“This is it,” I told my wife last Monday.

“This is what?” Kris asked.

“This is the first day of the rest of my life,” I said. She knew what I meant. For the past few years, I’ve been living in a self-created whirlwind of busy-ness. I know a blog like this often seems calm and quiet on the surface, but underneath there’s usually a flurry of turbulent activity.

“Look,” I said, showing her my calendar. “As of today, I have nothing major scheduled. I don’t have any book deadlines, I don’t have any speaking engagements. I don’t have anything at all.”

When Money Meant More Than Time

Before I started Get Rich Slowly in 2006, I had a lot of free time. After I got home from my job selling custom boxes every day, I could do whatever I wanted. I could read comic books, play videogames, work in the yard, watch old movies with Kris, or hang out with my friends. Financially, I was deep in debt, but I had a vast surplus of time.

When I started this blog, one of my goals was to use some of this surplus free time to make more money. In a way, I wanted to convert time into cash. During the past four years, I’ve gradually taken every spare moment I once had, and now use that time to read and write about money. This happened slowly, of course, but by January of this year, the change was complete. I lived and breathed money.

But you know what? I found that having a high income and no free time was just as frustrating as having lots of time and a pile of debt. A life out of balance is a life out of balance.

The side effects of my life with no spare time haven’t been pretty:

  • Our home and yard began to fall into disrepair.
  • I haven’t had time to watch TV, play videogames, or read my comic books.
  • I didn’t even read for pleasure anymore.
  • My friendships have faltered.
  • Even my relationship with Kris has seemed rocky at times.

For years I’ve been promising Kris that, “As soon as this project is over, my schedule will loosen up.” But something new has always come up. My schedule is always full, and I never have any time for the important things in life.

Things came to a climax during the book project. While I was writing and promoting Your Money: The Missing Manual, I had zero time for anything else. (Even Get Rich Slowly took a backseat to the book!) As I’ve mentioned many times, I was so stressed that I ate all of the time, gaining 20 pounds in four months. Yikes!

After I turned in the final book edits in February, Kris and I took a vacation to Belize. I needed a few days to unwind, but once I did, I realized my life was out of control. I remembered what the old J.D. used to be like: relaxed, friendly, and easy-going. Now I was highly strung. Surely there was some sort of middle ground between between time and money?

Committed to No Commitments

Over the past few months, I’ve gradually reduced my obligations. The last major thing I had on my schedule was speaking at the Savvy Blogging Summit. Now I’m intentionally not doing things:

  • I’m not starting a second book, despite interest from another publisher.
  • I’m not pursuing other speaking engagements.
  • I’m putting off a blog I really want to launch (Success Daily) until January 1st. (Well, if that ends up being our case-study blog for the GRS blogging project, it’ll launch sooner.)

I’ve managed to cut my commitments to the basics; I have no large projects looming on the horizon. Along with some other behind-the-scenes changes (including the addition of the staff writers last year), I now should have some big chunks of free time.

What will I do with this new-found temporal wealth? I’ll spend a lot of it with my wife: We’ll work in the yard, watch old movies together, and go on a couple of trips. I’ll exercise in the morning, and I’ll practice my French in the afternoon. I’ve already begun to dig into my comic book collection, and that’s been a blast. Plus, Starcraft II comes out in a couple of weeks, which should provide hours of fun

And, oh yeah! I’ll also be able to spend more time writing articles for GRS — articles like this one.

Big Rocks

The transition won’t be immediate, of course; it’s going to take effort to change my workaholic mindset. But I’m intent on insuring that the turbulent activity beneath the surface of this blog doesn’t drag my life along with it again. I’ve set up systems to solve the problem. In other words, I’m striving to find balance. Instead of letting my life be only about money, I’m going to make room for other priorities, too.

In Work Less, Live More (still one of my favorite personal finance books), Bob Clyatt offers a simple metaphor for making room in your life for the important stuff. The secret, he says, is prioritizing:

Imagine you have an empty jar, a collection of a few large rocks, and several handfuls of gravel. Your task is to put all the large and small rocks into the jar. One approach would be to pile all the gravel first, but doing so would leave room for only one or two of the large rocks; you wouldn’t get everything to fit. Switch your approach and put the large rocks in first, and you’ll find that the gravel will all fit nicely around the empty space. If a bit of gravel doesn’t fit at the end, you’ve not lost much.

Let too many little things take priority, and there never seems to be time for the big things. Consider the Big Rocks to be really important things you want to accomplish in life, the things that define you. Get the big things in first, work on the right projects and priorities, and let the little stuff fit in around the edges. Let your Big Rocks be non-negotiable priorities in your weekly calendar — and learn to say “no” when other things begin to intrude. Then fit those other things in where you can.

