Ask the Readers: Focus, FI Life and an Agreeable Wife

FI Life and an Agreeable Wife

On Monday one week ago, I hiked Longs Peak. It was a last-minute decision. I looked at the weather on Sunday evening and it was going to be a great day, so I decided to forget about my list of stuff to do and go for a walk in the woods (and tundra). FI life and an agreeable wife let you get away with stuff like this.

I woke up at 4am and was on the trail before the Sun was ready to present herself:

Above 9,000 feet, it wasn’t even 40 degrees, but I started working up a sweat. I stopped to take some layers off and have a drink. I was still in the trees, but noticed that the sun was now up.

Soon, I was above the forest.

And I was treated to an amazing view of Longs Peak.

I hadn’t planned to summit, so I stopped at 12,800 feet, 1,400 feet shy of the top.

I’ll be back to complete the hike, maybe in late September.


I’m Overcompensating

As great as the hike was, I wasn’t in the moment like I should have been. I kept on thinking about tasks I had to complete. I took my phone out at least five times to take notes. At one point, I even considered cutting the hike short and heading home.

I wish I wasn’t like this. I started thinking about my life and came up with three reasons why I so often fail to appreciate the moment:

Overcompensation: I’m still overcompensating for leaving work. I feel like I have to prove my worth by getting stuff done. Somewhere deep down, I think I’m not worthy of wasting spending the morning on a hike. (Or reading fiction)

Boredom sucks: I like being busy with work and meaningful activity. This is how I’ve always been. While this trait served me well for investing and becoming financially independent, it is keeping me from enjoying life now.

Focus: This is the third part of my problem. I’ve spread myself too thin. More on this in a moment.


Ask the Readers: Sleep

Last week, I mentioned that I have issues falling asleep. I was surprised that no one mentioned the nuclear option:


And I’m thankful too. While I know some folks who must take this to fall asleep, it’s a path I don’t want to go down.

Here are some of my favorite tips:

Mr. Freaky Frugal was the first to suggest meditation:

Try meditating just before going to bed. It will slow down your brain.

Reader Kent suggested music:

I have a go to fall asleep album for nights where my mind won’t stop thinking (Miles Davis, Kind of Blue). I just focus on following the notes of the solo’s and that helps me stop thinking about anything else just because I’m so intensely listening.

The PoP’s swear by smelly gym socks valerian:

The best thing that I have found that helps me quiet these thoughts and get some rest are valerian root capsules. It’s an herbal supplement that’s sometimes recommended for anxiety and sleep. My doctor recommended it years ago. Yes, the capsules smell like gym socks that have been used for several days and spent the rest of the week ripening at the bottom of a laundry hamper… but I just swallow them and wash my hands to get rid of the smell on them.

Mr. Crazy Sleepy Kicks rubs it in:

These days I’m more worried that I sleep too much. Is 10 hours a night excessive?

Tonya from Budget and the Beach:

Not only can sleep affect your motivation, but it can cause hormones to be released that make you want to eat more…and not carrot sticks.

I can totally relate to this. I feel like hell I’m tired.

Reader S.G.:

When there is something particularly stressful that just keeps pulling at me sometimes I just have to let it take hold with a conscious thought of “Can I work through anything valuable right now?” Sometimes big things need some quiet time away from distraction for you to work through it mentally and the dark right before sleep can be a good time to tackle things and go to bed at peace. Sometimes you have to tell yourself “Thinking about this right now isn’t productive. Sleep is more important.” and consciously set it aside.

This comment hits close to the core of my issue. I just have to tell my brain to shut it down. Along the same lines, Reader Wendy had a great suggestion:

Use a paper notepad or journal to jot down anything on your mental ‘to do’ list or that is worrying you…trust that your morning-self will take care of it

Steve Polling:

I didn’t realize the importance of changing my alarm clock, but that’s a factor. A habit is built from: trigger => action => reward. It operates below the level of conscious thought. Thus a new alarm (in this case using a new iPhone app as an alarm) triggered me to get up, and start walking on the treadmill for 20,000 steps BEFORE I could wake up enough to realize I was exercising. The reward was seeing the little Fitbit animations (silly, i know) move to green with activity.

There is a lot to chew on here and this will be an ongoing experiment. One thing I’ve tried for the past couple of nights is counting and telling myself I must focus on that. It isn’t easy because my brain wanders, but it seems to work. Maybe if I can do it for a month, I can reset myself?


