Friday, May 10, 2013

Getting Things Done In Retirement - How Much Routine Do YOU Need

Three nights ago I downloaded a book on my kindle. I read until three am and the book was finished. For those interested, the new John Sanford Prey book is well worth reading, and I see a "sequel" in the author's future. After letting the dogs out the next morning, I returned to my bed with my laptop and when I finally woke up enough to eat it was after ten am. After dressing I finally got to cutting up piles of fabric (even in a loved hobby there are less desirable parts, and cutting is mine). I walked, surfed the net and then relaxed for the evening.

The day before that, I took a walk, quilted, worked a bit on my travel plans back to Texas and Santa Fe, and puttered.

 Yesterday, I also got up earlier and did errands from about nine thirty to three thirty. While many of the errands were boring (filling my tank!) the view was beautiful as always. I relaxed on the patio in the evening and began my book. Tomorrow I have no idea what I will do except attend my local quilt guild in the evening. I will not, however, just "sit around". Today, I went from book sale to garage sale to book sale until the thunderstorms drove me inside. The day is still only two thirds gone.

In the past week I have: taken a drive to the mountains, gone to church, sewn three quilts. read three books (one non fiction, two fiction). I have walked thirty minutes five times, spent a day doing errands, designed a new web page and blog. I have sketched two quilts and three greeting cards. I have cooked two "gourmet meals", seen two movies, and a host of other things. I have committed to a new volunteer project (a post will be coming on that one soon). 

What do these days and weeks have in common?  They were all different, and almost every day was completely unplanned. I am not a planner or a scheduler in any sense of the world. I am the gal who will veer off Interstate 70 when I see the sign about the largest Prairie dog in the world-even if it means losing my hotel reservation! I keep a small monthly calender page for appointments and that is it. I don't make a daily plan the night before. In other words I am a seat of the pants kind of gal. I am rarely if ever bored.  

However......In order to function productively, even my life has a certain amount of structure.  I will never be a rise at seven am type, or even a rise at the same time type, lord knows. One of the advantages of retirement is being able to make those choices. I do have some structure built into my life, though,  some of it "contrived". I am a person with many hobbies, a love for travel and a commitment to giving back.  While I will never have a planner again, or set my alarm (barring a doctor's appointment), I have found that even the smallest amount of structure makes a huge difference in living richly in retirement. From what I have read lately, too many retirees spend their time "relaxing" and "doing nothing".  Since I never want to fall into that kind of life style, I make sure to continue some small routines.

I'll add here that we all need different levels of routine and being a planner type is no worse than being a non planner type. I figure the important thing is that you have a sense of accomplishment, reward and satisfaction at the end of the day (or at least at the end of most days anyway). To that end, this is how this particular "un-planner" and "un-scheduler" gets a tiny bit of routine into her week:

  • Although I'm not sure it is structure as such, I never, ever watch TV during the day, until the national evening news. Not the morning news, weather, stock market or anything else (including videos)-unless it is on a national crises level and then I can only bear about a half an our of CNN.
  • Once I arise, I generally take my notebook/sketchbook back to bed with my tea for a while longer before getting up and making breakfast.  THIS is the time that I ask my self,  "what shall I do today?". That plan depends on my mood the weather and a host of other things. THEN I rise and dress for the occasion.
  • For the most part, I tend to be a person who does things I large chunks so the answer to that "what" question is generally no more than two things. Most of my hobbies and interests require a good couple hours of commitment once I sit down-and if its something else, well I'm not likely to walk away from a book after a half an hour (see above.).
  • While I'm a minimalist in terms of routines and scheduling, the pile of things I like to do, the places I want to go, and the things I want to learn to do are less than minimal. This gives me a large choice of day to day routine choices. I can can spiced mustard today, make a quilt top tomorrow.  Others prefer to work more intensively-make a quilt from top to bottom and then go on to the next project for example-there is no right way.  If I was to advise someone who was bored or into a rut, I would advise them that such a list might help-and that there is nothing wrong with trying something and then going on to the next thing.
  • Although I am not a "goals" person (no five year plan, as a rule), I do have that running list of large things I want to get done in the next year, some of which I listed here.   Most of my days, when I decide what I want to do, that activity has something to do with that list.
  • What little structure there is at home has to do with mealtimes primarily in the evenings and to a lesser extent lunchtime. Unless I am going out for the evening, after dinner time is down time-when I watch TV, read, knit. Because many of my hobbies are at home hobbies, I force myself to eat lunch on the days I am home, and that is when I exercise and do my bible study-before I head in the next direction. I have learned that I could sit and quilt for many hours and getting up and moving about is important-especially as a sedentary person.
  • I build routine and structure by making outside commitments. In my case as a single person this helps a bit with socialization as well. Couples may have less of a need for this. I do water aerobics three times a week at the same time. I have scheduled book groups, small quilt groups and church. People whose interests are more "out of the house related may not need this particular routine.
  • When it comes to most of my activities, I don't have to build in preparation and clean up (cooking or canning may be the exception). I have my own workroom and can leave in-process projects sitting there, for example.
  • I don't have an objection to "doing nothing" and have been known to sit on the patio for three hours with a mimosa and a book.  I just don't do this every day.
  • Finally and I'm not sure this belongs in a retirement routine post, I don't schedule housework and yard work-almost all of it gets done by the "incidental method" (putting laundry in at bedtime, throwing it in the dryer in the morning), or by calling college students to dinner.
  • Oh and no post about routine (or movement) would be complete without a discussion of the canine variety. Dogs lick your fact to be let out in the morning, they need to be fed at regular intervals and they know when walk time is...........just sayin'.