So if running makes you happy, schedule your runs — and then fit the rest of your life around them. Don’t ignore your obligations, but make the stuff you have to do fit around the stuff you want to do, not the other way around.

Make an appointment with yourself. I’ve learned that if I really want to make something a priority, I sometimes have to schedule it. Because fitness is so important to me this year, for example, I’ve intentionally blocked off time on my Google calendar to exercise. Is it before 9am on Sunday through Thursday? Sorry. I can’t do what you’re asking. I’m busy. I have an appointment with myself at the gym or on my bike. Is it between four and five on a weekday afternoon? Sorry. I’m studying French.

As much as I love Clyatt’s analogy, there’s just one problem. Most of us start with our jars already full of rocks. How then do we find room for the stuff we want to do?

You don’t necessarily need to drop your current obligations, but as they end, don’t add more. Drop things (and let things end) until you are easily able to fit the Big Rocks into your schedule. Once you’re sure that everything fits, and that you have enough time for yourself, it’s okay to add something else to the jar. But only add one thing at a time. If you can handle that, then add something else.

Rich in Time

Last month, I wrote about the rewards of thrift. By being frugal, I said, and by saving my money, I’m able to spend money on the things that are important to me. GRS reader Dink left an insightful comment on that article:

There’s no need to worry about getting “rich” either slowly or quickly; if you’re rich in time, and comfortable financially, you’re better off than most people, poor or wealthy. Time is the real currency. Just look at what J.D. is showing…his time to cycle, his time to go to his gym, his time to travel. Freedom of time is what I personally strive for, where I can wake up one day and be my own master. While I’m lucky that I both enjoy my job and get paid well, it’s a complete time-suck. All I want is to reclaim my time.

I love the notion of being “rich in time”. I’d never though of it that way before, but now I can see that this idea has been a huge motivating factor for me over the past year. Sure, I’ve been able to create monetary wealth for myself, but I’ve done so at the expense of time. Because of this, in some ways I’ve felt poorer. These past few months have been all about me re-learning what it feels like to be rich in time.

I’ve been looking for balance, and — at last — I think I may have found it.

76 Replies to “Downshifting: The first day of the rest of my life”

  1. Rachel says:

    This article really reminds me of what get rich slowly use to be like when I first started reading (which probably is about a year ago). Insightful articles, not necessarily directly money related.

    Congratulations on your new found balance 😀

  2. SF_UK says:

    Well done – it’s easy to fall into the trap of more work, less life, but can also be dangerous to your relationships, and you mental and physical health.

    I’ve deliberately chosen career options that give me enough money, but also enough time. I could have chosen to go into any number of industries with my degree where I would potentially earn multiples of what I earn now, but I would also be expected to work lots of overtime, and I know I would burn out (a lot of my contemporaries are already doing this). I’d rather earn enough to be comfortable, live simply, and use my free time to have fun.

  3. GE Miller says:

    JD – great post. I like your quote, “do the stuff you want to do and then fit the stuff you need to do around it”. That’s a very practical and simple, yet effective way of looking at life. I’m in the ‘box factory’ with a blog in free time phase in my own life and I’m starting to feel the way you had been. Looking forward to reaching the next stage as soon as I don’t have to work the 9-to-5.

  4. Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom says:

    It seems interesting that a lot of big bloggers talk a lot about this workaholism in the early days of starting off their blogs. It’s only after they become successful that they talk about the virtues of doing things at a more measured pace. Yet the middle ground was always available as an option. I wonder if a certain level of entrepreneurial and financial security has to be attained to get to that balance for some?

    Some good resources: Neil Fiore’s “The Now Habit” for making sure you fit in what’s important, Charles Givens’ “Super-Self” for outsourcing, and Richard Koch’s “The 80/20 Principle” (and other books) for leading a balanced life and stepping back – some like Tim Ferriss and The 4HWW, but I prefer Koch.

    One of the other downsides of workaholism can also be that you don’t even enjoy whatever time that you do take off because you’re thinking that you should be working. Over the years, I too have learned the hard way – “Get in, get done, go home” became the motto – along with saying “no” on a more regular basis. Learning to audit commitments and to focus on high value extra-curricular activities on a regular basis is no different than a YMOYL spending audit. Ensuring your time goes towards what you value is a lot tougher than money for some, glad to see you’ve learned to focus on what’s important.

  5. PMT says:

    It always has and always will be about time for me. I never get back time that I have lost working and my kids will only be living with me so long. My goals are to replace my income so that I can spend my time on what matters…friends, family and helping others.

    Granted I can do that now but in a limited fashion. I’m not looking to get rich so I can buy things, though I can’t say I wouldn’t splurge, but rather so that I’m not owned by a job or other daily obligations that are not of my choosing.

