Not All Time Is Created Equal

Am I saying one second today is not equal to one second tomorrow or in 1992?

As a scientist I ought to know better and the units of time are equal but the value of those distinct periods can be vastly different.

For instance, the holiday period has descended upon us, for better or worse.  Would you rather experience the 50 year old cynicism about them of our present lives or the (hopefully) one when you were four years old and Christmas was still a magical time.  I would take December, 1972 all over again any time versus this year’s.  Of course, you can’t turn back time nor should you spend too much time dwelling on the past.  What I’m saying is that the time in my future is not all worth the same to me and I’m guessing it’s the same for you.  Some of you may value summer over winter or days off during the week when your favorite activities are less crowded and your errands are easier to accomplish.  With retirement in the not-too-far-off future I’ve been thinking about what times of the day/week/year mean the most to me.

Christmas in Key West was A-OK.

How I learned these lessons – Swing Shift Work

If you’re new here this can catch you up on the type of work I used to do.

Getting to FI from a Union Manufacturing job, part I (the good)

Basically I worked this crazy swing shift for about 10 years due to the fact it paid really well and I blew up my “career” well enough that I had to accept that type of work.  Most of that time I worked a rotating 12 hour shift schedule of 4 days of work and 4 days off in perpetuity.  For clarity, that means one week I would work 7 AM to 7 PM Monday through Thursday and have off Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  Then I would work overnight Tuesday (really Monday night) through Friday (7PM to 7AM) and have Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday off.   A lot of my coworkers loved this because of all the time off and time they could devote to family and/or hobbies/personal pursuits.  I’ll admit that once you figure paid time off only having to show up at work about 165 days a year has a little bit of appeal.  You spend less time commuting and you can go to the bank or grocery store on a Tuesday at 10 AM when the place is populated by blue haired retired people.  Despite the appeal of that type of schedule for others, working this way taught me a lot about what I value in times of the week.  I learned:

  • I don’t give a shit about days off during the week.  Sure, some weeks I had something like Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off from work.  Once I spent a day catching up on some needed rest I found I didn’t do much useful with all of those days off.  After all, being a social person, all of my peers who had normal jobs (almost all of them locally) were at work during those days/hours I had off.  I realized that I didn’t have enough solo interests to truly take advantage of all that free time.
  • You have to recognize this about yourself as you might be the exact opposite with plenty of what the kids call passion projects.  I didn’t have those so those week days off work were mostly just waiting for Mrs. Smidlap to get home from work around 5:30 PM.  In essence, those were just disposable hours until evenings during the week.  That’s why I almost always accepted overtime during the week on my four days off.
  • The gold standard of free time is still Saturday and Sunday for me and us as a little family of two because stuff that I enjoy happens then.  I love sport on television all year ’round (go ahead and judge, it’s my life) and most of the good stuff happens on the weekend.  The almost gold standard for me is evenings during the week and having Mrs. Smidlap around to eat and have some wine together.  We missed so many of these during the swing shift days that I really appreciate it now.
  • As far as months or seasons go, I value spring and fall above all others.  We like to travel while schools are in session.  The prices are usually better and the spots we like to visit are less crowded and there are no kids around to offend my delicate sensibilities.  Your situation might be different.  Maybe you love summer break and Disney level stuff.  To each his own, I say.  You might be a big Christmas fanatic and those are your gold standard of days.

The platinum standard for days is obviously vacation.  The thing about now working normal Monday through Friday hours is not feeling the need to escape from the day to day grind.  If my close friends lived within 30 minutes of here I might never care about travelling ever again, in fact.  But that’s not the case so most of our travel is centered around spending time with friends and family so that’s where the high value applies for me.  We’re still trying to figure out exactly where we would most enjoy living once we stop working for money but a large part of it will involve what type of social circle we’ll have and how available our favorite people will be.  It’s conundrum for sure.

Side Hustle Lessons Learned

Since Mrs. Smidlap hasn’t worked full time in almost two years she’s been trying different combinations of part-time work.  This my takeaway so far.

  • If you’re going to give up your gold hours, only do it for a lot of money.  There was one job right up the street at the wine store that seemed like a good fit at first.  It didn’t pay a lot but we didn’t need a lot.  The only downside was the work involved a lot of evenings and almost every Saturday for the whole day.  Saturday is a much more valuable day than Monday through Friday.  Evenings are more valuable in our lives than 8-4 or thereabouts.  I sold my valuable gold hours years ago because the company paid me a lot of money for them.  The juice has to be worth the squeeze after we worked all these years to put ourselves in a good position to turn down work that isn’t just right, like Goldilocks.  That hustle went away except on a fill-in basis.
  • Adjunct teaching has pretty easy overall hours for not too much money.  It’s clean and not physically demanding but demands some gold standard days/weeks.  Like I said, we like to travel in Spring and Fall and this fall we had a mini retirement practice planned for two weeks in a mountain cabin.  When the teaching assignment offer came up we cancelled the second week, which I now regret.  I don’t think that is something Mrs. Me will do again for the Spring semester.  Once again, if you’re selling your gold time it better be for lots of money, or at least more than you would charge for disposable hours/days/weeks.
  • The latest side hustle seems to be truly flexible so far.  It’s about the right number of hours but might not last forever.  We’ll see where this one goes.  I’ve said it before, but this is why you put in all the hard work in the past and saved and invested well.  It keeps you from needing to do something that isn’t a good fit for your life.