Retirement, as with the rest of life, is made to be lived, and enjoyed.  What about you-do you prefer a little planning or more planning in order to live richly in retirement?


  1. I have mostly retired this past year, ( give two hours on most mondays to some office paperwork till the business is sold..) my husband is trying (business up for sale.)In the past I was a much more structured person, but I am finding this year, since we moved and downsized and I retired, I like the seat of the pants method.. at least for now-- I do like to plan my meals for the week and grocery shop once.Other than that I am enjoying the lack of a strict routine.

    I just agreed to walk two days a week with a neighbor in the early morning (i am an early riser) and I have lots and lots of activities and hobbies, but I'm doing it all on a day to day basis lately.

    Sometimes this feel strange, and I feel "things don't get done.' But WHAT THINGS? Most everything gets done, canning,re organizing the bookshelf. etc.

    I have lists like you do, of stuff I want to get to.. over a year or the next few months (??) like taking the free iphoto classes at he apple store, reorganizing all my bookmarks and word documents online, taking a music appreciation class, make several new calendars (craft hobby), making some home made gifts for upcoming events..

    But overall-- retirement is feeling like I need to let go and relax more, and allow for lots of variety in routine..

    And I really enjoy your blog!!

  2. Madeline, I should have mentioned that I do a big shop once a month and get the other stuff in between-I do try to avoid "busy errands as much as possible!

    For me I do find that things get done eventually, and very little do I have in my life that is "urgent"

  3. I know this will probably surprise you, but I actually like to go back and forth - one day busy and full of activities, the next day less so. I've learned since retiring that I need regular doses of both to remain in balance.

    But my wanderlust will likely never change. Since I was a teenager I have had a burning urge to travel, travel, travel. I can only be home so long before I start to get itchy to go somewhere and explore. I've been like this for over 30 years, and I doubt I'll change in this lifetime. I just love exploring the new and the unknown. It's always so exciting to me - still.

  4. I need a fairly even keel all days, but changing what I am doing. I love to travel, but I have been doing overseas travel since I was in elementary school constantly (I was raised in a traveling family), so now I prefer to travel just three or four times a year..

  5. I have a regular exercise schedule on my calendar; otherwise I probably wouldn't do it. I mediate at least once a week - I trained in this field after I retired and it is a current passion. I do my computer stuff in the morning, usually. Otherwise, my day is open. I try to spend time outdoors for at least an hour if it's sunny (here in Seattle that's a treat except in summer when it's the norm).

    Since I retired in June of 2010 we have taken 27 trips. I still love that, but we're slowing down a bit.

    Personally, I don't do well when I have nothing to do. I need to take a look at why that is.

    1. I think it depends what the nothing is. I asm a reader and a daydreamer' so i can always take some down time. I enjoy sitting on the patio and just thinking, but we are all different.

  6. Sounds like you have a fun, busy, productive way to go about things!! I like to be the same way! :)

  7. Wow, I love that cloth at the top, with birdies and zebras. Is that a flannel? I notice that turquoise is everywhere this season. I love it! Such a beautiful color.

    Your doggie is super cute, too!

    1. Yey, tis a flannel.....something different for me


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