Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Review of the first Six Months of ‘Not Working’

As of Jan 1st 2009 I have not been working for 6 months.

The one question that I get asked over and above everything else is:
How are you spending your time?

It is mildly disappointing to admit that I am doing nothing radical, just spending my time doing the same things I enjoyed while I was working, but lots more of it.

I miss (many aspects of) work. I have posted before about the intellectual stimulation and interactions that I miss. At some level it hasn't sunk in fully that I am not working. Often, it feels like I am on a 2-week vacation and that I have to get back to work on Monday.

Travel featured very prominently in these past six months. We were out on the road for well over 50% of the days with a few trips out of the US. Planning for and recuperating from these trips took up time. We tried out a cruise (Alaska's Inner Passage) and liked it so much that we went again for a Caribbean cruise.

Thanks to not having to be at work, I got to spend a week traveling in Singapore and Malaysia with my parents. I am very glad that I got to do this.

The Books that I read in last six months happened to be solely non-fiction, many of them travelogues and travel anthologies. Though I read whenever I could, I was not able to average more than one book per week in these six months. For the whole year 2008, I read 37 books, which works out to 3 per month. (These are the books I read fully. I end up finishing only about 1 in 4 books that I start. I skim through several because there simply isn’t enough time to read them all.) Yes, 37 is a decent number, but I am hoping this number would be higher in 2009. Getting to read to my heart’s content is a big reason for why I am sitting at home and not at work.

The Movies that we watched were mostly documentaries and foreign films. We are focusing on seeing movies that we imagine would be difficult to obtain in India. I averaged over 2 movies per week for 2008. I am happy with anything higher than 1 a week. We are also ending up going to the movie theater a lot more. (When we were working, we had to actively make time to go to a theater, and popping in a DVD was easier. But now, since the opportunity cost of my time has come down, the pleasure of watching interrupted in a theater outweighs the ease of a DVD.)

TV: I was never big on watching TV, before or now. However, during the Olympics and the run up to the Presidential election, I did watch a lot of TV.

I had assumed that a 6-month hiatus would be sufficient and that I would get bored, but it doesn't at all feel adequate. I can easily take 6 more months. In the coming months, my wife and I are looking to setting up a base in India and dividing our time between the US and India. That is the general plan for the 1st half of 2009.

I am fully aware that not everyone gets time off, at least in this stage of life. And though it sounds corny as I type this, not a day goes by that I am not grateful to have this gift of time.


Arvind said...

Anchoring is bad but not so bad as it seems. Fidelity had a fund manager who refused to invest in Tech because he thought it was unsound. For a long time his fund was underperforming. Fidelity thought he was hung up, anchored to his beliefs, while the market was sky rocketing and fired him. They hired a tech guy and invested in Tech. Nasdaq collapsed and Fidelity took a big hit. If only they held on to the guy who was well anchored.

The larger point is that, it is really hard to make sense of the new data. So people refrain from anchoring and sway with the data. And thats not so cool either.

Anchoring or no Anchoring, its pretty hard. But If I were to pick only one, not being anchored is libertaing but not necessarily beneficial.

Ram said...


I am not referring to the English word, 'Anchoring' as in having steadfast beliefs.
My post is about the cognitive bias in which I am so in love with my hypothesis that I refuse to budge even in light of contrary data.

My fear is that if I tried to bring in more and more nuances, each post would become an essay. I do agree with your broader point. It's all about finding the right balance.

Arvind said...

I agree about the nuance part.

Also I think it would be great, if one of the people I know very well and see on a regular basis, adopted the no anchoring rule. I dont want to name names :)


bluediamond said...

don't you miss the earning part when you don't work?
or the not worthy kinda feeling n all???
i too ve been out of job for around 6 months now, though it was resignation by choice, i never wanted to retire from work... now i dont feel like working too, or applying for jobs again... dono why.. guess i got used to being at home...

Ram said...


Yes, the questions you raise/ask are the very crux of this blog.

1. Yes, I do miss getting a salary -- which for most of us is the ultimate safety net. For now, I'll live off my savings. For me, there was no other way to have a real sabbatical.

2. You refer to the "not worthy" feeling. In my case, it is really the guilt of not contributing to society, or being a freeloader. I think this break is necessary so that I find the right 'avenue' in which to contribute.

3. Yes, the inertia of rest. I too fear that it won't be easy to go back to having 8am meetings. Free time does spoil us in that way.

Thanks for leaving the note,