  6. Sarah says:

    If you’re already overwhelmed, why start another blog at all?

  7. Rose M says:

    It really is a matter of deciding what your priorities are. You can’t work on 10 things at the same time. Say “yes” to the most important things, and “no” temporarily to the other things. You can always come back to things you had to put aside while working on your top priorities. Trying to achieve a happy balance – it’s not always easy but it can be done.

  8. Sam says:

    One of the articles on GRS foncused on time poverty recently and that term has really stuck with me.

    I absolutely suffer from time poverty and it is something I’m working on. However, when I work 60+ hours a week, I’m already short on time. Add in charity and community commitments, managing our personal finances (which takes a good chunk of time each week), a work out here and there, keeping the house tidy, sleeping 8 hours a night (a must for me) and I have little time for anything else.

    Small positive changes I’ve been working on over the last year, sticking to the one minute rule (anything that takes less than one minute to complete [like putting a dish in the dishwasher] has to be done), leaving the office at a time certain regardless of what I’m doing or what others are doing (in the past I often waited for my work buddies to wrap up their projects, but I get to the office before they do so I shouldn’t be waiting for them at the end of the day), not turning on the t.v. when I get home (too easy to sit and relax for a minute or two which all of sudden ends up being 1/2 hour) and instead turning right to my work out, spending 15 minutes a day cleaning which means the house is in better order and cuts down on big weekend cleaning projects, combining activities (this is good and bad) like making my personal calls on my evening walk, reducing internet time.

  9. Money Smarts Blog says:

    I’ve had the same issues lately as I’ve been finishing my book.

    Now I plan to take it easy for the rest of the summer.

  10. MM says:

    I hear you on StarCraft 2. I got mine preordered. hollaaa

  11. Moneymonk says:

    Wow JD, this comes as a shocker. I remember in an interview that you said you will wite another book about your personal journey. Now I read you’re moving away from all of it.

    I’m shocked by I truly understand. I have been feeling the same way, after I launch my book this Fall. I will do something I have not did in a long time…REST!

    We all need a sabbactical!

  12. Nicole says:

    I hear you. Time is so important.

    We’ve really enjoyed this year of sabbatical and it is going to be very difficult to get back to a full work load. Free time is probably what is going to suffer (possibly along with research). And we’ll hire people to do basic chores again. Yet as I get older it’s harder to work more than 8 hours a day and it is very difficult to keep working overtime with no end in sight.

    Money goals are important, but in the third stage of personal finance, money has hit diminishing marginal returns. It is time that’s more important. Luckily money buys goods and services, even if many first stagers don’t understand why that’s so important. One day they will.

    (Also, I think Sarah @4 is right. The blogging project is a great idea, but take someone else’s blog and let them do the heavy lifting unless you’re sure blog #2 isn’t going to tip you out of balance again…)

    (With all this– why did we just start a blog? Well, to be honest if it becomes work and not a hobby we’re going to stop. Right now it’s equivalent to little rocks, not big ones. Yes, Tyler K, I am totally plugging our blog, and sneakily too. Mwahahaha.)

    p.s. J.D. I totally recommend reading Robert Boice’s book on writing if you haven’t yet.

  13. Tawra@Living On A Dime says:

    Thanks so much for the insight! I’ve often wondered how the bloggers who are making a full-time living doing this have any life, especially the moms.

    I kept thinking that it was because I was chronically ill, had 4 kids, moved 10 times and all the other “stuff” that was causing me not to be able to fully focus on the website.

    Your truthfulness was just what I needed!

  14. Molly On Money says:

    A few weeks back when readers were pushing you to write more on how to make supplemental income (rather then cutting back) I must admit I cringed. A few years ago I intentionally went out and found a ‘better’ job with a higher salary. My husband did the same. During that time we spent less time with each other, friends and our kids. Our quality of life took a dive. I know there’s a balance- I’m just trying to find it like you.
    Interestingly last weekend I went to the library and checked out ‘Work Less, Live More’ and ‘Your Money or Your Life’.

  15. Mrs. Money says:

    I am glad you are finding a good balance. Take some time to play! 🙂 You deserve it!

  16. Kyle Richey says:

    I can’t help but quote Jack Johnson (“Broken” lyrics):

    “Found out I was losing so much more than I knew all along
    Because everything I’ve been working for
    Was only worth nickels and dimes
    But if I had a minute for every hour that I’ve wasted
    I’d be rich in time, I’d be doing fine”

    This lyric has always resonated with me, and even though we all hope to make our work worth more than “nickels and dimes”, in the end time is worth so much more than money.

    I am currently down to around 3-5 hours/day of work on my business, and while I could be making a lot more money if I took on more projects & clients, I am happy knowing that I am upholding my quality standard for living…and gradually increasing my income.

