Giving Myself Permission To Breathe

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Giving Myself Permission To Breathe

After over 6 years of consistent blogging, it’s time to give myself some permission to breathe.

Before I continue, know that I’m not done blogging – far from it. Writing on Route to Retire is something I still thoroughly enjoy doing and will continue to do for as long as that’s the case.

However, it’s still something that takes a lot of time each week to do. And unfortunately, time is a finite resource for each and every one of us.

While I don’t plan to take off the summer, for example, I like the idea of having some permission to breathe. Skipping a week or two here and there seems to be something that makes sense.

In other words, it’s time to remove that rigid schedule from my life.

The past 6+ years of blogging

I started the Route to Retire blog in May of 2015. It started as an outlet for me to share my thoughts on the path to financial independence and a way to track my journey.

As the years have passed, we were fortunate to reach the goal of reaching financial independence. Now, the site has become a place to share what I’ve learned along the way- both in what’s worked and what hasn’t. It’s an opportunity to inspire and motivate others into realizing that financial freedom doesn’t need to be a pipe dream. With planning and dedication, I think this is possible for a large percentage of folks.

It’s been a place for me to learn as well. The opinions and feedback I get from you as readers when I discuss plans and strategies in our life are extremely valuable. No one has all the answers so I look at this as a venue for all of us to learn together.

And a little bit of a surprise to me, this blog has drawn a huge amount of interest in our move to Panama. Initially, I would have expected more negative criticism when we left the U.S. and moved to Boquete.

But it seems that many of you enjoy hearing what it’s like to live in another country. You’ve been supportive of our journey and I receive quite a bit of email from some of you looking to do the same.

Giving Myself Permission To Breathe - View of the sunset over Volcan Baru
A view of the sunset over Volcán Barú… majestic for sure!

Route to Retire has absolutely evolved over the years and I still love writing every week. It’s crazy to realize that since the start over six years ago, I haven’t missed a single week without at least one post coming out.

I’ve published over 350 posts I’ve written over these years. If you ever want to see the timeline of all of them, you can access the list on my “All Posts” page. You can even see the horrible writing I used to do when I first started this site!

I do make a little bit of money on the site but not enough to justify this as a real money-maker. My hourly wage would probably come out to about $3.84 an hour, which coincidentally is 1 cent less per hour than what I made at the first job I had while in high school!

So I’m not writing because of the money – I’d be an awful job-picker if that was the case. I write because I enjoy the actual process, the feedback I get from you guys, and the sense of community that comes along with it. And hearing when my posts help you to accomplish something or motivate you to do more makes my day even better!

Giving myself permission to breathe is difficult for me

In these 6 years of writing, I’ve also bestowed a self-imposed deadline that I needlessly place on myself. In my head, I need to put out one post a week.

Some bloggers write more and some less, so why have I made this a regular weekly event?

In the beginning, I was trying to put out a couple of posts every week, but it was just taking too much time away from my family. They were the reason I was on the path to financial independence in the first place so that seemed silly.

So why not post even less?

One word… consistency.

Consistency is a big deal for me. Without it, I struggle to make things happen – I start to let things fade until they disappear. So when I want to be successful in achieving something, I need to make it an unforgiving routine. For example…

The path to financial independence – Once we set down this path, there was nothing that could stop us. I wanted needed to be done with a regular career so I could have more time and freedom. Freedom to find happiness and spend more time with my family.

I was relentless. I spent time learning everything I could about what I needed to do to make this happen – blogs, books, and podcasts. It was all about learning and then executing…

  • Paying ourselves first
  • Saving as much as we could by cutting back on stupid crap and earning more
  • Investing better by understanding the right way of doing things
  • Trying different outlets to make some money like buying rental properties, writing books, or even starting this blog

I optimized our finances to the point where it briefly became too much. I had forgotten to not just focus on the future, but to balance that with the present as well. Luckily, I realized that before it became too much of a mess.

But because of dedication and consistency, we’re now living a life of freedom.

Working out – I won’t go into this too much because I talk about this all the time, but working out is now a normal part of my routine. It’s been that way for over two years now. I’ve worked out consistently five days a week.

