Finding the Motivation to Work Beyond the 9-to-5

Finally, it’s May. I’ve survived the hellfire that is tax season, my scales only a little scalded, my wings trembling only slightly. I’ve lived through 11+ hour days, 9PM curtain draws, and 5AM alarms. I’ve given up Saturdays and lunch breaks, traded sleep for time with people I love, and learned that free food is always amazing even if it’s food that I hate.

The end result of it all? A healthy fear of the words “this one’s a rush”, the experience of preparing over 200 personal tax returns while under strict time constraints and still keeping up with corporate work, and a lovely monthly report showing over 250 hours of banked overtime.

My hoard thanks me for all of it. The thing about working a ridiculous amount of hours is that you suddenly run out of time to actually spend money. My budget surpluses have exceeded all expectations. And that 250 hours of banked overtime? That will turn into a cash payout of about 1.5X my usual monthly salary, and a nice 13% boost on my expected annual income.

Was it worth it?

Well, that’s rather the question, isn’t it?

Working beyond the 9-to-5 is stressful, time-consuming, and results in a hell of a lot of trade-offs. Co-workers who have hatchlings had to do overtime at expense of time with their kids. On Saturdays, I’d hear tax partners get calls from their bond-mates asking when they were coming home. Another hour at work is another hour lost that could have been spent doing something else.

Another hour at work is also another hour of pay. In some cases, even more. Non-CPAs in my profession get time-and-a-half. At my firm, an 11-hour day earns an extra $10 “meal credit”, as does a 5-hour non-weekday.

At what point does that trade-off stop being worth it?

For me, the threshold’s pretty high. I am single, both bond-mate and hatchling-free, and I don’t even have the responsibility of a pet to come home to. I have no volunteer commitments, my hobbies are unscheduled affairs, and the most expected of me is attendance at weekly family dinners. In short, there’s no real reason for me not to be at work every second of the day, except perhaps my mental health or a lack of work to do, the latter of which is a rare occurrence in my workplace.

Motivating myself is a pretty straightforward process, because of that. All I have to do is think about financial independence, of finally being free of having to trade time for pay (and never having to do overtime ever again, I will admit). I think about someday being able to afford a house (when the markets stop being ridiculous, that is), and of being able to pursue any number of dreams, such as:

  • Starting a business and seeing if I like it,
  • Spending weeks hiding in beautiful, deserted places and just existing,
  • Writing whenever I want, instead of scheduled around work,
  • Going back to school and pursuing a Doctorate,
  • Volunteering for causes I care about, and
  • About a billion other things I dream of at night (and sometimes during waking hours, for that matter).

I once had a conversation with a professor. At the time, she was a single parent, a newly-fledged CPA, and was telling me about the hard-earned process that was her financial stability. I asked her how she did it all, juggling multiple jobs, a child, and the hard-won 3-year process that is getting a Canadian CPA designation, and she told me this:

“I made myself a fake business card, with “CPA”, after my name, and I stuck it in the corner of the mirror. Every day, I’d see it, and I’d think about being able to be home with my kid. I’d think about not having to work multiple jobs. I’d think about stability and being able to provide for him. And then I went and earned it.”

F.I.R.E. is far from a walk in the park. It’s not a flight bolstered by a summer breeze, or as easy as sparking a flame with lighter fluid.

But it is worth it. For me, it’s worth it for the freedom to pursue my passions. For her, it was worth it for the stability it provided her son. What makes it worth it for you?

Find those reasons, and stick them to your mirror. Write them on the wall. Tattoo them on your skin.

My reminder is a dragon – many of them, all throughout my apartment, in paintings, nicknacks, drawn on whiteboards, etched into this blog:

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My dream? Being free to fly.

Where will your freedom take you?

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