What is Your Rainy Day Project?

I’ve loved the rain for as long as I can remember. Growing up in St. Petersburg, Florida meant that for six months out of the year, it would rain every afternoon. Tampa Bay is the lightning capital of the US and is what inspired the name for our local hockey team.

Rainy Day in a Field

As a kid, when it rained it meant trying to find something to do indoors. During the 90s that often meant staying inside to play some Super Nintendo! Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, F-Zero, and Street Fighter II all got more playtime than I can comfortably justify – but I loved every minute of it!

When it comes to video games, I tend to be a completionist. I’ll play through a game multiple times. On the first run-through, I go in completely blind. I’ll explore what I can, but with the goal of completing the game and having fun. If the game intrigues me enough, and there is plenty left to do at the end, I’ll play through it a second time. This time I’ll try to find everything I can by reading strategy guides, going through online walkthroughs and watching videos.

This happened recently when we went to see Sleep No More in New York. SNM is like a video game. You explore a vast set and discover storylines working through the 300,000 sq/ft set that spans multiple floors. I left my first visit feeling incomplete and immediately booked a second showing. I went it more prepared after researching how to make the most of a visit there. The result? I saw a ton more and had a completely different experience!

This is the type of project I’ve found I enjoy the most. Ones that I can do once for fun, but allow you to go another level deeper if you want to become, well, obsessed.

Wait, what does this have to do with a rainy-day project?

Possibly the most common question (or criticism) I hear about FIRE is this one:

But what will you do all day if you retire? Won’t you be bored?

It’s a good question! It’s the same question you’d ask a little kid when it rains – but now it’s a storm that will last for the rest of your life.

Having a “rainy day project” as a kid is no different than having one as an adult, but with a few added bonuses. Namely that now you have much more money, can travel more and are not being limited by weather.

When people mention the worry about being bored in retirement, I wonder if these were the same people who were bored often as kids. (Were you bored as a kid? let me know in the comments). I suspect these are the people without “rainy day projects” today.

As a kid, I was almost never bored. I didn’t need much – a few video games, some time to sort through baseball cards, building Magic card decks or playing some Diablo (1) online.

Finding those kinds of hobbies as an adult can easily slip. We spend so much time traveling to work, working and unwinding that many people don’t even need hobbies.

Add to that the rise of easy consumption and real, active hobbies are on the decline. As much as I love social media, binging shows on Netflix and browsing Reddit, I would never consider those hobbies. Interests yes, but hobbies no.

When I hear people mention that they “never want to retire”, my question is “what are your hobbies?”. If your work becomes your hobby, then why would you want to leave?

8 months into my retirement/post-work life and I’ve yet to experience a moment of boredom. If anything, the days fly by even faster!

The reason is that my rainy day projects became my life.

Rather than waiting until a rainy day or a weekend to do these, they’re now what I do every day. I sprinkle in consumption and rest when needed and that helps re-energize me for my hobbies.

I truly admire people who can maximize their time to the point they ignore all consumption and are able to be productive in all waking moments. I’m OK with never doing that – and you shouldn’t use them as a benchmark either.

I’ve found I’m happiest when I have a project to work on. Not a project that takes up all of my free time, but something that can inspire me to work harder. I love having that “butterflies in my stomach” feeling when I think about working on something. Something that I can bat around in my head throughout the day spending brain cycles solving.

While I was a software engineer I loved having long-term challenges. Before I was managing products on my own, I’d constantly ask my managers what was next so I could get a start on thinking about a solution.

For me, the similarity in what makes me happy professionally and personally is striking. In both cases, I love large-scale projects that require planning and forethought.

If you think about your work life, are there areas that you enjoy that could inspire a rainy-day project?

For the last few months, I’ve had a bunch of these already:

  • December – March – Took up skiing with an Ikonpass, giving easy access to 5 ski resorts within an hour of our apartment.
  • February – MayRedesigned Minafi and laid the groundwork for many things to come.
  • March – July – Started training and ran a half marathon! I’ve since decided to pause my running and switch back to CrossFit.
  • August – ? – Starting work on the next phase of Minafi – courses to learn how to invest!
Courses Section
Courses Section

These have all been fun projects that I’ve thrown myself headlong into. I’ve done other things, sure, but having a major project to work on is inspiring beyond belief.

I’m already getting that same feeling from the new courses section I’m working on for Minafi.

Finding Your Rainy Day Project

What’s nice about a rainy day project is that you don’t have to wait for a rainy day to start it!

The hardest part (for me at least) is limiting what I work on. It’s easy to take on more work than is healthy. Whenever I do that I quickly become unhappy and unproductive – although I don’t usually realize it for a while. While it’s great to have lots of interests, it’s tough to make progress on many things at once.

One activity I rely on is called start, stop, continue. With this one, you list out not just what projects you want to start doing, but what you want to stop and continue doing.

Ask yourself this question:

What would you do if you couldn’t go outside for a month?

Now list out as many things you would like to start, stop and continue during that month. For example, you might want to stop spending as much time on social media. Or perhaps you’d want to start cooking more meals. Maybe you would want to continue working on a specific side project?

You might dream of hiking, skiing, biking, camping, and spending much more time outdoors – but I have news for you: it takes time to work up to that. Even then, you’ll enjoy time indoors so much more after sweating it outside for the day.

Dreaming big about what life could be like after retirement often involves travel, fitness, and big plans. Be sure to take some time to plan the small things too.

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I'm , a full-stack product developer in Salt Lake City, UT. I love enlivening experiences, visualizing data, and making playful websites.

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