Spread too Thin

I’ve been thinking of my life since I left my job in April and I’ve been trying to do too much:



During our four years of home construction, we let things slip. By that, I mean we have a lot of clutter. We could remove ten items from the home every day until the end of the year and still have a lot left to do. It’s slowly getting better, but the work is time-consuming and tedious.

At least our garage is now almost clutter free and is living up to its potential as a PingPongaporium.

The Blog

Writing here and my new side gig is time-consuming. To the outside observer, it may not look like a lot of work, but it is.



I need to take a step back and focus. It’s time to prioritize my life and figure out what’s important. I was talking to the Mad Fientist recently and he said this:

Don’t trade hours for dollars.

This is a good starting point since I don’t need any more money.

Other options:

  • Give myself more time (I have many years to declutter)
  • Hire out (I could pay someone to work on cars and bikes)
  • Let stuff go (do I need to write 3 posts a week or have side gigs?)

How about you? What’s important to you and what’s your filter? How do you decide what to focus on?


*I hope that I don’t come across as a whiny baby. Life is good. I’m so fortunate to have these “problems.”

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45 Responses to Ask the Readers: Focus, FI Life and an Agreeable Wife

  1. I think the root cause is you do not feel like you deserve it. As long as you were working you could justify it by saying you were working hard. Now that is gone your brain is looking for new justifications: but I cleaned up the house, but I am still working on side gigs, but I blogging, but, but, but …
    Here is the kicker, you probably do not deserve it. There is no ‘deserve’ when it comes to life. Life is what it is. We are all dealt a certain hand and then have to make the most of it. Some things you can control, a lot of things you cannot control. Some of those things out of your control will be good and some of them will suck. But there is no deserving in either of them.
    In my humble opinion, you can try to be a good person (and it is up to you personally how you are going to define ‘good’) while trying to make the best of the hand you got in life. And that’s about it. Since you achieved financial freedom you already have made the best of the hand you got in life so now it is time to enjoy it.

    tldr: life is meaningless, try to enjoy it and don’t be a dick.
    financialfreedomsloth recently posted…Special circumstance investing – august updateMy Profile

  2. I think it’s awesome that you are realizing that you are getting spread too thin before you get totally burned out. I’m sure trying to find the right routine in retirement isn’t easy but I’m sure you’ll hit your groove soon enough. Keep up that great work on your gigs 🙂
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…Is the Cost of a Financial Advisor Worth It?My Profile

  3. Wow, you’re FIREd, but you still sound crazy-busy!

    I FIREd 5 years ago so I have a little more experience at it than you. Plus I’m older at 57 and my two sons are adults. So a slightly different situation that may not be completely applicable to you.

    So the answer to your question about what I decide to focus on may sound a little bizarre to you and others but here it is – I think about what I would regret as I lay on my death bed. Morbid sounding, I know.

    For instance, lets say I have a choice between making some more money and spending more time with my family. I don’t have time to do both. So if I was laying on my death bed which would I regret more – not making more money or not spending more time with my family. If you guessed not spending more time with my family, you guessed right.

    This thought process also puts smaller things, like decluttering, into perspective. They become much left important to me.
    Mr. Freaky Frugal recently posted…Books for free!My Profile

  4. Steveark says:

    A couple of things. I’m sure if you’ve done 14’ers before that you know 75% of the effort is in the last 1000 feet of the climb. So don’t base how hard summiting may be by your practice hike, you weren’t even half way there in terms of what it will take. Secondly you might want to trade a few hours for money. I consult a day or two per week because it makes me feel useful and keeps my network alive. I don’t need the money but so far it has been generating six figures annually which is also kind of fun. It might do the same for you and since you don’t need the money either then what you make doesn’t matter. I also volunteer at 6 or 7 non paid side gigs. And I sleep like a baby without aid, but I think that is from running and playing tennis daily.

    • Yep, I’ve done lots of 14ers including Mt. Whitney, the tallest in continental North America. And you’re right, that last part is just as bad as all parts that come before it. I gotta say at 12,800 feet, I felt like a million dollars though. It took me less than 3 hours to get there and the stamina was there.

