Managing Your Time in Retirement

I know what you’re thinking.  Why would I be writing about time- management in retirement when your time is your own and the living is easy?

Your working life may have had a tight structure – appointments, meetings, deadlines.  When you’re no longer working and commuting you may have an extra 50 hours a week to fill.  What do you do with all those extra hours?

How do you make the best use of your time?

Completely unstructured

This is what I did at first.  I slept in most mornings – no more alarm clock.  Each day was fully available to me to do what I wanted.  But, I found that while this approach is fine occasionally, usually I felt a bit out-of-sorts and aimless.

Even the things I wanted to do got put off, so I’d neglect my workouts, the museum exhibit I wanted to see moved on, and I couldn’t quite get started on a new craft project.

It seemed I was wasting a lot of time getting sucked down the rabbit hole of “news” updates and articles such as “11 things you didn’t know about the Monkees,” and trying to beat my score on Free Cell.

Days would either pass quickly leaving me unsettled because nothing got accomplished, or time would just crawl along, and I’d be bored.

This free-wheeling lifestyle just wasn’t right for me.

Fully scheduled

My natural tendency has always been to have a schedule.

I started to plan my days, assigning a specific time to each task and activity I wanted to do – writing at 8am, house cleaning at 9am, coffee-break at 10:30am, and so on – just like when I was working.

This caused problems for me too.  Say my schedule was to vacuum at 9am.  At 8:58 my husband would say, “Do you want to watch this video of baby pandas playing?”

Well, really, who wouldn’t want to?

Interruptions, phone calls, someone at the door, and other distractions (and, I admit, I am easily distracted) and my carefully structured schedule was shot.  I would do something, anything, just to cross it off my list.

I’d end up mentally beating myself up every time I moved my task list to the next day and the next.

Blend of scheduled and unstructured time

What now works for me is a blend.

I still have appointments and planned events.  There are some chores that have to be done – grocery shopping, cleaning the house, paying bills.  A list helps me tackle certain tasks I should be doing and activities I want to do, but there’s no reason why they must be completed at a specific time.

I’m a morning person.  I do things that require more energy and functioning brain cells before lunch.  After lunch I’ll work on a project or do “fun” stuff.

It’s okay if I need to move an item to the next day or week.  Outdoor fun is often dictated by the weather.  It’s no longer a big deal because I find I’m a lot more adaptable and I don’t feel I’m wasting my time.

As I mentioned, I’m a planner.  A short list keeps me on track yet is still flexible enough to drop if something interesting or fun comes along.

Allowing myself some spontaneity is one of the joys of retired life.

The bottom line

Time management in retirement is important.  Sooner or later you will settle into your new life.

Some of us like to go with the flow.  The day evolves with minimum pre-planning.  What fits your mood, or suddenly becomes available is what you do.

Others would find that approach bothersome and need their days to be a bit more structured.

What about you?  Are you a planner, or do you go with the flow?


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2 Responses

  1. Gin says:

    Hi Marie, you put into words exactly what I went through.
    I also love putting plans and lists together. And after close on 2 years of retirement now have settled on a blend of unstructured time with a few items each day to do (not always written down).
    Joined activities I share with my husband to see what he thinks and as you say the weather can play a role e.g. to visit a nature park, walk along the beach or go up the mountain.
    In the meanwhile I have reduced the volunteering I started (I found it emotionally draining working on causes where it is so hard ‘to move the needle’) and found a new creative hobby.
    I sometimes wish we would socialise more while my hubby seems happy with little social interaction.
    While I definitely would not trade the freedom of my time for work again, it isn’t all sunshine and walking on the beach (and definitely no yacht except for a select few). There are times where I am looking for more of a sense of accomplishment and things to do to avoid boredom. I wonder how things will evolve for the next 2 years.

    • Marie Engen says:

      Hi Gin. Thanks for sharing. I don’t do any volunteering right now because I spend a lot of time at my mother’s retirement home and interacting with the other residents. I’m like you in that I always want to see some progress in things I’m involved in. This is a good time to think of new things to experience and try to be adventurous.

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