A Little Routine Fights Boredom in Retirement

Let’s figure that by the time you near retirement, you have been a member of the working masses for 30 plus years – a pretty reasonable assumption if you started at age 21 or thereabouts. During all those years hard at it chances are you developed a regular schedule for your days. Get up at the same time, go through your morning ritual of newspaper-breakfast-coffee, make the ever-so-enjoyable commute to your place of employment, work, return home, and roll into your evening routine. It is easier to fall into a routine that works for you than to try to figure out each day what to do next. And there is a certain comfort in predictability.

Now that you are retiring, a little routine can help in ways you may not have considered prior to your arrival.

As a retiree, how you choose to spend your time each day depends on you. You have earned the right to do what you want when you want for as long as you want. This freedom is one of the great rewards of retired living. But along with freedom can come challenges. What will you do now that you can do anything you want? There are a lot of hours that make up the many days ahead. If you retire at 65 you can hope for 20 or more years of retirement. And if you are like most of us, you want to make the most of each.

I find a little routine provides a nice framework for the day. Admittedly I am a pretty organized person. My wife may upgrade that description to obsessive but it works for me. As I live my “trial retirement” until the official move to 100 percent retired status, I have a handful of activities I do throughout my normal day. Without the requirements of a job, having a routine helps me stay engaged and active. I don’t hover in bed even though nothing specific needs to be done. Instead I make it a point to get up and around by 7:00. Getting up at a regular time each day allows me to take advantage of what is for me a high energy time of day. I have always been a morning person.

Here is a typical day. I begin with breakfast and the newspaper – I recently added doing the daily crossword puzzle to help get my mental juices flowing. Coffee in hand, I head to the computer to write/blog/create/see what is new in the world for a few hours. Next it is time for a workout alternating between weights, stationary bike or yoga. Then lunch followed by an hour walk in the neighborhood sometimes to the local store to gather provisions for dinner. Back home and a bit more computer. Then comes my “elective period” when I will spend some time in the garden or engage in various home projects or read or play the piano or watch the grass grow, whatever suits my fancy for that particular day. Time for a little TV where I watch an hour show recorded earlier (no time for commercials in my retired life!). Somewhere between 2:30-4:00 I typically grow a bit restless and feel the need to get out of the house one more time. The perfect opportunity for a quick trip to the store or neighborhood coffee spot. Upon my return a little preparation for the evening meal and suddenly it is time for the 5:00 news.

My routine works for me. Yours may be something entirely different. But having a set of regular activities to occupy your time may help to avoid that what-do-I do-now feeling sometimes experienced by seniors. There is nothing worse for a healthy retiree than to find herself bored. All of the promises of living the retirement dream amount to little if you are unhappy and unsatisfied with the life you live.

The good news is since you are master-of-the-schedule you are not forced you to stick to the plan. If you want to deviate a bit or depart entirely, you are free to do so. You can change the routine and change it back or not – you are in control. And you are always free to expand your horizons and try new things. Remember you write the rules in your retirement.

For me, that little framework for the day helps me feel that although retired, my day is far from empty and I better get to it. There are things that I should be doing, things that I enjoy doing. The good news is in retirement, I get to decide what those things are.

Time for my workout – enjoy your day and enjoy your retirement.

How One Couple Prepares to Retire Together

As my wife and I grow ever nearer retirement, we are excited about our future together. It has been a long road but we are just about there. Here’s the current situation – my wife works for a start up managing all aspects of the office along with doing her best to assure the various employees play well together. She is wonderful at her job and although not always a cake walk, enjoys the interaction with co-workers and energy that a small business perpetuates. Prior to the last two years, I also worked in the technology start up arena managing various sales teams. Never a dull moment as we drove hard to achieve our goals and then reset at the beginning of each new month.

These last two years I have been “free” from work as the next gig has not materialized and in all honesty is not likely to. I am 55 which is about a century too old for the typical start up where average ages are lower than my children (ouch). But rather than bitch and moan, I am looking ever forward. I know that in the next few years – be that one or five or somewhere in between – my wife and I will retire. We look forward to spending quality time together doing what we want with our days free from stress and just plain happy to be alive.

As big believers in planning ahead, my wife and I have been discussing how we will retire together and not drive each other crazy.

Sharing our individual visions of retirement

Since we are unique people it makes sense that we do not have exactly the same view of our retirement-to-be. So we talk about it. We have identified some of our shared visions as well as areas in which we differ. Here is where I believe we are on the right track – although we have some differing views of retirement, we are not trying to reshape or change one another (probably a good thing since at our age we are pretty set in our ways). Instead we do our best to support and encourage each other to pursue the retirement that is most desired. And having uncovered no real clashes in our visions, the road ahead looks relatively smooth (he said optimistically).

