Downshifting: Are You Ready?

     “That’s it, I’ve had it! I’m quitting my job and living in a yurt!”

How many times have I said this to myself?

Although I often fantasize about not having to “go to work” anymore, I’m not really sure what I would do with all that spare time if I quit. I’m a little worried that if I didn’t have a job to go to every day, I would become a hermit. I know that would NOT be good for me. What would I write about if I didn’t have a job? And what about health insurance? And little things like heat, food, and electricity?

As much as I resent the idea of “working for the man,” I must admit that, for the most part, I actually like my job. I don’t always like my schedule. My alarm clock goes off at 3:50 a.m. Monday through Saturday. And while I don’t like working 6 days a week, I do like getting home by noon on most days. I make more money than I need to live on, and I’m able to save a reasonable percentage of my income. I have great health insurance and retirement benefits. Most days, the pluses outweigh the minuses.

Ideally, I would like to keep the job I have (for now), but ultimately cut back my hours to about 30-32 per week (right now I’m averaging 38-40). That would allow me to keep my benefits, give me enough income to live off of comfortably, and enough time for all the things that are important to me: daily walks, maintaining order on the home front, cooking good food, reading, and of course, working on my blog. I am closer to this goal now than I have ever been before, so my prospects are encouraging!

What about you? What do you really want? What does “downshifting” mean to you? What would be your ideal work/life balance? Are you ready to make some changes?

If you spent less time on the job, how would you spend your new free time? With family and friends? Volunteering? Pursuing creative endeavors? Starting your own business? Promoting the social good? Cooking? Exercising? Your time is your most valuable resource. Think carefully about how you want to allocate it to maximize your happiness and minimize your stress.

In their book Downshifting: A Guide to Happier, Simpler Living, Polly Ghazi and Judy Jones offer a series of questions to ask yourself to determine if downshifting is right for you.

  1. Do you constantly wish you could spend more time with your partner/family/friends?
  2. Do you feel you never have any/enough time for yourself, to spend on hobbies, gardening and leisure or just to relax?
  3. Do you feel that your work is taking so much out of you that you don’t have time to enjoy the money you earn, spend it or invest it prudently?
  4. Do you believe your pattern of work is giving you health or stress problems?
  5. Are you chronically or permanently tired?
  6. Do you dread going into work in the mornings?
  7. Do you feel your work doesn’t truly reflect your values?
  8. Are you unhappy with the contribution you’re making to society?
  9. Do you think you would be happier if your career changed direction completely?
  10. Do you have so many commitments that other people — cleaner, nanny, babysitter, gardener — are impinging too much into your personal life?
  11. Do you spend much of your time fantasizing about your next holiday and then collapse when you get there?

Obviously, if you answered YES to all these questions, then get out, and get out NOW! However, if you’re like most people, your answers are probably mixed. Maybe you already have a fulfilling job that you love, but the amount of time you spend working at it leaves you little time to enjoy the rest of your life. Maybe you’re not physically exhausted, but you’re mentally stymied by a job that just doesn’t challenge or interest you. Maybe the only thing you like about your present employment is the paycheck.

So what can you do now to start moving in the direction of a more well-rounded and fulfilling life? How can you achieve your ideal work/life equilibrium? Can you cut back your work schedule? Work from home one or two days a week? Delegate some of your responsibilities so that you can get out of the office at a reasonable time every night? Start turning one of your hobbies into an income stream? Consider all the options. Don’t limit yourself. Everyone’s situation, and solution, is unique. Do your research. Seek out advice from people who’ve done it. And of course, continue to follow this blog!

Making small changes, one at a time, can be much less traumatic than taking a drastic leap, and will help you recognize when you’ve achieved the level of downshifting that’s right for you (and your family) before you’ve stretched too far. Maybe you really don’t have so far to go after all. Your dream life could be closer than you think.

~PEACE~

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