      Two days a week for 6 figures? Do you need an assistant? 🙂

  5. I have a tendency to spread myself too thin also. I think figuring out what matters to you, what makes you happy and that you’re passionate about, those are the things to focus on. Now that you are FI, the need for money is much less. So now you get to go hiking, play disc golf, take an afternoon to declutter a room, or take your wife out to lunch, just because you enjoy it. But changing the way you’ve thought for so long is going to be a hard process.
    I do have the same problem of my mind not calming down. I do very similar to someone you mentioned. I get up and run before my head is awake. And I get up early, so by the time it’s bedtime, I’m super tired and have no issues going to sleep.

  6. When I first quit, I couldn’t stop packing in my days like they were fleeting weekends. It took me almost a year to finnaly settle down. Now I’m spending a lot more time enjoying the moment. But I’ve also come to realize there’s only so much time in a day – even when you stop working.

    That means making priorities. I cut back on blogging – there’s 50 more years of retirement for me to say what I want. During the summer I brew less, garden more, and probably let my lawn go longer without cutting than I did while working.

    I still have the need to accomplish something each day, but in addition to being a self starter, you need to be a responsible manager of your time in FIRE. And that means not overdoing the schedule, which is tough for hyper optimists. Just remember it’s all for fun now 🙂

  7. I agree with you 100% to prioritize. You might be able to have it all, but just not all at once. Sounds like when you retired you just let yourself get a little crazy, and hey, nothing wrong with that! 🙂 I probably would to. But you can overextend yourself just as much in FI as you could when you had a full time job! Good luck!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…August Rewind-What the Hell Happened?!?My Profile

  8. Mrs.Wow says:

    “I need to take a step back and focus. It’s time to prioritize my life and figure out what’s important.”

    Amen! I am in the same boat, though unfortunately the root cause for me is my job and running my practice. August was an absolute crazy month for me, working more and harder than I have probably ever have, and I paid for it with my time. For a few weeks, my diet plummeted, my sleep was none existent and my overall happiness was overcome with a giant blob of yucky stress. I am in the beginning stages of prioritizing my life; its time to get back on track. Focus on what needs/wants to be done and forget about the rest. Deal?

  9. I’d probably say cut back on the side-gig. It seems to take a lot of time and effort both in doing it and taking away from other things like family (and decluttering haha). I’m learning a lot of valuable lessons from watching you hike this FIRE journey though! (see what I did there?)
    Gwen @ Fiery Millennials recently posted…Thrashing the Early Retirement ThresholdMy Profile

  10. Mr. SSC says:

    Oh, Long’s Peak! I never got around to that one because of the length and predawn leave time. I always thought, I’ll get to it eventually, and now I’m in TX and may never get to it. Such is life.

    As far as prioritizing, I’d say cut back on what costs the most time with the least reward. Maybe it’s decluttering, maybe it’s the new side gig, you will know which it is. I’ve cut back on blogging and it has been good mentally for me. I don’t always feel stressed worrying about “getting a post out” or that sort of thing.

    My filter to what’s important and what isn’t varies. I always want to play the banjo around 9-10am while at work. Yet if I’m at home, Mrs. SSC is always wanting to go do anything except “sit around”. Over the last week on a forced staycation due to a hurricane I got to play banjo whenever or do other things like video games and what not without that “let’s go do something” pressure because we were flooded in. No water in the house just full streets for a few days. It was nice and i got to choose what was important and what wasn’t.

    I guess that’s my filter. Can I overcome the starting energy needed to do whatever it is I think I want to do? If yes, then I do it, if no, I do anything else.
    Mr. SSC recently posted…One More Year Syndrome is LegitMy Profile

  11. Joe says:

    You’re writing a lot. I think that’s great, but don’t get burned out. Relax and slow down a bit. You’re making everybody else look bad. 🙂

  12. Mr. Tako says:

    Don’t be too hard on yourself Carl… you have a tendency to do that I’ve noticed.

    You’re still new at this whole “retired” thing. It’s going to take *practice* for you to learn the fine art of looking at the landscape and zoning-out for 20 minutes. Haha!

    Since you’re so focused on “getting things done”, use that! Break-up your day into a series of tasks — some of which should be “work tasks” and some should be “leisure tasks”.

    By it’s very nature, you’ll need to “let things go” to fit in those leisure tasks.
    Mr. Tako recently posted…Why I Bought LUVMy Profile

    • “By it’s very nature, you’ll need to “let things go” to fit in those leisure tasks.”