    Thanks for a great post, and enjoy your free time!

  17. Kevin M says:

    I really liked this post. Enjoy your free time, JD. I envy you in that you have so much free time. Between work and family time I barely have 30 min to myself each day, but I realize that makes me rich in yet another way. So for now my hobbies are the small rocks and sand that I fit in when I can.

    If I were you, I wouldn’t start the second blog. It sounds like just another project that won’t really add any value to your life.

  18. HollyP says:

    One aspect of the time/money issue has to do with perspective. As parents, I have “big rocks” related to parenting. Reading this I realize there is another alternative… I need to change my perspective. Yes, cooking dinner and packing lunches are rocks. But there are some kid-related activities (like doing chores with the kids) that I need to mentally change from rocks to anti-rock. If I focus on these tasks as time to enjoy my children, then my rock burden becomes lighter. (I would think the same thing applies to work for some… having a job you love means never calling work a rock.)

  19. Emi says:

    I am fascinated with the linkage between “uncluttering,” “getting the big rocks into the jar,” and personal finance. By focusing on the things that matter (and getting rid of the distractions), you can then, as you said, “work on lifting the big rocks.”

    Two of my biggest expenses are housing and transportation. For the last two years, I have focused on these two expenses. I considered different options and how they affect my life “financially” and “time-wise.” By downsizing my housing and personal transport options now, it creates a bigger personal savings opportunity at the end of each month.

    My sister has long argued that time currency is more valuable than financial currency. That conversation stuck in my head, and it helps me prioritize the rocks in my jar. Wouldn’t we all like to (at some point in our lives) empty the entire jar and starting over? Life just isn’t that easy, so the best we can do is start pushing out the gravel from the current jar and start moving those big rocks around until it sits right.

  20. partgypsy says:

    Just out of curiosity, how many hours per week did you work when your life was “out of control?” What are you aiming for this year?

  21. Kent @ The Financial Philosopher says:

    JD: Congratulations on the first day of the rest of your life! Perhaps you could mark the day as a “birthday” (or re-birthday) and remember it every year.

    This will help maintain consciousness of the real J.D.(plus it’s a good excuse to celebrate)!

    With regard to time, I like this from Lau Tzu:

    “Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.'”

  22. Atmara says:

    I’ve just found your blog and am impressed with your desire to make you life about what you value most. It is so easy in our society to get caught up in the “doing” and not the living. I doubt anyone on their death bed says “I wish I had worked more and made more money and spent less time being with the people I love.” Thanks for your wisdom.

  23. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff says:

    I’m glad you’re finding a balance. I too have given up pleasure reading for blogging, so I guess I need to find a better balance too.

    My husband and friends are the most important things in my life, so even my blog isn’t allowed to get in the way, lol. I work from 8am-4:30pm Monday-Friday (and am lucky enough to be able to read and comment on blogs like this one when I get my work done and have to wait for the next load), blog every Monday-Thursday evening from 6pm-10pm with a break for dinner unless hubby wants to go out or my friends pop up with something, and write additional posts Sunday afternoons and evenings. Friday nights and Saturdays I barely touch my blog because that’s usually when all the fun stuff is happening. 🙂

    Priorities are great. They allow us to fit all the extras around the truly important stuff just like you’re suggesting. For me it’s hubby, friends, then blogging and everything else, hahaha.

  24. TosaJen says:

    Congrats on getting to this point, JD! You’ve set up a well-oiled machine that can go along largely without you. (I’m reading Michael E Gerber’s book The E-myth Revisited.)

    Within my first month of joining IBM at the tender age of 22, I was able to sit through a seminar by Stephen Covey and Assoc. about the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. A lot of that is about how we set priorities and manage time, and I think that’s the first place I heard about the “jar of rocks”. I’ve gone back to those principles several times since.

    As parents, the balance of time and money has been particularly challenging. Do we make more money to give the kids “the best,” or do we set up our lives to have more time to spend with them? DH had a strong reaction to the song “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin as a teenager (http://www.harrychapin.com/music/cats.shtml), which I’m sure has impacted our decisions.

  25. mike says:

    Congrats, JD, on reaching this wonderful milestone and having the strength of mind to recognize your desire to achieve it.

  26. Rachel says:

    This reminds me of a light bulb moment I had in Music History class in high school. We were talking about patronage in the Renaissance and the teacher asked, “what does money do?” None of us 17 year olds had an answer. He told us that “having money frees your time”. Aa patron allowed great artists to create great art. Having a reason to want/need money makes all the difference.

  27. Kathi says:

    Time – Money – Energy

    You only get 2 at a time.

    The older we get the more we are willing to trade money for time (ie pay someone else to clean our gutters). Once you say “yes” it is hard to say “no” – I was a stay-at-home-mom for 8 years and many people thought I worked at the schools my children attended.

