Oh, leisure time in retirement. Who doesn’t look forward to days without an alarm to wake you up in the morning, or a packed meeting schedule to dictate what you do in the afternoon? Retirement seems like the perfect place where free time is abundant, and obligations are few. However, having no structure at all is a recipe of feeling unfulfilled, bored, and even depressed.
Here’s what sociologist Jean Potuchek wrote on the subject:
“One of the biggest changes accompanying retirement is the change in how we use our time. For most adults in full-time jobs, work schedules provide the structure that the rest of our lives are organized around, and freedom from those time constraints is the central dream of retirement. We imagine lives that will be simultaneously rich and relaxed, full without the stresses of our work lives. But this freedom can be a double-edged sword; it can leave us feeling unmoored.”
Don’t let your days in retirement pass with no impact, nothing to accomplish or remember. To accomplish that, experts recommend that you aim for a mix of scheduled and free-flow time. Here are five daily habits that can help.
Find your “thing” to do
What lights up your soul, gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning, or gets you to look forward to tomorrow? If an answer comes to you easily – great! Be sure to build it into every day. If you don’t find a quick and obvious answer, reflect on things and activities that you’ve always wanted to take up. Allow yourself to explore hobbies with no pressure whatsoever by thinking yourself as a freshman in retirement. It’s OK to dip your toe into many different areas of interest until you land on a perfect mix for you!
Have a few morning routines
Perhaps your morning doesn’t need as much structure as back when you had to get the kids out the door for school and get ready for work. Still, some morning routines are worth keeping. A cup of coffee or tea, opening the blinds or curtains to let in the sunlight, reading the paper, changing out of your PJs even if you have no plans outside the home – those simple actions will give you a good start and mark the boundary between rest and activity.
Take care of your well-being every single day
Your body may not be as agile or quick as it used to be, and you may have a few aches and pains, but taking care of yourself will help extend the comfort and joy you experience over your retirement. Dedicate some time to exercise, move, and stretch every single day. Remember that natural movement, such as gentle walks, working in the garden, or even putting away some dishes counts! Be sure to also schedule (and keep) medical and dental appointments. Preventive care and screenings are an important tool for staying healthy and catching any problems early.
Make a list
Have you ever felt like you had so many small things to do that it was overwhelming to even think about it? Life in retirement has a way of piling small errands on you. From getting the oil change done to picking up cat litter or organizing the junk drawer, make a running list of errands. Pick something from the list whenever you are at a loss of what to do next, and those little tasks won’t snowball into daunting projects that drain your energy.
Schedule social time
Research tells us that being involved and connected with a community of like-minded people can help you live longer and retain a higher quality of life throughout your retirement. In order to make sure that time with friends doesn’t get overcome by other priorities, consider putting it on your calendar (or dedicating a certain day and time to it). A scheduled lunch or dinner with a friend gives you something to look forward to – which means you get double the joy out of it!
Creating structure for your retirement days: Questions to ponder
As you think about your days in retirement, reflect on what would give you the optimal balance between rich experiences and leisure. Here are some questions you might consider to help you turn retirement into the best days of your life.
- How will I satisfy my intellectual curiosity?
- Where will I turn to get a sense of achievement?
- How will I stay connected to my social circle and family?
- How will I keep myself strong and healthy?
- What mix of structured vs. free-flow time would work best for me?
References: Jean Potuchek’s quote source is here