      Sometimes, I feel like I should let it all go except for a couple core posts here and exercise. Then, rebuild from there…

      • wendy says:

        Hmmm…you sound a bit like you’re rushing from extremes: work! FI exercise/vacation/blog! blow it up/start over!

        You sound very tempted to blow up it & start from scratch, but that may be avoiding the root cause…
        Perhaps you you need to work on priorities and pacing yourself a bit more… family, friends, exercise… sketch it into the week… add a main blog post in chunks of time…. add in one of the side gig posts..

        Does it look too busy? alternate the posts…

        Have a vacation coming up? put in a gap week (or two)…

        You sound like you enjoy everything you’re doing, it’s just (!) a phasing/pacing issue… allocate more *duration* for all the activities so you have the chance to dawdle, saunter, meander, daydream, nap, chillax, and generally NOT run around doing fun & meaningful things like it’s a race.

        You are no longer trading time for money. You are trading time for high value interests – give yourself a break – you don’t need to ‘solve’ or ‘accomplish’ retirement.

        Or something like that

  13. What a good problem to have, eh? But I totally understand your feeling over overcompensating. I’m fortunate to have two weeks of paid vacation during the holidays. Instead of using it to chill and relax, I always feel pressured to cram as much stuff as possible in those 14 days. It’s about finding a balance between taking care of bid’ness and remembering to be okay with doing absolutely nothing.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…The Picky Pincher August Budget ReportMy Profile

  14. ESI Money says:

    You need to come down south and hike Pike’s Peak with me next year!
    ESI Money recently posted…Millionaire Interview 18My Profile

  15. Phil says:

    “don’t trade time for money”. Money can be defined too broadly in this statement. You need to trade time for happiness – and if some of that happiness generates money, so be it. For many people, that happiness is work – but now you get to define that work. The stress comes from having too many options and that lack of clarity on what is validat in. If you figure out the validation, then you have found your meaning of life.

  16. There’s a lot to dissect here in this post, but just wanted to offer up a couple thoughts.

    -I think living in the moment is something we all struggle with to a certain degree. We’re always connected and our society moves at such a fast pace nowadays. Awareness that this is an issue and mindfully working towards improving is a great start. Continue to work to get better at it, but also give yourself some grace. Taking your phone out a couple times to jot down some notes seems fine to do during a hike. Maybe some music would help keep your mind more clear?

    -On nights when I really struggle to fall asleep melatonin works wonders. It’s a natural supplement and you don’t become reliant on it. Reading before bed helps too.

    -I LOVE ping pong, and that set up looks awesome!

    Thanks for sharing your journey, along with the various highs and lows.
    Matt Spillar @ Spills Spot recently posted…Travel Hacking Update #1My Profile

  17. Amber tree says:

    Sounds like I would do the same… think and let my mind wander around, take notes.

    Question you need to ask yourself: is it bad? Some people can stand there and think of nothing. You can’t. Neither can I. As long as it are creative thoughts on items that make you happy, there should not be a problem. Life is about doing things that make you happy. Agreed, it can be frustrating standing there and thinking of a blog post. Write down the main lines and then enjoy. Why not?!?

    Sometimes I think I compare to much to the “live now” Jonses. I should not. I al different, I need to accept that.

  18. Mrs. Kiwi says:

    I hiked Devil’s Thumb when I was in your area the other week! The views of Long’s peak made it look like a challenging climb!

    I definitely run myself ragged on the hampster wheel, and I don’t have two kids like you! I get the biggest benefit from cutting weekend/short trips to visit friends. Time at home is recharging. I can work on decluttering or a project for part of a day and still have time to read some fiction!

    It took me a while to realize that I don’t need to say yes to every invite, and I still struggle with it, as I see my fall filling up fast! And even local events are draining. So, I’m instituting the 24 hour ban. Don’t say yes to a commitment without thinking about it first! (Much like the Frugalwoods 72 hour shopping ban!) Spur of the moment things are fine, but wait before committing to a planned event!
    Mrs. Kiwi recently posted…Our FIRE DateMy Profile

  19. Thanks for the honesty, I relate to a lot of the things you’re dealing with in terms of sleep and focus. I often think I spread myself too thin, but just can’t give some things up.