And those five days a week are the same five days every week. Why? Because if I’m not consistent, it just won’t happen. I don’t enjoy exercising and I know it would fall off the radar if it wasn’t a regular part of those days each week.

Learning Spanish – For as much time as I spend studying Spanish, I should be fluent by now! Unfortunately, I’m not. But it’s amazing how much smoother the conversations go talking to Panamanians by continuing to learn the language every day.

That’s right – every day. Every single morning when I wake up, I do one level of Spanish in Duolingo (I’ve already several other apps and courses). Then, at night before I go to bed, I “fix” the broken levels they make you do periodically as a refresher and also knock out the “stories” section.

And why do I do that? Consistency. It works. If I give myself too much permission to breathe, that’ll fall to the wayside as well. It’s just the way I’m built.

And that’s where I’ve been with blogging over these years.

I know that if I don’t do something consistently, it’ll eventually fall to the wayside. It’s kind of like when folks are motivated to get in shape every year and make that their New Year’s resolution. They don’t make it a routine and by March, it’s long forgotten.

It’s time to make a change

So that’s been my struggle lately. I spend 20-25 hours each week on Route to Retire. Most of that is writing the post itself, but there’s a lot more to blogging than just writing.

I spend time creating a pretty “social media-friendly” image for Pinterest and a separate one for Facebook and Twitter. Canva has become a lifesaver on time for that!

Then there’s the marketing – writing a blog post isn’t very exciting if nobody reads it. So, I write my weekly newsletter to go out to my subscribers. Wait, you’re not on it?!! Quit wasting time and sign up here!

Then I need to queue up the post to be shared regularly on social media throughout the week.

And guess what – there are stupid technical problems that seem to creep up periodically. Maybe it’s an issue with a plugin, or a problem with the web host, or some other fun, Regardless, that becomes a time-suck as well.

I also love the comments you guys leave. Do you know that over the past 6+ years, I’ve never had a comment on a post that I didn’t respond to? You guys are the reason the blog’s alive and kicking so I want to ensure that I give you the respect you deserve with a reply.

There are also the emails I get. I receive a lot of emails through my comment form or replies back to my email newsletter. As long as you’re not some automated drone hitting me up for something stupid (I get hundreds of those per week, too), I try to answer everyone back.

Of course, there’s also the time of working with affiliates or ad networks, tidying up various pages, and all sorts of other goodies.

If you’re an aspiring blogger, know that’s what you’re in for. It might just seem like bloggers write, but believe me, that’s only part of the deal… it’s a lot of work!

And I love it. That’s why I continue to do it.

But at 20-25 hours a week, it’s a part-time job and I’m supposedly retired. What the @#$% am I doing?

Since I enjoy it, I’m full steam ahead, but it goes back to there being only so many hours in any given day. I know that this takes up more time in my day than I would like (or my family would like!). So finding a little permission to breathe is something that’s been on my radar.

Giving Myself Permission To Breathe - Sunset in Valle Escondido
There’s no reason for this photo here except I thought it was pretty cool and needed to be in this post somewhere! Sunset in Valle Escondido.

Fritz said to ask you for permission to breathe

For you regular readers, you know that one of the concerns I had with my investment portfolio a couple of months ago was having too much cash on hand.

I reached out to my friend, Fritz, from The Retirement Manifesto for advice at the time and we ended up doing a Zoom chat. It was great to talk to him – it’s been a long time since we had chatted.

Of course, he let me bounce some thoughts off of him on the cash “dilemma.” And he had some great ideas to offer as well.

More importantly, though, we got to just talk and see how each other was doing, how life was going, and what’s new. We also talked about blogging and I mentioned that I was considering cutting back a little. I told him that I love it but at the same time, I feel almost obligated to meet this self-imposed deadline every week.

I knew Fritz was on the same wavelength about this and that’s why I brought it up. A month or so before our discussion, he had published a post titled I Never Thought I’d Write This, But… (AKA A New Approach to This Blog).

Fritz and I started our blogs right about the same time and he was writing every single week as well over the past 6 years. He also retired 6 months before I did (what a jerk!). He also had the same thoughts on eliminating the strict schedule as well.

