In his book Born For This, the author Chris Guillebeau talks about a strategy to develop a plan to quit his job in one year — and to do that every year. While he talks about this commitment in starting a side hustle, being an entrepreneur, and supporting yourself through other means, I want to take a look at it from the perspective of helping your career.

The strategy is to develop a one-year plan for you to create an asset for yourself (a side hustle, a business, freelancing, etc.) and then to quit your job in one year. At the one year checkpoint, you look at your original plan, and where you are now, and then you test whether you are ready or if you need more time (and update your plan accordingly). Here is the key to the plan: once you commit to staying on in your job to ‘buy’ yourself more time, you don’t complain, you don’t talk about how much you hate your boss or your work, and you don’t use passive-aggressive tactics to make it harder on your coworkers. Once you commit, you do the best job you can and then test again at the next checkpoint.

Here is why I think making a one-year commitment can help your career:

Reduces negativity

You may have friends that have done something similar, though without the one-year plan. They talk all the time about how they hate their bosses. Or they talk about how they are working on their side hustles. They talk about how if they just won the lotto, they would quit and never look back. But then you see them day after day, still hating their job, but continuing to work.

Again, once you commit to your plan, you are all-in.

Forces review

If you work for someone, you likely have a regular performance review, whether annual, quarterly, or another frequency. This differs from a performance review because it isn’t an assessment of your abilities or work you have done. Rather, it’s an assessment of where you want to be in the future.

If you don’t have a plan for where you want to be, it’s difficult to figure out whether you got there, and what you need to do to reach your goals.

Provides you a timeline

High-intensity interval training is brutal. But maybe this is my experience, knowing how long you have to go, and when you can stop makes it easier to work out harder.

If your trainer tells you to go full-speed and will tell you when to stop, you are going to hold back, not knowing how long you will have to go for because you want to save energy for the full workout. But if the trainer tells you to go full-speed on a workout, and then tells you you only need to do it for 30 seconds, you can gauge your energy and push hard knowing it is only for 30 seconds.

In the same way, knowing you need to do a job you don’t love for a certain amount of time helps you to do that job and envision a finish line.

Gives you clear factors for making a decision

Part of the reason you or your coworkers talk about how they hate their job, and want to quit, and then show up the next day, and the next day to work, is that you and your coworker’s mental states differ from one day to the next. One day, you have the worst boss, you’re on an awful project, you are working with underhanded coworkers trying to sabotage your efforts, and you feel like quitting after the worst day ever. The next day, you rationalize your way back into your job, saying that it is good money, have great benefits you can’t get at another job, that your boss has some good points, and your coworkers are trying to give you a challenge.

Having a one-year plan helps make it clear why you should quit. Those factors make it clear even if after one-year, your job transforms and you love it (though of course, the decision is ultimately up to you). But one year later, as you start to rationalize why you should stay on, you take a look at the specific things you wrote down one year ago and ask yourself, are these true?

Questions like:

  • Do I have a side hustle, asset, or business that I can use to generate money?
  • Can it replace 50% of my full-time income?
  • Am I still learning new skills, taking on new challenges, or meeting new people that can help my career?

Final thought

Creating a one-year quitting plan shouldn’t be made public. It’s something you create for yourself to either get you out of a job you don’t want to work or to force yourself to take a hard look at where you are and where you want to be (and then whether you want to stay in the job you are in).

When I’ve used it in my career, it’s reduced negativity, helped push me forward and made projects and jobs that were miserable, more tolerable.

Can creating a one-year quitting plan help your career?