My wife is the more social of us and enjoys spending time with others at dinners and events. She is also most happy when she keeps busy. It is possible that her fulfilling retirement may include a part time job to occupy perhaps half of the day. In this role she can interact with co-workers as well as stay engaged and active. Although I like people just fine, I have no problem pursuing activities alone or with just her as opposed to getting out and about (and after 30 years in the Bay Area, I HATE traffic and crowds with a passion). With the past two years of “practice retirement” under my belt, I have created an enjoyable routine that occupies me until about 4:00 each afternoon. The good news is I still have one hour to add something new before cocktails!

Doing things together as well as apart

My wife and I love to do things together. We travel whenever we can, hike every hill in our vicinity, happily wander the countryside in search of that perfect loaf of bread or Pinot Noir, share a quiet moment reading side by side, and typically end the day perched in the best spot to watch the sunset. We are blessed in that we do not have to be doing something every moment. Even if we are doing different things being near each other works just fine. And although we share many common interests, we also support the pursuit of our individual hobbies. We agree it is healthy to have time apart just as much as time together. While she puzzles – either jigsaw or Sudoku or crossword – I write my next blog. When she reads a book while catching a bit of sun in the backyard, I fiddle around in the garden to make it just so. We do things together and we do things apart and the mix works for us

Talking about what lies ahead

The reality is we are getting older. How that will roll out for us over the coming years remains to be seen. But we see our friends and family moving up in years and witness the impact first hand. We are optimistic but also realistic. Already the little aches and pains are making their presence known. Those knees we took for granted as we ran those many miles in our youth will have their say. Hikes we aggressively undertook up steep hills need to be tempered a bit as stamina is not what it used to be. The volume on the TV is a bit louder and the heat in the house a bit higher. It isn’t easy but trying to ignore reality is a losing proposition. We are trying to accept aging gracefully, making the best of it and adjusting our lifestyle accordingly. And we are far from done as we plan on doing all we can along the way to make the best of our second act together.

How to Improve Your Memory in Retirement

Early in my career my job routinely required me to juggle multiple responsibilities at the same time. A typical morning involved reading through accumulated emails with a phone wedged between my ear and shoulder while a line of sales reps formed just outside my cubical. I wasn’t necessarily the most efficient with my attention divided like this, but it was the nature of the job. There was so much to get done during the course of the day that I did not have the luxury to focus my attention exclusively on one item at a time. Fortunately, I was able to successfully multitask.

Now as I approach retirement age I am beginning to believe the multitasking I used to be so good at may do more harm than good. In my daily endeavors I find it increasingly challenging to juggle more than a few things at once. And I quickly forget the specifics. Without focusing my attention I miss important details along the way. Here’s what I’m doing to work on improving my memory:

 

Pay attention. I am discovering that my memory improves when I try to concentrate only on the specific task at hand. For example, when in a parking lot I make a conscious note of exactly where I leave my car. I pay particular attention to the name when introduced to someone new, trying to make some association that will help me remember. When
listening to a lengthy discussion, I make the extra effort to stay focused rather than allow my mind free reign to wander. I find that by focusing in on the one thing immediately at hand my memory miraculously improves. When we are constantly bombarded by advertising, noise and stimuli from all sides, it is easy to become sidetracked and distracted. But if we can cut through the noise and think clearly about what we are doing right now, perhaps we can resist the temptation to let our minds wander off the subject.

Forgetfulness. I don’t think that my memory challenges are entirely due to getting older. It is not that I am forgetful, but I am less able to divide my attention across multiple topics. If my mind wanders to a future dinner party at the instant I put my car keys down, chances are I will have a hard time relocating those same keys when it is time to head out the door. Should my wife share important events of her day while I am looking at the clock to see how close it is to the 49er’s kickoff, I risk missing her message entirely. And then I feel like a fool having to ask her to repeat what I know she just explained. The more I allow myself to be distracted by what I should be or can be doing, the less aware I become of what I am doing right now. Many a glass of water has overfilled and spilled onto the counter as I distractedly set about doing too many things at once. Maybe my younger mind was capable of this multitasking challenge, but these days it isn’t.

Live in the moment. It is easy to find your thoughts wandering, even when engaged in something as simple as walking the neighborhood after dinner. If your mind is out there somewhere, you can miss all that is going on around you at this specific moment. You may find yourself planning tomorrow’s projects, but by doing so overlook the magnificent world around you right now. As your thoughts stray, you miss the rising moon and first twinkling stars of the evening. More significantly, you ignore the person walking at your side when both of you are caught up in distant thoughts. By trying to live consciously in the moment, your attention is not diverted toward other horizons. You can become more aware and attentive. You may be surprised what you begin to notice, appreciate and remember.

Do one thing at a time. For me, maintaining a better memory really comes down to doing one thing at a time. I can still multitask but not as efficiently as I used to. In retirement I hope to be busy doing things I want to do at my own pace. I will have the luxury of putting off for later what I cannot manage right now. And this new freedom should allow me to focus on and appreciate each individual activity to the fullest. Rather than having my attention diluted across too many events, I plan to give each my all. With this focus, I hope my memory will be my friend in the years ahead.

From my US News & World blog. Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.