When we talked about this, I found out that our feelings of obligation to meet this fake deadline were something we both shared (even though we both love writing our blogs).

His advice to me? Reach out to you, my readers, to express what’s going on in my head… ask them for permission to breathe. He said that when he published his post, the support he received from his readers helped to make that feeling of obligation melt away.

Again, this is not a case of abandoning the blog – it’s just a matter of removing the rigid schedule. Sometimes that’ll mean writing only a few times a month and sometimes it’ll mean writing more.

So here we are, my friends – it’s time to enjoy this freedom that we earned by spending a little less time on the computer and some more time enjoying the moment. And with Faith wrapping up homeschooling for the year, now’s a perfect time to try to loosen the reins a little more anyway. Summer break… woo-hoo!

In a way, this could be beneficial to you as well. I keep a Google Keep note with blog ideas that pop in my head and it has a ton of items backlogged already. But by not setting myself on a strict schedule, that’ll help ensure that the best post ideas float to the top!

Now, let’s just hope that my concern regarding consistency doesn’t push this train off the rails! I think by still making it a priority – just not the pinnacle of my life – it shouldn’t be a problem.

What do you think, dear readers – is giving myself more permission to breathe a fair thing to do?

Plan well, take action, and live your best life!

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

43 thoughts on “Giving Myself Permission To Breathe”

  1. It’s 100% fair. It’s also really hard to do!

    I’m surprised you thought you’d get criticism for deciding to move, I would’ve expected people to celebrate it (maybe with a twinge of envy?).

    As for the exercise, I won’t believe it until you show of those guns again! 🙂

    1. I believe you that it’s hard to cut back… I think the mentality to push ourselves drives some of us to try to do more than maybe we need to in our lives.

      With the move to Panama, we got more shock and “are you crazy?” than that envy. But that was more from our friends and extended family – people who actually know us. The FIRE community then took me by surprise after that with the support and envy you’re talking about. It’s been something people love to read about even they’re not going to be able to do it themselves.

      Haha, you’ll get another gun show on here before too much time passes! ?

  2. Toot! Toot! That is, keep the train on the track but follow the tracks that some trains use: they periodically have to pull onto a side rail to let the scheduled trains go by. While on the side rail, look out the window and take your time enjoying the view. Then, proceed down the tracks when they’re clear.

  3. TunaFishTuesdays

    Thanks for all the hard work and posts, Jim. What I’ve been most impressed by over the few years I’ve been reading your blog is that you manage to respond to each and every comment people leave–that’s quite something! Enjoy your extra free time.


  4. I have enjoyed reading about your family’s journey to financial independence and your travels in Panama. I feel like you are in chapter 4 of a 10 chapter book, so I am curious to see what happens in chapters 5-10. Will you move back to Ohio and fall back into a conventional lifestyle working at a high tech company till age 65, and then retiring, again? Or will you continue on your current path…. investing your money in ETFs, traveling the world and leading a less conventional lifestyle? Anyway, life is not a race so enjoy the journey!

    1. Hmm, that book does sound interesting – I hope it has a good ending! ?

      Haha, I don’t know where life will take us next but I’m pretty sure I’m going to opt for the second choice there… no more tech companies for this guy!

  5. Jim, congrats on the decision and it’s a good one. I myself am approaching my 4 year anniversary and in those 4 years I’ve created over 400 posts, and only taken off one week every year at Christmas. I too am considering this as an option being that my graphic arts business keeps growing rapidly and is frankly more fun. But I do love helping my blog readers in their financial journey being that I’ve achieved FI and gone way way beyond it. I’m also the same as you regarding consistency. For me to be successful at something I have to make it a habit. I’m not sure what I’ll decide, but either way the future is bright! Have fun breathing!

    1. What a great problem to have! Trying to decide whether to cut back on one thing you enjoy because another is taking off… I love it! Congrats on that, Dave – I hope it continues to grow and stay fun.

  6. Personally, I hate time constraints. Having to be somewhere or do something at a particular time causes me angst. I’ve had too much of that and have had enough.