    Good for you in regaining a balance to your life.

  28. Shauna says:

    My husband and I are just getting started on our debt snowball, and I’ve been struggling with the time vs. money issue a lot so this post was particularly interesting to me. When you’re in the early phase of trying to cut expenses and increase income to pay down your debt, it can be tempting to get yourself to a place where there is nothing enjoyable left in your life. Dave Ramsey almost seems to encourage this in his book, for short periods while you’re working down your debt. I’ve struggled with that, because over the past two years I consciously sought to simplify my life and reduce stress, even if it meant occasionally paying more for help with something. Where do you find the balance in this equation when you’re still paying things off?

  29. DC Portland says:

    Brilliant JD! Congratulations! You are an inspiration for many. The irony about your blog is that life is not about getting rich at all – neither fast nor slowly. Wealth is not measured by money. It is measured by peace, knowing, and love.

  30. Nicole says:

    @28 Shauna

    I think the big answer to that in the Dave Ramsey universe is “when you can afford it” and possibly “if it is affecting your health.” A big key for his methods is that the “gazelle intensity” really is only short-term and you can see the end of it. After you’ve got the 1K in expenses and have paid the non-mortgage debt off (allowing yourself some “blow money” during the process so you’re not completely deprived) you can relax while you save up the 3-6 month expenses and the retirement.

    Another key is that after all that deprivation a little increase feels like a big increase and that it is MUCH easier to save when you’re not wasting money every month servicing high interest debt. Pain early on makes the rest of the process much easier.

  31. Tyler Karaszewski says:

    Yes J.D., more articles following you down this road, please! I’m super-interested to see where you go next, how the “third stage of personal finance” plays out for you, and what you do to enrich your life when you’re no longer sacrificing all your time in an effort to get up to speed. Now that you’ve built a foundation for your life financially, I’m excited to see what you put on top of it.

    Not to drag this back to Saturday’s post, but this just seems more progressive (and interesting) to me than going back and starting over from the beginning with another blog. If you have time for both, though, why not?

    This post also reminded me of an article Merlin Mann wrote about priorities ( http://www.43folders.com/2009/04/28/priorities ) which I think is well-worth reading.

  32. Trust Deed Investing says:

    Glad I’m not the only one. I find myself working at home late into the night to stay on top of the work load. Trying to find balance is tough. Maybe it’s finally time to pick up that book about a few hours in a work week? I have a hard time believing that exists.

  33. Christina in NM says:

    I agree about time being the real currency. I have a well-paying job and have very little debt. The real problem is that I have to work many hours and I frequently feel very stressed. The point of my frugal ways now is to get to the point where I can work part time and reclaim some free time.

  34. bethh says:

    Congratulations! I’m looking forward to hearing more about this next stage of your journey. I’m contemplating (hoping for, I think!) some life changes but I’ve always been very clear about the importance of balance. My bigger problem is saying no to fun things, so I have time to recharge my batteries. 🙂

    It’ll be interesting to hear what your rocks and gravel are.

  35. Early Retirement Extreme says:

    Time is something which is used to regulate machines. It is essentially a schedule which is mechanically regulated.

    Humans are not mechanical.

    I’d recommend watching Castaway (Tom Hanks). What we have initially is a delivery manager that works completely on the clock. He is easily frustrated when he can’t catch fish on time through effort. A year later, he has changed from the “farming” perspective of the modern worker (toil the soil) to that of a hunter. You see that in the movie in a scene where he is standing perfectly still, just waiting for the right opportunity. One throw with the spear and he gets his fish… because the spear was thrown when it should be .. not according to some schedule.

    Investing is the same way.

    One way to understand the new mentality is that things happen in “compressed time”. That’s just another way of saying that things don’t happen on a regular schedule. Sometimes a lot happens. Sometimes little happens. The mind doesn’t notice, because it doesn’t have a watch to check. It has its own watch.

    That’s what it’s like to be rich in time.

  36. Virginia Ripple says:

    I’ve been trying to do this for some time now. Balance is one of the hardest things to achieve. Thanks for being an inspiration.

  37. Erik H says:

    With your new found time, may I recommend “Super Charged Retirement” by Mary Lloyd? I know that you’re not retired, so there’s plenty that won’t apply, but at the same time, it got me thinking about what I want my time to look like now at 30 by thinking about what it might look like at 70.

  38. Gerald says:

    Billy Joel sumed it up with his song Moveing Out.

