Monday, February 10, 2014

In Praise of Down Time In Retirement.

Recently I have been exploring some literature on living intentionally, as well as on time management.  While this may seem an odd area to explore in retirement, I was trying to find out if, as they say, my activities were aligning with my goals.

Did I really want to be traveling eight months out of the year?  Would I be happy doing more?  Were there things that I could eliminate from my schedule in order to fit in things that were more valuable?  As part of this process  I made a sample non travel schedule. I also made a list of those things (necessary and by choice) that I wanted to put into that daily schedule.

While I won't share all the schedule with you all in this post(except to say that my day rarely starts till eight thirty or nine), I will tell you this.  My priority plan includes unscheduled "down time" every day-some days a half an hour and some days as much as two full hours.  This is not reading time, or meet with friends time. It's time that I purposely leave unscheduled. (this is never TV time-I only watch TV at night-even during the Olympics).

What do I do with that time?  It depends. Some days I daydream, looking out my window. Some days I nap. Some days I read.  Lots of days, other activities break over into that time, and I allow it. Some days I write in my journal (not for the blog, but for me). In the warm weather, I am liable to be on the patio with my feet up and eyes clothes.  This is, in it's truest sense, down time or do nothing time.

Some folks prefer to schedule their time. I suspect that those do so may well get more "accomplished" on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. I also expect that I may never get all those things on my list accomplished. This is okay with me. I realize that time is finite and that there are experiences to, well-experience.

Here's the thing though. Life doesn't have to be lived at a high energy pace to be lived either fully or fruitfully.  In fact, living life in the "now" and stopping to smell the roses (literally) is enriching. Almost every creative idea I have ever had, be it for an article, a creative project, a travel thought, a new baking recipe, or even a new income stream, has come during those "mindless moments".

Don't misunderstand. My days are full, and on some days that down time will be taken over by a projects I simply cannot put down.  But on most days, I guard that time. I take my hot chocolate and sit by the window with nothing but a pen and paper, and watch the neighbors, the weather and even the window. I retreat to a chair on the back patio, put my head back and listen-to the neighbor dogs, the wisps of conversations a few patios down, the squirrel in the tree and the circular weather vane on the patio. Sometimes my journal and pen, sometimes a book, which I may or may not read. Sometimes  something comes into my head, and I call a friend.

What's important is that this time is meant for going with the flow, slowing down, do nothing time. The rest of my days are spent sewing, quilting, knitting, writing, drawing, walking, cooking, studying, volunteering, or exploring. This time though, is daydream in retirement time.

It's what works for me, in retirement.


  1. I like your approach, which as you say may not let you get the most "done" but does allow you to live life fully. We can all learn from this post.

    1. Thanks Tom. There are days when I am sitting by the window (as I am now typing) and think that I should be doing...........fill in the blank. Then I accept my need and lean back and enjoy-most of the time.

  2. Too many folks can't be quiet and alone with themselves. You are so right: that is when ideas and solutions to problems simply bubble up as your mind is free to do what it does best.

    I used to think "non-productive" periods were wasteful. Now, I know they are some of the most productive times of my day.

  3. Agreed. I find that non productive times actually make me more productive and after these times I am ready to roll again.

  4. You obviously have found a way that works for you and I say bravo. I, too, take down times when I can - not as often perhaps as I would like but there are times that I just want to take a break, covered with an afghan and my puppy on my lap. This Michigan weather of late is enticing to do just that.

  5. Barb, you are such a wise woman!!! I absolutely cherish my quiet time, my down time, my "not needing to DO ANYTHING" time. As an "only child" I learned to enjoy my own space, early on, and to this day, have to have it!

    I also enjoy writing in a journal, reading for hours on end if I MUST finish the book.! (Am doing that now with "VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT " by Amy Tan..) and I do enjoy a half hour nap/relaxation CD rest period, most days.

    Life is large.. I love savoring the moments when I can, being busy when I feel like it.. and following Spirit..wherever it leads!

    thanks for sharing!

  6. I am a proponent of down time. When I was a young mom with a family and a full-time job I used to have a to-do list that was unmanageable causing me to beat myself up mentally at the end of the day for not finishing everything. I learned to make shorter lists and to just do the next thing. In the later years at work I learned to not schedule every minute of the day allowing time for the unexpected, to finish up, plan for tomorrow. I think many families/children today are over-scheduled lending to the busy-ness that frazzles where a lot is done but it's done on the fly and there's less sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Down time can lead to productive, creative thinking. I'm reminded of a line in the movie "The Color Purple" - sometimes I sets and thinks and sometimes I just sets. I think there is no "nothing" because even when we're just setting, we're thinking, resting, planning, etc.

  7. Barb, I am beginning a new blog called The Thrifty Tabloid, dedicated to helping people use thrift in any retirement, but particularly forced, mine by health, or others by downsizing. I would like to link to your blog because I think it's a good resource. I see you have other blog friends and I would like to check them out too and maybe connect.
    My URL is www.thethriftytabloid.blogspot,com and I have another blog called "Connection Intersection" at Check it out. I will not link to yours without your permission (but I will follow ;-) )

    1. Denise, thank you for stopping by and you are more than welcome to link

  8. It's been a really, really busy week, and a busy morning, and what I really want to do is sit outside and read but I'm feeling guilty. I actually asked my husband if he thought it was ok for me to do nothing and read, because I apparently needed third party validation.

    Talk about having lost some perspective!


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