It seems like many stories about quitting a job are dramatic and quick. i.e. “I had finally had enough and just quit.” It doesn’t need to be that way, and it’s probably easier if it’s not. Instead of thinking about giving your employer two weeks notice, think of it as giving yourself two years notice.
When I left my job to start Sifter, I had been preparing for it for about two years. I wasn’t unhappy with my work, and I never had a date in my head. However, I knew that at some point I was going to want to do my own thing. As a result, I spent about two years consciously molding my life to make it easier for me to go out on my own.
I paid off my credit card debt and began saving as much as I could. I moved out of an apartment with roommates into a tiny shoebox of an apartment so I could more easily work at night and on weekends. This increased my costs slightly but drastically decreased my distractions.
Then, on a whim, I started designing a bug tracker for fun with no idea of where it was really going to go. I was primarily looking for tangible things that I could use to discuss interface design without having it be covered by an NDA like everything from the day job. Maybe I’d develop it and open source it, or maybe it would never be anything more than comps. Those designs turned into some material for presentations about interface design, and those presentations generated the interest for my business parter to convince me to start a business.
I had started designing those comps in August of 2007. A few months later in January, I was starting to work on Sifter full-time. However, if I hadn’t paid off my debt and started saving, I wouldn’t have been financially able to take a paycut. If I hadn’t gotten my own apartment, I would have never found time to work on things in my free-time. If I hadn’t started designing for fun in my free-time, I would have never shown anyone the ideas floating around in my head. I had been taking steps to prepare myself for years without knowing exactly where they would lead. I only knew that they were the right steps.
You don’t need to dream about quitting and just waiting until you just can’t take it anymore. Instead, just start doing the things that will enable you to quit someday. You don’t need to have a specific plan or date in mind, but if you start preparing today, you’ll be much better positioned to make a change when you’re ready for it or when an opportunity presents itself.