    Sergeant O’Leary is walkin the beat
    At night he becomes a bartender
    He works at Mister Cacciatores
    Down on Sullivan Street
    Across from the medical center
    And he’s tradin in his Chevy for
    A Cadillac ack ack ack ack ack
    You ought-a know by now
    If he can’t drive with a broken back
    At least he can polish the fenders
    You ought-a know by now

    You can pay Uncle Sam with the overtime
    Is that all you get for your money
    And if that’s what you have in mind
    Then that’s what you’re all about
    Good luck movin up cause I’m movin out

  39. Troy says:

    I noticed something in your post.

    “My schedule is always full, and I never have any time for the important things in life.”

    Not true. You had time for all the “important” things in your life. It is what was important to you at that time that is the issue.

    You cared about the book. About the money. So that is where your focus was.

    Most everyone is right where they deserve to be.

    I enjoy the enlightenment. Realizing that time is the valuable resource, not money, is a true milestone.

  40. Joe Todd says:

    Great post I took this message to heart about 15 years ago and I am very glad I did

  41. Landon says:

    This is a great post. I’m looking to become “Rich in Time” as well… Isn’t it sad that we have to jump through so many hoops in this society to get there?

  42. April says:

    Really enjoyed this post, and it’s full of words of warning for me as I grow my own business. I almost overwhelmed myself taking on too much, and then a project fell through, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

    I was going to accept it because I wanted the extra cash and didn’t want to tell someone “no,” but I was stressed out about taking on so much work when my plate is full.

  43. Miss Minimalist says:

    I love the concept of being “rich in time.”

    I’ve recently been applying my minimalist philosophy to my time as well as my space. Instead of trying to “get more done,” my goal is to have “less to do.”

    I’ve discovered that decluttering your schedule can be just as rewarding as decluttering your closets! 🙂

  44. blue says:

    congratulations – thank you for sharing and please enjoy the leisure time.

  45. Denise says:

    Great article! Thanks for sharing. If you don’t muster the courage to think critically about your situation, you’ll end up living a life of conformity & complacency. Kudos to finding the silver lining.

  46. Ken says:

    Good points. We all need to establish priorities and follow through on them. I liked your point about dropping something and not picking it back up (or replace with something else).

  47. mick says:

    just as the only constant is change itself, to maintain balance, one must always be “balancing”…

    In looking for balance, it is helpful to view it as a verb, rather than a noun.

  48. Becky says:

    Minus the Starcraft, congratulations on your newfound perspective, and peace:)

  49. chacha1 says:

    Downshifting: what I had to do when I left a job managing a law office and got a new job as “just” a secretary. It took some getting used to, but man! What a difference in quality of life!

    Troy at #39 had an interesting point. I think it’s clear that what was important to J.D. DID change over time, and that these changes have driven the financial makeover, the professional makeover, and now the priorities makeover.

    It is so easy to forget that people DO change, with time and circumstance; and that what seems desperately important to us at 15 or 30 or 45 may seem completely trivial five or ten years later.

    I too am looking forward to J.D.’s continuing self-discovery.

  50. Jen Schneider says:

    Hi JD!

    I LOVE this post! I’ve been writing an academic article on the idea of “alternative hedonism,” which is the notion that we are looking for deeper ways to feel pleasure and happiness that don’t necessarily involve consumption (or saving) but rather having time. The documentary and book No Impact Man are examples of alternative hedonism, what you are going through is (I think) and you can also check out Juliet Schor’s recent book Plenitude.

    I think this is fantastic. Keep writing about your experiences!

    Jen @ toddlerspit (I wrote a piece for GRS years ago on the costs of raising kids ;)).

  51. Leah says:

    yes, I love the idea of being rich in time! My main issue is this: how much time is spent in pursuit of your job, especially outside of job hours? I commute an hour each way right now, and I have to say that my commute only serves to seriously exacerbate my stress. I know the same is not true for everyone — some people like the calm and quiet in the car. But I’d much rather live closer to work, even if that means having a job I don’t love as much. I’m slowly working on that . . .

  52. Debtheaven says:

    These things feed on each other. One more project, one more post, one more article, one more meeting, one more book … and then time escapes all over again.

    Kudos to you, JD, for having worked hard enough to be in the position to have this choice now, and (I believe) for making the right one.

    I would just encourage you not to take TOO much time off, whatever “too much” means. But, I think that by nature I am more indolent than you, as well as older.

    I freely acknowledge that this is absolutely none of my business, you and Kris seem to really enjoy and reconnect during your travels, so maybe schedule a few more trips?

    Best of luck to you, as always.

  53. myfinancialobjectives says:

    One of my favorite topics to talk about: Time. I feel for you J.D. I have often had to take step back and reevaluate myself, in both ways. Sometimes I feel like I am becoming to attached to a video game, or have watched too many movies lately, other times I feel that I am neglecting my girlfriend way too much for my blog. Either way, a step back has always helped me. Taking a look at your self from a birds eye view always helps me.

