Here's how I tested a "mock quit" to make my decision less flaky
Quitting is a huge decision. I think developers are well-positioned to quit. Many developers won't quit – for a lot of reasons. But one of those reasons shouldn't be from lack of confidence. Before I quit "for reals", I took a week off to "mock quit" so I could build confidence in my eventual plan to quit.
What did that look like exactly and how did I plan that?
Well like in programming, a mock is a stub of the real thing. The mock isn't the point – it is there to make the rest of the test easy and less flaky. You can control it to return the response you expect so that you can get on to testing what you really care about.
If you want to really quit, then a mock quit helps you commit to a small test and makes your decision to quit less flaky.
It helps answer these questions:
- What will I do the day and week after I quit?
- Will I actually enjoy it?
- What would I like my ideal day to look like if I didn't draw any boundaries on my time?
- Can I handle it?
To even take the time and use up vacation to plan a mock quit week is a testament itself to your commitment – after all, if you can't plan to take a week off before a huge decision like quitting, do you think you're ready to really quit?
If you treat the mock week like an experiment then you will have a hypothesis, gather data, and reflect on the experience.
For example, my hypothesis looked like this:
I expect to have high energy levels, get more meaningful work done in less time, stay on top of my wellness goals, and jump out of bed excited to greet the day. I expect to feel excited, energized, and happy with my decision to quit.
Your control is your existing day-to-day and what you want to test is what your ideal day in your post-quitting life will feel like.
That means – don't bring forward previous boundaries that were drawn by your employer. You are not trying to plan a 40-hour work week. What the mock week will help you tease out is – what's my natural work-life balance? How much do you naturally want to work?
T-minus 3-6 months
How far in advance should the mock week be? Depends on your vacation accrual method and when you plan to quit.
If you don't have enough vacation right now, you'll need to figure out when that will be and place holds on your calendar (for yourself and others) on when you'd like the week to be.
In 2021, I had planned to take the summer off from Jun-Aug, so I planned a mock quit week for March – 3 months before. I took into account vacation accrual and having a one-month buffer before I requested the summer off in April.
In Workday, I remember that in the vacation request form you can set the date in the future and it will tell you your expected accrued vacation amount. That's for if your org requires having accrued. My company was pretty lenient, we could request time in advance, and for the year I quit I needed to calculate exactly how much vacation would be accrued before my intended exit so I could use it (or get it paid out).
Some things I did when planning the timeframe:
- Make sure it didn't coincide with some big release or initiative
- Make sure my family didn't have days off school, etc. to interrupt
- Make sure it wasn't filled with other appointments or commitments
You want the week you pick to be clear – so you can focus solely on crafting a full week dedicated to being a quitter.
T-minus 1 month – Plan the week
By this point you're team knows you'll be out – you don't need to say why. Vacation. Conferences. Workshop. Woods. Whatever. Unless you're cool with being like "I'm taking a week to practice quitting – btw I'm quitting!" then think of something to say you'd normally take a week off for.
To make the mock quit week a success, plan it out. Ask yourself – what would I do the day after I quit? What would I like to do?
I had not been using the weekly planner I use now, Passion Planner (#PashFam represent!), so I planned out the week in my notebook.
This will be different for everyone because it depends on your reason (the WHY) for quitting. For me, I wanted to test out what it would be like to work on my SaaS and also have time for home DIY during the day. That seemed like an ideal day – a day in the life of running a lifestyle business.
My rough week plan was this: DIY in the mornings, coding on KTOMG in the afternoon or working on a course. At the time I was still finishing Cassie's craft room and working on a Gatsby.js course.
That's it – fill the gaps in with things that bring me joy, like videogames, biking, HGTV, or reading.
T-minus 1 day
Tomorrow's the day! It's likely a Sunday, right?
Best to set yourself up for success – remember, you quit. You're unreachable. It would be illegal to continue using work equipment this week and it's illegal for your previous employer to contact you to perform work.
- Set your OOO, Slack Status, auto-replies, etc.
- Shutdown work devices
- Sign out of all work-related apps (Slack, Outlook, Teams, Zoom, etc.)
- Optional: Change your org account password to something random and throw it away. You can request a reset later.
You no longer can do any work for the week. Congratulations.
(Pro tip: This should be your vacation standard operating procedure too).
T-minus zero – Track the week!
Good morning! Are you finally excited to get out of bed? The week has arrived – don't let it go to waste! This is not a vacation. It's an experiment to help you get ready for a huge decision. It's the perfect time to gather data to help you later.
For my coaching program, I had done activity tracking before so I used the same system to track activity for the week (Activity, Engagement, Energy, Flow State, and Notes).
