What is Darwin FIRE? Early Retirement for the Perpetually Curious
Reading the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, helped me realize the joy of work. Deep work that puts you in a state of flow. I then stumbled upon a few articles describing how Charles Darwin spent his days. He scheduled his day to do deep work! He only worked 3 to 4.5 hours per day.
I had a real Aha moment after reading that. This is a schedule I can get behind. A balance of doing deep work, the joy of that experience, and living a life of leisure.
The high achievers that retire early are going to want and need to feel productive in life. So why not design a life that schedules a few hours of work a few days a week? Working half the hours per day and half the days per week feels right to me. No more feelings of being burnt out at the end of the day. No more escaping to the weekend because the 5 day work week feels like an eternity.
Many retirees suggest that you retire to something. The optimal experience, as described in the book Flow, seems like a good something to retire to. I do love that feeling of being “inflow.” Getting lost in challenging work where time fees are both slow and fast. Perhaps Darwin FIRE is an approach more high achievers should consider.
Definition of Darwin FIRE
An early retirement lifestyle focused on finding flow states. This includes daily sprints of meaningful work. Intentional time spent in the great outdoors. Daily connection with friends and family. And scheduled exercise and relaxation.
Here’s a fun acronym to capture some of what the lifestyle is all about. You can’t have a FIRE catchphrase without an acronym!
Darwin’s Daily Routine
This is what I’ve been able to piece together reading various accounts of Darwin’s daily activities. The timetables I’ve read don’t always make sense. But this is the schedule that I came up with, it captures the spirit of his daily life.
- 7:00 AM – Wake up and go for a short walk
- 7:30 AM – Breakfast
- 8:00 AM – The first 90-minute block of deep work, uninterrupted, and focused time alone.
- 9:30 AM – Break from work to read and write letters
- 10:30 AM – The second 90-minute block of deep work, often in the greenhouse studying his plants and conducting experiments.
- 12:00 PM – Time for a long walk outside to enjoy the nature that he loved so much
- 1:30 PM – After returning home from the walk, Charles would have lunch
- 2:00 PM – Reading and responding to more letters
- 2:30 PM – Naptime
- 3:30 PM – Wake up from the nap and take a short walk
- 4:00 PM – Last 90-minute block of work for the day spent in his study, possibly reading or listening to books be read aloud.
- 5:30 PM – Dinner and a relaxing evening spent with his family
The first big takeaway from this schedule is that Darwin only worked 3 to 4.5 hours per day. He did this with 2 or 3 ninety-minute blocks of time. Doing deep work is exhausting. Did Darwin realize the human mind has a defined capacity for deep work on a daily basis? With this schedule, Darwin wrote 19 books. Including one of the most important books ever written, The Origin of Species.
Doing work each day keeps your mind sharp and your soul satisfied. There’s also that amazing feeling of finishing your to-do list before lunch. Being productive early in the morning makes the whole day better! Why not chase that feeling every day?
A former client and friend once described what early morning productivity felt like. “It’s like discovering the great blue for the first time. It’s magnificent and beautiful. You don’t know why it makes you feel this way, but the feeling is undeniable and distinct.
The schedule Darwin put together makes a lot of sense to me. This approach is 100x better than the 9 to 5 workday 5 days a week. Why is a majority of corporate America still using this schedule? It’s so outdated! It made sense when everyone worked in a factory and you need hours on the line to build all the widgets.
There are many jobs and many companies that should take an alternative approach to work. The beauty of being financially independent, no one can tell you no. If you want to try out the Darwin schedule you can! Ah, the beauty of autonomy.
How Much Money Do I Need for Darwin FIRE?
Enough. The math of this early retirement plan is the same as normal FIRE. You need a portfolio that is 25x to 33x your yearly expenses. Once your investment portfolio exceeds your target goal, you’re financially free. You can say goodbye to your job and pursue something new.
With Fat FIRE, you have more than enough and a conservative withdrawal plan. This will support a clear mind with little worries. The less you think about the stock market, the more you can focus on being “inflow” and doing meaningful work. Focus on the optimal experience!
My Darwin FIRE Schedule
Monday – Thursday
- 6:00 AM – Wake up, coffee and pre-workout snack
- 6:30 AM – Garage Gym Workout
- 7:30 AM – Breakfast
- 8:00 AM – The first 90-minute block of deep work
- 9:30 AM – Break from work to read, write emails, text, and connect on social media
- 10:30 AM – The second 90-minute block of deep work
- 12:00 PM – Time for a long walk outside or a bike ride
- 1:30 PM – Lunch
- 2:00 PM – Reading
- 2:30 PM – Meditation
- 3:00 PM – Take a short walk
- 3:30 PM – Optional, 90-minute block of work or play sports, i.e. practice golf, play tennis
- 5:00 PM – Cook dinner and a relaxing evening with the family
Friday – Sunday
- 6:00 AM – Wakeup, coffee, and pre-workout snack
- 6:30 AM – Garage Gym Workout
- 7:30 AM – Breakfast
- 8:00 AM – Leave for Golf
- 12:30 PM – Lunch
- 1:30 PM – Return Home from Golf
- 2:00 PM – The first 90-minute block of deep work
- 3:30 PM – Take a short walk
- 4:00 PM – The second 90-minute block of deep work
- 5:30 PM – Cook dinner and a relaxing evening with the family
What can Darwin FIRE do for you?
Imagine the first day after you leave corporate America. All the stress melts away. All the pressures from your former life, are gone. The world is your oyster. The day is yours. If you are an early retiree, you have time. A lot of time. If you’re in your 30s, you have 40 to 50 years ahead of you. You’re going to need a plan. An approach to your days and your life. Think about all that you can do with your life in the decades to come.
You may have a bucket list or a long list of things you’ve always wanted to do. Your get-around-to-it list, your someday list, your when I have more time list, or your when I retire list.
The Darwin schedule provides a time management ritual to help manage your day. Short sprints of concerted work are ideal for doing deep and impactful work. The schedule is also designed to give you time to connect with friends and family. It schedules time to connect with people who are important to you outside of your household. It also leaves lunch, dinner, and the evenings to connect with close family or friends.
This approach isn’t for everyone. It’s a strong strategy for the perpetually curious people. Those people who understand the joy of doing deep work. A few hours a day and a few days a week is more than enough to create something of value. Use the two or three blocks of work to embrace your inner artist. Create something simple and beautiful and put it into the world.
What do you think? Is Darwin FIRE right for you?