    Being Rich in Time yet Rich Monetarily is something we are all striving for. If you ever do TRULY achieve that, Congrats, I hope to one day see that success as well!:)

  54. Mike Crosby says:

    Hello JD,

    I hope you reading my prolific statement is not considered work;>)

    JD, seems to me you have a wonderful wife, a beautiful home, and a great life. Yes, enjoy my friend.

  55. Brian says:


    I have always enjoyed GRS, even when the subject matter didn’t necessarily apply to me. Your latest post however, resonates so clearly with me and my current situation.

    I won’t bore you with all the details. Just saying thank you and congratulations. Well done, my friend!

  56. KarenJ says:

    After being let go from my almost full-time job in 2007, I struggled so hard to find something to do that would allow me the flexibility I was looking for and the income that would allow us to “make our nut” (as my husband likes to put it) every month. After almost three years, it came down to either getting a J-O-B or draining our savings, so reluctantly, but with every ounce of discipline I could muster, I took a position that has me working about 50 hours a week. Although my work is pleasant, I find myself living for weekends, and accomplishing nothing in my limited off time except for resting up to begin another long workweek. My goal is and continues to be to figure out how I can segue into the next phase and reclaim my life. At my age (54), I never thought I’d be working this hard. What keeps me going is knowing that this situation is temporary, although how temporary is not known. For now I do what I must do. I once heard that balance is a constant shifting of priorities, and not a place you actually get to go.

  57. Paula says:

    Yay! I am very happy for you, J.D. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time without commenting. You’ve hit the nail on the head (for me). I want my money to go farther — but I don’t want to be a slave to money. I will never be Bill Gates. I know that. I would be happy to have a vacation (or two) a year and my credit cards repaid. And still have time for a hobby. Right now, my life consists of my career. That’s it. Most people’s lives have more in them — I’m glad you found that! Your wife (and readers) will thank you! lol.

  58. Margot says:

    I don’t understand why you are comparing money versus time in this article. My guess is that you didn’t primarily focus so much on the blog and the book for the financial benefit. My guess is that those things became your passion temporarily, you were excited about building something new, you were following the momentum of these projects, etc. When I started a new business and when I started a nonprofit organization, each one took over my life for a period of time because that was the rhythm of how it went. I love the energy of starting things and running with them. Money, if it comes, is a side benefit. It can also become a motivation, but I have a hard time believing that money was your main motivation to focus on the blog.

  59. Lainey says:

    Hey, I’m rich in time! Woo-hoo! Somehow it still doesn’t feel like enough to do everything I need and want to do.

  60. Greg says:

    There are many examples where things go out of whack when one “currency” is used exclusively. For many individuals and institutions, $$$ becomes the single most important criterion. We’ve seen the consequences of that in the last few years. In education, standardized test scores are the “currency” with which achievement and performance are assessed. Just as many financial experts call for diversification in a portfolio, balance is necessary in our life portfolios. For each moment and situation, different priorities will emerge. Perhaps one of our biggest challenges is to become aware of and take actions based on those priorities.

  61. Andrea @ MommySnacks.net says:

    Yay for you, J.D.! When my kids get back in school this fall, my “me” time is going back on the calendar too.

  62. Money Reasons says:

    Congratulations on recognizing your out-of-balance state! I think many of us don’t realize that we are even out of balance!

    I think taking it slowly is the best way to get in balance. If you go to extreme, that’s just plain stressful too!

  63. finance4youth says:


    I read a comment early on about the balanced approach being available all the time. Like a lot of things, I think it becomes available when you are ready. I’m glad you found it when you did.

    I tried to never allow myself to get that wrapped up in anything, which may have affected my success in blogging and writing. I wouldn’t do it any other way. Money comes and goes, but those people and memories that are truly important are only there for a split second in your life. Those are worth more than money ever will be.


    PS: Let me know what I’m missing in comic book land. I still haven’t been able to get back into them.

  64. Yael Diamond says:

    Great post! And I love the idea of making an appointment with yourself – I am always ‘busy’ and have forgotten to take time out for myself. Now that it is scheduled into my life, I have started to appreciate the quiet time for me. Thanks

  65. Claudia says:

    I’m new to this blog and really enjoyed this post. As a longtime yoga teacher, I was reminded that I always suggest to my students that balance is not something we necessarily acquire once and for all – and then it is ours forever – but rather it is a process, a dynamic state. Our bodies and our minds are in a continual dance of finding balance and then losing it, of hitting our mark and then wobbling, of always renewing our focus. Try standing on one leg with your eyes closed, and notice how, even when it appears you have found your balance to the outer eye, in truth you are always wavering, breathing, responding to the space around you, finding, almost losing it, and then recovering it again. It is a beautiful adventure – enjoy it!