- Activity – what you're doing
- Engagement – how checked out or engaged are you in the task (out of 5)
- Energy – how energized did the activity make you (out of 5)
- Flow state – did you get into a state of flow? (Y/N)
- Notes – I recorded what contributed to the ratings
Here's what it looked like that week in practice:
So as you can see from this clip of the notebook, I maintained my DIY morning + coding/course afternoons.
On Monday, I tried to do some wallpapering myself – which didn't work out and was frustrating, yet it still left me energized because I was learning a lot (about my limits). I called a wallpaper company to come do the work instead and to my surprise, they could come later in the week. I took a long walk after lunch and worked on my course. I even tidied up my office, which I never did normally.
On Tuesday, there was an INCIDENT. "Even the best laid plans..." right? The cat knocked down our plants and wouldn't stop. We needed a way to protect them. So I spent the morning looking around shops to find the perfect enclosures for our dining room plants and eventually landed in Pottery Barn. Even though it was unplanned, it wasn't stressful – because I didn't have to work. I spent until lunch out and about. After that I got 3 hours of work done anyway. (By the way, 2 years on and those enclosures from that day are still a statement piece in the dining room. 😎).
On Wednesday, I got some stuff from IKEA for the craft room (a chaise) and worked on my course in the late morning/afternoon.
On Thursday, a wallpaper guy came in to finish the wallpaper while I worked on my course and then in the afternoon I cleaned the craft room to prep for the next phase of work. I had a delivery of trim coming in the late afternoon.
On Friday, I did some DIY, worked on KTOMG, ate lunch, went for a bike ride, and worked on KTOMG some more.
End of week reflections
At the end of the week, I wrote down my reflections. It's not even worth itemizing each activity score total because all the core activities I wanted to test (DIY, course development, KTOMG) had full marks in engagement/energy levels the entire week. And I didn't even track the exact numbers on Thu/Fri because the days were so consistently good.
What I took away from the experience was that I was super energized throughout the week – and I averaged about 4-6 hours of work per day. That seemed like my sweet spot.
The typical ideal day for me looked like:
- 7am-9am was usually morning chores
- 9a-12p was my morning work time
- 12p-2pm was break time where I'd eat lunch, ride a bike, play a game, or catch an episode of Property Brothers
- 2p-4p I'd work some more
- After the kids went to bed, 8p-11p is when I'd get any extra work done
The reality was that I felt so productive and accomplished during the day each day, I didn't record any work activities at night that week.
Compare to your hypothesis
Did the mock week work out like you expect? Was there any feelings you had you didn't anticipate? What would you change when the time comes to really quit?
Here's what I wrote in my notebook (short and sweet I guess):
"Went very well. Less intense than I know I could do. Ended up doing 4-6 hours of 'work' per day.
"Less intense than I know I could do." – meaning I took breaks when it felt natural to take a break. I didn't force anything into a time span. I didn't go into this saying, I'm going to spend 40 hours per week – because then I would just be copy-pasting my old work life to my new work life. BLECH. The point is to see what your ideal day would be like without boundaries.
Why did I put "work" in quotes? BECAUSE IT DIDN'T FEEL LIKE WORK. That was one thing I learned – working on my SaaS didn't feel like work. It felt fun and energizing. Working on my course felt slightly more work Working on DIY didn't feel like work. It felt fun and energizing.
Beware the everlasting benefits
Once you see how you naturally work, you won't want to go back to a rigid 40-hour work week.
I'm warning you.
It's why our sabbatical in 2015 opened my eyes to an alternate way of living. The 40++ hour work week feels like you're being pulled taught – you are stretched (or overstretched) to the limit.
And once you catch some slack, you don't go back.
What will happen after you take this mock week to faux-quit is that you'll likely bring some of the learnings over to your regular week.
After this, I would semi-regularly try to do bike rides in the middle of the work day. Or watch an episode of Property Brothers while eating lunch. Or playing 20 minutes of a game.
Things that I knew were part of my ideal day, that I could work into my sub-optimal days to make them incrementally better. When I was actively working on the craft room, I would do DIY from 7am up to my 9am standup meeting – often causing me to be a little late. This was a huge energy boost right in the morning and it kept me going until afternoon.
But most of all, a mock quit week will give you confidence that you can do this. You'll know what it's like, you'll have a plan, and you'll know what to expect the day the golden handcuffs finally clatter to the floor.
Where Will Future Me Be IRL?
Automate Building Wealth Using the ESI Framework – Connectaha 2023, April 24. (Omaha, NE)