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Once you retire, you’ll suddenly have a lot of time on your hands. If you’re like me, it’ll be wise to have some kind of structure to take the place of what work does for you. And you’ll want to keep some time open for possible new adventures, though you’ll also have regular things you won’t want to miss. So in this post I’ll share some thoughts about planning your days in retirement.
Build on your strengths
What structure, methods of organizing, and current activities will you keep in retirement? If you use Outlook or a day planner for keeping track of work (I use both!) then you may want to keep that habit when you retire. After all, you will have activities to schedule and commitments to keep track of.
Some of us dream of ditching the alarm clock most of the time, if not totally. However, having usual times to go to bed and get up are good for health, so consider picking times that feel right to you. While we’re at it, it would be good to keep a routine for meals, self-care, bathing and grooming, stuff like that.
Perhaps you have already got things you go to regularly, such as religious services, club meetings or social gatherings. Certainly you’ll be able to keep some if not all of these in your schedule, at least for the present. They’ll help you preserve some social contacts that have nothing to do with the job you’re leaving.
Adding in new activities
What if there were things you wanted to do but rarely had the time to do while working? We all have at least one of those! Suppose you have always wanted to get really good at golf or bowling, activities you probably aren’t equipped to do at home. You’d have to go to where they’re done. Well, now you can.
Make your new activity a priority. To get good at it you might need to go two or three times a week for enough practice. Get into your favorite planner and schedule those times. You may choose a time when the facility isn’t crowded to go, especially if you’re self-conscious about how you are at it now.
Get a friend who also wants to do the activity to go with you and figure out a time that works for both of you, and put that down. Having a friend along makes you accountable to go. You get social support for your efforts. And finally, you have more fun with two.
Starting a new routine or habit
Another good use of your planner is to commit time for something you ought to have been doing all along and just didn’t get around to much. It might be a daily thing, like exercise, or a weekly thing, like calling a relative to stay in touch. Or even an annual dental checkup. Whatever it is, writing it in your planner and giving it a time makes it more important so you won’t forget as easily. Plus it shows how you can do it and not miss out on other things.
For some, getting a new habit or routine is harder than “just do it.” You may have to train yourself to do the new thing. But if you are pretty sure it’s worth trying the new thing, set a SMART goal to do it and set up some easy steps to take to get there.
For more about SMART goals and how to make them work, click here.
Suppose you do flexibility exercises daily–well, almost. What if you gradually added a strength exercise or two to your daily flexibility routine? Pretty soon you would have some extra muscle, less fat, and more energy. Not a bad deal, and you just sneak up on it with a little planning and commitment.
A great thing about retirement is that now you can design your days to include projects. If you have a task that will take an extended amount of time, whether you are painting some rooms or starting a quilt to give to a new bride-to-be, you can get it done.
Fortunately, these projects generally have a process to them that will help you organize them into steps. Then just schedule the steps. Decide on colors, pick out the materials and get them home, set up the first part of your process, and go from there.
Smaller projects might fit into an afternoon, as long as you have everything together for them. Just be sure, when you’re assembling a new dry sink, that the manufacturer gave you all the right hardware. My husband recently ordered running boards for his truck and had to wait a week due to a shortage of fasteners for it. He spent his “put-em-on” afternoon getting the right parts reordered.
At least he had the flexibility to deal with it without feeling like his life was foreshortened by another weekend!
What would retirement be if your schedule ran you? Too much like work! Sometimes you just have to clear a week and head for an alternative landscape of your choice. Visiting people you seldom see, trying out new experiences or enjoying different foods all help you feel alive.
While on a three-day visit to Montana just a few years ago, I was lucky enough to try a lot of new things. Just crossing all those time zones was something I hadn’t done in decades. What a trip it was! I flew from New England to western Washington and then drove across the Rockies in the moonlight to visit my cousin and her mother. Long day!
We had local cherries, bought freshly made granola from local grain, and had delicious Western barbecue. We went to a hot springs to soak in comfort, then went shopping in downtown Missoula. And of course we had lots of family partying for my aunt, who turned 90.
Don’t miss out on events and experiences like those! Find a way to get it to work. Memories are the best things to collect. You don’t have to move them, dust them, patch them back together, or figure out who to give them to.
How do you plan to spend your time in retirement? What are some things you will prioritize?