  66. Deirdre says:

    Well many, I find myself also feeling like there is never enough time. I have more or less balanced my life in terms of finances (through much help and inspiration from this blog)also I have downsized my “stuff” also with help from the blog Zen Habits two areas of life I found to be time sucks. I have started my own blog to help me with the very notion of living life more slowly so by week’s end I’m not left desperately trying to remember, “what did I do on Monday?” The idea that has been keeping me in check lately is that in 40 years, when perhaps running distances isn’t an option, being with loved ones may not be possible or building sand castles with my kids is just a memory, I want it to be just that a memory, not something I wish I had done if only I had had more time.

  67. Trent Hamm says:

    “It seems interesting that a lot of big bloggers talk a lot about this workaholism in the early days of starting off their blogs. It’s only after they become successful that they talk about the virtues of doing things at a more measured pace.”

    That’s because it takes a ton of work to make a “big blog” happen. A TON. For someone to have become a “big blogger,” they had to have done an incredible amount of preparation and execution to get to that point.

    When their blog is popular – and sometimes popularity goes far beyond what is ever expected – there’s a tendency to want to step back, take a breather, and let the thing coast for a while. You’ve poured so much of your energy into this thing over the past X years and now that it’s successful, you’re somewhat drained.

    What comes next? I don’t think there’s an easy answer to that for anyone. I think it depends on how you’re wired.

  68. Joel | Blog Of Impossible Things says:

    Good for you JD.

    I’m doing the same thing lately. Gotta find a balance somewhere.

  69. brooklyn money says:

    It would be nice to be able to “find balance” but when you have a boss and clients and a BlackBerry, no time is every really your own fully. At least I am somewhat compensated for it.

  70. LindyMint says:

    For curiosity sake, do you think GRS would be what it is today, and do you think you would be where you are financially today had you not let your life get “unbalanced” to do so? What would you have done differently if you could go back, and do you think the outcome would have been different? Just wondering.

    A slower life is my goal too. But I know I have several years of hard work and no hobbies before I get there.

  71. Matt says:

    Congrats JD!!

    I’m finding more and more that time is one of those commodities that we can’t buy no matter how hard we try. Seeing posts like this one and following people like Tim Ferris is a real eye opener to really focus on the important things in life and not to focus on everything.

  72. rail says:

    Hey JD! Just wanted to say that this topic realy hits home. Last 4 yrs or so my life has been challenging. I became a father for the first time, my mother has had health issues and lost both maternal grandparents. With all that goes along with the family issues, the economy and the issues at the work place it has had effects on me too. I have not execised like I used to and hobbies and work around the house and garden have suffered. Just try and keep it all in perspective. You have identified what needs to change and what you need to do to keep yourself healthy and happy. I know that you and Kris enjoy the garden and getting back into it will give some peace of mind. I have been using the “Rocks” method the last few weeks myself and its seems to be working for me. Just remember that ‘Rome wasnt built in a day’ and to not be to hard on yourself. You and Kris have done some amazing things in the last 5 years and some time of reflection and reorganisation was probably in order. We all have to be aware that sometimes our time has to be “spent”, just like our rainy day fund. This is the way I looked at it with the family illness issues. Time at home(savings) had to be spent with grandparents and mother, and job. Obviously I wanted and needed to be with my family and had to go to my job so I didnt beat myself up to bad when time for exercise or housework suffered. Now things have hopfully settled down for a while and exercise and the house and garden will come back to the fore. Hope you get back on track and find your balance, health and wealth!

  73. Invest It Wisely says:

    I like the idea of time being the true wealth. In the end, the goal of getting out of the rat race is in part about building up enough passive income to do less of the things you don’t like to do (i.e. 9 to 5 grind), and do more of the things that you DO like to do (work that you enjoy, travelling, etc…). Nice post!

  74. Dan says:

    I’d recommend a podcast called Pursuing a Balanced Life at http://pursuingabalancedlife.com//

  75. Manu says:

    This article redefines the old adage ” Time is Money”. Time IS money, all by itself.
    Great article, about time too !

    I was “forced” into early retirement last year at 56 yrs of age. I thought I’d go back to work but then I found I was really enjoying my time doing all the things I had been waiting to do. Going for walks, working out, reconnecting with friends, visiting family in the US and in India, practicing my spiritual path…etc.
    I got two job offers that fit my 30 yrs of experience exactly. It didn’t take much to turn them down after I asked my self do I really want to be back in the old stressful rat race?

    I believe with a modest lifestyle which I can adjust as needed, savings and a small pension I will be able to make my money last while continuing to enjoy life as it should be lived having fun…and being happy.

  76. Jessy Gothworth says:

    There comes a moment in your life, when you think it’s time to let off the steam and you had enough of the limelight of the big city.

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