet). If it feels like work, where’s the fun in that?
You may say, “But it doesn’t feel like work to me! It’s my hobby!” Trust me, I totally get what you mean. See next lesson.
If it feels like work, where’s the fun in that?
Lesson 2: The Key to Happiness is to Maintain Balance in Life
Workaholics may have some difficulty maintaining balance in retirement. I know so as I’m a workaholic by nature. Coupled with my obsessive nature, it’s a double whammy.
Frankly, the concept of work-life balance used to make little sense to me.
First, the slave-driver in me believed that I couldn’t have balance and greatness at the same time. I won’t be slowed down or stopped.
Second, I enjoyed my work a lot and was extremely motivated to succeed. So why the hell would I stop doing my favourite activity and start doing less interesting ones?
Third, let’s be honest here. Work has invaded our personal time so much that it’s impossible for any working adult to strike the right balance. So why even try?
The slave-driver in me believed that I couldn’t have balance and greatness at the same time.
The short answer: it’s unsustainable. It took me a long time to realise this. At some point, your over taxed body will tell you to stop. The people you care about will become increasingly distant because you hardly make time for them. Are you willing to pay the price?
Like world peace, work-life balance may be a utopian vision, but it’s something that we must still strive for. Everyone can make minor tweaks to achieve better balance. It could be making adjustments to your schedule, using technology to maximise efficiency, or simply doing less.
Yes, that’s right. Do less if you must. Do it for your loved ones, if not for your own sanity.
Like world peace, work-life balance may be a utopian vision, but it’s something that we must still strive for.
3. I Need to Change
The past five months flew by like an arrow from a bow. I had allowed myself to lapse into my old ways and I’m not proud of it. The only difference this time is I didn’t force Mr Wow to work like me (he used to call me a work demon).
It’s about time I regulate my behaviour before I turn our retirement dream into a nightmare. These are some changes I’ll be making over the few weeks:
1️⃣ Time Boundaries
Setting boundaries is an important part of achieving balance in retirement. This means establishing limits on how much time and energy I’ll devote to my hobby.
As much as I love building this blog, it’s beginning to interfere with other aspects of my life, so cutting back on the hours is necessary even if it means less engagement on 𝕏 and fewer articles per month (I will not compromise on quality). This will prevent burnout and ensure that I continue to enjoy the process.
Steps to take:
- Limit all blogging-related activities to four days a week by October. I’ve already begun to cut back gradually.
2️⃣ Healthy Diet
Mr Wow always says that I do a terrible job at taking care of myself. He’s not wrong. When I’m busy, I eat all kinds of rubbish and feed him all kinds of rubbish. So no more heavily processed frozen meals and pancakes at 3am.
Steps to take:
- Cut down to two cups of coffee a day.
- Cook proper meals every day. Thrice a week is unacceptable.
- Time our meals for better health.
3️⃣ Mental and Physical Wellness
Once I’ve identified an interest, it’s very tough for me not to be fixated on it. Over the years, Mr Wow and I have had countless conservations about this.
To break my blogging fixation, I know it’s not enough to limit the amount of time I spend on it. I’ll have to introduce other activities back into my life.
Steps to take:
- Get seven to eight hours of sleep a day. (I get headaches when I sleep more than eight hours.)
- Change out of my pyjamas when I wake up.
- Start doing daily yoga again.
- Resume weekly nature walk.
- Read, listen to music, watch drama series on Netflix, go out with Mr Wow, visit my parents, do nothing.
- Possibly pick up a new skill.
Retirement should be a time of fun and fulfilment. When pursuing your hobbies in retirement, it’s important to find balance and avoid turning those hobbies into work. You should be enjoying your leisure pursuits without sacrificing your physical and mental health, as well as your time with your loved ones.
You may not be an obsessive person like me, but you may, like many people, struggle to get your priorities straight at times. I hope that by coming clean and sharing my experience with you, you’ll be motivated to find a sense of balance too. Let this experience of mine be a cautionary tale.
Wishing you health and happiness.