I still have a bunch of time off between now and the end of the year and we’ll not be travelling by plane anywhere.  We’ll see the in-laws across the state at Christmas and spend a couple of days in Boston visiting friends.  We haven’t been to Boston in 15 years so that should be fun.  The rest of the time will be another attempt at feeling out a practice retirement at home.  I’m looking forward to trying to figure out how to turn all the hours of the day/week/year into gold standard hours.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’ll going to keep working until I have it at least partly figured out.

What about your Smidlappers?  What are your gold hours/weeks/seasons?  Do you easily fill up free time with satisfying activities?  I would love to know if that’s the case while I sort it out.

It’s not about the food.  It’s the company and memories.



12 Replies to “Not All Time Is Created Equal”

  1. I know what you mean about side hustles cutting into gold standard time. I could do more music gigs and make more money if I wanted to commit 5-7 hours of my Friday or Saturday to pack up gear, drive to gig, set up gear, play gig, pack up gear, drive back from gig, unpack gear. Committing to a weekend gig also means I can’t go to our cabin that weekend, even if the gig is only supposed to be a few hours one day of the weekend.

    1. my best friend has been in bands since the late 80’s. once he got to real adulthood he had to limit his involvement to only playing about once a month because of all the time involved. it takes a lot of time to lug drums around and set them up too. they never offer those gigs during crappy hours when there’s nothing better to do?

  2. I love the idea of “gold standard” times. Mrs. BF used to work an odd rotating shift of nights/weekends/holidays at the hospital, but she went to a normal office setting about 2 years ago, and she’s way happier now.

    For a while I was doing my side brewing gig on mostly Saturdays and Sundays, but I refused to give up those days anymore, so now I take PTO and brew on weekdays so as not to lose the family time.

    What’s with the FI community and hating sports? There seems to be a general disdain for it. My wife says it reminds her of gladiatorial combat, maybe that’s why? As I’ve mentioned, I’m a hardcore baseball fan, but I also watch a fair amount of NCAA football and basketball.

    1. that’s good to refuse to give those days up. i suspect some people might have exact opposite god hours where they would want to be around home and not working just to have some alone time. maybe if you have a hectic household you would value that more. i really don’t miss sacrificing those weekends and holidays. i remember leaving xmas eve dinner right when the prime rib was coming out of the oven to drive across the state and work the overnight on xmas.

      i don’t know what about the sports thing. i say “who’s to judge what somebody else enjoys?” cheers!

  3. Is adjunct teaching when you step in to take the classes of someone who’s away? I’m planning on doing that for a year or two when I retire.
    It’s great money – $330/day.
    That’d pay for a few groceries!

  4. Hey I think I found a place where we differ Freddy, my gold hours are more on the weekdays. I’m an introvert, and I can thrive on solo projects. Sure it can get lonely here and there, but even on weekends my close friends up in Baltimore don’t have time to hang out much anymore.

    But I’m totally with you on the seasons! Spring and Fall are my favorites by far. And I would even put Winter ahead of Summer. Summers here in the DC area are just horribly oppressive, you have a layer of sweat over your body the entire time

    1. i kinda envy that ability to stay interested on solo stuff. once i overcome that or find the right social/solo balance it will be time to peace out. that social time i am looking for might turn out so elusive that it’s a unicorn, so it might be time for a plan B!

  5. I think this is one of the few places where you and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Given a series of free days I can find about a billion things to fill my time right here at the house. I am a master putterer. I can putter like nobody’s business. So I usually have a quilt project, knitting project, or some house maintenance/improvement project that’s on the list of things to do that I’m looking forward to.

    I think my golden hours/days are ones where I get to use my brain/efforts for things that recharge me. I don’t really have a preference for weekday/weekend unless it’s a weekend where I haven’t had one to myself in several weeks. Then that weekend becomes golden. So if the month is stupidly busy where it’s work during the week, work over the weekend (yes, I’m salaried), work during the week, travel to WV to help MIL, work during the week, I will hiss at you and hold up a crucifix in your direction if you want to make plans during the next weekend, even if it’s for something fun. That weekend has just become a 6 carat diamond set in platinum. Other than that, I’m pretty meh about weekday vs weekend.

    Seasonally, Spring, Summer, and Fall are all more valuable to me than winter. Mainly because those are the seasons when we’re outside. Plus the days are longer and therefore more fun.

    1. i’m a miserable failure of a putterer, megan. but i’m working on it. it seems i’ve streamlined a little too much. i do feel rejuvinated when i get to help somebody with some expertise i might have learned. it’s a process to figure out what to do with this life. mrs. me, on the other hand, can putter for days and get stuff done.

      i think this free time has been too much of a good thing when i went from very little to an abundance. i’m working on getting better at this little thing called “my life.”

  6. I really like the gold/platinum hours notion. That’s good.
    I worked swing shift for about 6 months when I was single and I loved it. It was 3 pm to 11 pm. It was great because I didn’t have to deal with the traffic and I could go out to lunch and relax. Swing shift is the best.
    My gold hours now is still the weekend when Mrs. RB40 is off. Once she retires, it might be different. Weekends aren’t inherently different than any other days. I wouldn’t mind working part time on Saturday.

    1. i used to like that shift when i was young and single and wanted to go out at 11pm. i’m lucky to be awake until 11 a dozen times a year these days! i still value the weekends most for the same reason right now, but i suspect that will change in retirement when we both have mostly free time. it’s not like we spend every minute together but not having the option for years makes me appreciate it now.

What do you think? You must think something. This is the place to let it fly or just say hello.