    Anyway, not sure if shortening the blog would help you out or is it the same amount of work? Thinking that quicker posts on whatever you are doing would allow you to ease out a little bit and free up some time.

    1. I love that thought, Scott. Shorter posts would definitely cut out a couple of hours or more out of the schedule. My problem (among many!) is that I just keep typing. I think I tell Lisa every week that I’m just going to write a short post… and then hours later, suddenly there’s a post with 2,500 words sitting in front of me. Oops!?

  7. 6 years of never missing a single week posting is a huge accomplishment. I don’t think anyone would fault you for wanting to be able to spend more time with your family and less time on the blog. Congratulations on the accomplishment and on the newfound free time you’re about to have!

  8. Thanks for all of your contributions over the last 6 years, I know it’s helped me on my FIRE journey. On the bold scale for FIRE, you are near the top, Panama, Kids, reasonable stash. It’s an awesome perspective to show what can really be done.

  9. That’s an astonishing achievement. Bravo and many thanks! (I’ve always been amazed that you reply to every comment. Wow.)

    That said, it also sounds like consistency morphed into rigidity, and now, into a prison of sorts.

    So, four ideas to ease the burden:

    Commit to one post PER MONTH. If you do more, great. If not, you’ve still met your commitment.
    Write shorter posts.
    Fewer links and graphics, etc., regardless of post length.
    Ask guests to write a post for your blog. (As opposed to you simply linking to someone else’s blog.)

    Enjoy the extra time and deeper breaths. And thanks again for all I’ve learned from you and your family!

    1. Thanks, Luna – I like your thoughts on scaling back. I really haven’t considered too much on how I should actually proceed with things going forward. Your ideas make a lot of sense though so you might be seeing some of that moving forward! 🙂

  10. What a jerk, retiring before you! lol. I was so excited to actually meet Fritz in AZ earlier this year, really great guy. I hope to meet you someday too, even though you did retire after all of us. 🙂

    Breath! Enjoy your time. I think the blogging deadlines were a great way for many of us to transition into retirement. Then somehow we get so busy we no longer need the strict guidelines. It doesn’t mean we don’t still love writing.

    1. Haha, I’m always late to join the club! 😉 I hope we get an opportunity to meet at some point as well!

      As I’ve been going through the day today, it’s been tough to not think that I should be writing. Plenty of fun we’re into but it’s still the norm for me. Time to break that cycle!

  11. Congrats to you! You had me at “ I had forgotten to not just focus on the future, but to balance that with the present as well,” which is something I struggle with all the time. I am so laser focused on working toward FI that sometimes I sacrifice opportunities in the present. It’s important to have a balance!

    Also, I think its awesome that you moved to a different country. Experiencing different cultures makes you more well rounded and open minded about the world general and accepting of the differences between us all, IMO.

    Enjoy your summer!

    1. That was the biggest mistake I made on the path to FI – forgetting to focus on the today factor. The good news is that I had a wake-up call before it affected things too much. Since you’re already aware that you’re in a similar position, don’t make the same mistake. Get everything automated for saving/investing, pay your bills, and then use whatever’s left to make your time today worth every moment! 🙂

      You’re absolutely right about moving to another country. This has been such a great opportunity for our whole family to see the differences in another culture. We all tend to have some preconceived notions about what other places/cultures are like, but the only way to really understand it is to live there. This has opened my eyes to realize the differences between the U.S. and Panama. For all the things the U.S. does right, it also does a lot of things wrong (i.e. healthcare). Seeing and understanding these things is a real wake-up call.

      You have a great summer as well!

  12. I feel the same way. I want to do some other projects, but blogging, dog sitting, and a really, really good freelancing gig fill up my time. I wouldn’t say that I am retired though. We could be FI, but we choose some expensive schooling for the kids. In hindsight, I may have gone overboard with future retirement and not enough with the now.

    Good job on the Duolingo. It helps me with consistency as well. My streak of learning Spanish and Japanese is over 750 days now. I feel like I am terrible with both of them – lol.

    1. So much to do, so little time! It’s tough to find a good balance between everything we want to do but I think that’s the key… balance.

