Once fulltime work is in the rearview mirror, getting the things you want done personally should be easier, right? If you want to do a certain thing, you just use your time on that, and ta da! you accomplish it. That’s not been my experience with the freedom we’re blessed with in retirement. There’s a lot more room for waffling at this stage of the game and some very good reasons that keep the productivity level low. That piece of this puzzle is a big challenge for me. Especially at the moment.
I am a writer. I need to write. I know that. I want to do that. Earlier in retirement, I wrote first thing in the morning. Once I had the “important work” done, I could do whatever I wanted with the rest of the day. I got a lot of writing done that way. But I was seeing my life through the old “career” lens–where work trumps everything else and automatically claimes the top of the list–and, for me, the top of the morning.
I’m finally growing past that, and it’s creating an unexpected frustration. I want to live each moment of the day well instead of focusing on what I accomplish as the measure of the day’s success now. That’s positive, but it’s creating a negative ripple with my writing. I do other things first in the morning now–things that nurture me at the soul level and that I need to do then. Things that let me start the day with myself squarely in the center of it. That means I need to fit writing into a different part of the day. I haven’t been doing so well at that.
I’ve also discovered that I need a much larger dose of fun than I’ve existed on in the past. (That’s the absolute best way to “live the Now.”) That means I’m likely to be doing social things rather than writing in the evening far more often. (This week, that has been the case four days straight.) Before, I would write in the evening and get even more done. That’s not the case anymore either.
So how do I find a new routine that gives me what I need for my writing?
Just telling myself to do it the old way doesn’t work–that’s a big step backward. And not bothering to find that new writing routine isn’t an option either–I am not a happy person when I don’t write.
I’m still figuring this out, but some interesting pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place in the last couple days. I’ve been ignoring an important clue. I’ve noticed there are parts of my day that are empty and/or boring. Time spent watching TV news programs for example. I can keep abreast of what’s going on in the world without ingesting two minutes of ads for every minute of content. So the time I have been using for the news can be for writing.
I’ve also noticed another void later in the evening. I’ve thrived on 7 hours of sleep since I was a teenager. Some medical expert said you really need to get at least 8, so I decided I needed to do that. Every night, I tell myself it’s time for bed. ThenI diddle around doing not-much-of-anything for that “extra” hour rather than really using it. That particular hour may not be fore writing, but doing something relevant then will free up time at some other point in the schedule. I’ve just caught on to this search for the “empty spaces.” I suspect I will find more.
Plus I can now see that it’s wise to look at the intensity of my commitment when I am writing. There’s writing and there’s writing….just like there’s skiing and skiing! If I am on fire with what I’m doing, I am going to use the time I do have a lot better.
That intensity is also likely to motivate me to “find time” every day that’s beyond what I set aside for writing on a routine basis. Doing that is probably every bit as much a part of living the Now as opting for fun whenever I can.
I’m finally gaining on this! To live retirement well, I don’t want to get too locked in. But I don’t want my life falling out all over the place because I don’t have the structure I need either. I want to be flexible–but not derelict. That means coming up with new ways of getting what I want done without stamping out the progress I’m making on living in the moment.
Mary Lloyd is a writer and speaker and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love. For more, see her website.