    As for sleep, I get it. I’m always going back and forth between day and night shifts and that can wreak havoc on the body. Ambien is a last resort option but one thing I’ve started trying is something called Natural Calm. Drinking that, using blue light blocking glasses at night (my wife thinks I look ridiculous) and developing a good routine otherwise has done really well for me.
    Passive Income M.D. recently posted…When Your 65 Cents Is Worth a DollarMy Profile

  20. Cycling is what I focus on the most. I have been racing for 10 years and riding for 15 and would love the time to do more of it.

    So what do I focus on? I focus on having a good time. Whether it is traveling a ton or hanging out at home and enjoying the easy life, so long as I am enjoying myself, what does it matter?

    Gotta love Rocky Mountain National Park. Now the challenge! Wake up at 4am again and ride your bike into the park and to the top of Trail Ridge Rd. It is quite the climb and will be a beautiful fun descent back down.

    • “Wake up at 4am again and ride your bike into the park and to the top of Trail Ridge Rd.”

      I see the folks at the top who do this and my jaw drops to the floor. I think that this is beyond my genetics, but who knows? Maybe next year…

  21. Team CF says:

    Dude! You are on a hike that pretty and you look at your phone?! Really? WTF
    You really need to get your priorities sorted 😉

  22. Its a tough transition, and one that I’m not looking forward to. I am already struggling with this, and I’m still almost 3 years out.

    Thanks for talking about it, though recently posted…Book Review – Yes, You can Supercharge your Portfolio by Ben Stein and Phil DeMuthMy Profile

  23. Mr. Free says:

    Along time ago I had a client who worked at a manufacturing plant. One day, just after he left it blew up (gas leak) he knew nothing of it until hours later. He told me that this was a sign that he should retire. I told him fine, he had the resources but no plan on what to do with his life. He was so precise in his work that I knew he would die without a next step. He decided to get into fishing more, biking, cooking for senior citizens, reading and much more. That was 10 years ago. The first year was tough but the next 9 have been great. Don’t beat yourself up. Draw up a daily plan, workout in the morning, read for an hour, meditate, grocery shop whatever needs to be done but if you wing it you will run into problems. Coordinate with the Mrs and go for it. I did this with my wife when we became empty nesters and it works out well.

  24. I would never recommend Ambien only because I had a truly strange experience with it – I was having phone conversations that I didn’t remember at ALL. But (I don’t recall if I suggested this before, excuse me if this is a repeat) Benadryl doesn’t do that to you and if you really need a nudge, that’s not a terrible one.

    I’m having trouble focusing right now, as a matter of fact, and it’s because I have so many decisions to make, my brain can’t prioritize. So I’m going to give myself ten minutes to be all over the place and comment on blogs, and then I have to figure out what I’m going to do in my next several 30 minute blocks. If I can map out a few hours, it calms my overplanning brain and it settles into a reasonable groove. The most important things right now are feeding the family, walking the dog, getting my day job done, keeping our reno on track, and selling our place. Once we get through the big things, I can refocus on our more mundane day to day stuff. And also moving. UGH moving.

    This makes me think that you’d be able to enjoy your days more if you took a huge step back and set some limits on what you’ll do and when. Just because you can do anything now that you’re free doesn’t mean you should EVERYTHING right now, right? It seems like the state of early retirement took over and you went gung go for it. The travel commitments alone reminded me of your post about getting in too deep with your house flipping and missing out key years with your kids. Should they be at the center of your priorities? If so, then you should set a top limit of additional priorities that get airtime on a given day, aside from what you want to do with the kids.
    Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life recently posted…Net Worth & Life Report: August 2017My Profile

  25. Adam says:

    I’ve spent the last decade+ living by the following thoughts:

    1. “If I can sleep at night with the decision, I made the right one.” If I cant, I need to fix/change the decision. It’s not a high bar, but it does help with the second guessing.

    2. “My profession does not define me.” My family and my actions do.

    Best of luck in making these decisions and, hopefully, getting more sleep.

  26. Peter says:

    Hi, A previous neighbor of mine went FI in in his later 40s. He needed to occupy his brain one way or the other. In his 60s, he started focussing on his property boundaries, slowing moving the dirt road that separated properties by driving on the far side of his property to get another foot or two of land, because the rules of the area defined the property line at the center of the road.

    Bottom line, we must keep our mind on truly productive healthy, constructive things or else the power of our mind burns it’s energy negatively and destructively.

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