      Wow, a 750+ streak on Duolingo is very impressive! I feel like I’m not that good either but we do have the advantage of being here in Panama with others we can test our skills with regularly. There’s no way I could sit down and have a full conversation with a Panamanian in Spanish, but I can tell I’m getting much better. I would bet you’d find the same thing after going at it consistently for so long.

  13. I know exactly what you’re struggling with Jim. That fixed schedule for blogging can be a real bear. I’ve been writing at least one post a week for almost 6 years now.

    It gets tiring. So do what you need to do, and we’ll be here to read whenever you post.

    1. It’s a weird feeling knowing tomorrow morning is usually when my scheduled weekly post would come out but there’s nothing ready. It’s been a good week though and that extra time gave me a lot more breathing room. At the same time, I kept jotting down all these new post ideas I had! You’d think after posting for 6 years, we’d run out of ideas, but I still have a list of about 50 thoughts ready to discuss. I think we need more time in our days! 🙂

  14. I need consistency as well. If I stop blogging for a few weeks, it’d be over.
    My solution is to gradually cut back on blogging over time.
    When I first started, I blog 3x per week. (That’s crazy…) It gradually decreases.
    – 2x new posts per week.
    – 1 new post and 1 rewrite (repost)
    – Eventually, I’ll go to 1 post per week

    You could also cut way back in the summer. I’ll post just 1 post per week this summer so I can relax more. I’ll go back to 2x per week once my son goes back to school in September.

    1. Yeah, I don’t know how you do it, Joe – there are always new posts coming out routinely on your site. You’re one busy guy!

      I’m going to feel it out to see how this goes, but I might end up doing something similar where there are fewer posts during the summer. I’m going to try not to set a schedule though and see how that goes (that’ll be hard for me).

      Have a great summer relaxing a little more! 🙂

  15. I mean, taking one step back to move 2 steps forward doesn’t sound like a bad plan to me! We’ll still be here swarming your site and see what new ideas you’re writing about with your new and revised writing schedule.

    Glad to see that you’re not shutting down the blog at all whatsoever, though.

  16. That’s a tough call I’m sure but you need to find the balance that works for you. Totally makes sense to relax a bit on the posting schedule and enjoy life more. 🙂

    1. Not having written a post over the past week freed up a fair amount of time and I had a lot of fun. However, I kept feeling the blog calling my name… habits are hard to break for sure. Guess we’ll see how it goes over time! 🙂

  17. Jim, Ha…late to the party? I am even later. In fact, I haven’t even gotten there yet. I will retire “early” in comparison with the current norm, but not nearly as early as most on the FIRE path. I am toying with the idea of starting a blog as well, but since I am still in the working world, I definitely don’t have 20-25 hours per week to pour into that endeavour. Maybe I’ll start writing for me and expand as I go. Between FIRE and travel hacking I think it could be an interesting read. We’ll see!
    Look me up sometime when you are in Ohio. 😉
    Absolutely you should give yourself room to breathe! Permission granted (not that you needed it)!

    1. Don’t let my 20-25 hours deter you from starting a blog, Tom. I spend more time on it than I probably need to. I can’t seem to write a shorter post no matter how hard I try and the self-imposed weekly schedule has likely made it a lot more work than it needs to be. If writing’s something you enjoy or want to try, I say go for it, keep it light to start with, and see how you like it… I’d check it out! I have a small guide on getting started on my Create Your Own Blog page that might be helpful.

      Good luck on your early retirement journey – the freedom it provides is priceless! 🙂

  18. Thanks for sharing! I’m a regular reader and rare commenter. Appreciate the honesty. It’s hard – all the best bloggers eventually slow down once they hit FI/RE. But on the flip side I can completely relate! I’m long since FI but have a hard time sticking with RE. There always seems to be so much work it’s hard to ride off into the sunset. Enjoy it! And I’m excited to read the content you will continue to post when you feel like it.

    1. Thanks for being a regular reader, Kaitlyn! I think you’re right – the “retirement” part of FIRE would probably be pretty boring over time (though vacations are wonderful!). There are too many fun things to try and adventures to partake in – we can save the riding off into the sunset part for decades down the line. 🙂

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