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It’s About Time…

It’s About Time…

This is a repost from 2014. Still relevant…

I’m in a bar fight with Time right now. I’m not even sure who started it. At the moment, I’m in a big transition—moving to new space in a new area to a house that’s needed significant TLC before I moved in.

So I’ve been painting, cleaning, and  organizing storage areas, plus trying to corral all the stuff I’ve managed to accumulate in the two years I’ve been living where I am now.  All that takes time.  And I want Time to cooperate and give me enough to get it all done–to give me the sense that I have it under control. Time is not hearing a word of that. I am not in control. Nope. Not at all.

Time is not flying; it is evaporating, like needed rain that never gets all the way to the parched desert floor. There “should” be enough time. This move is certainly doable. I have good support from family and friends. I have good resources to call for paid help as needed. But still, I am in this absurd wrestling match with Time.

On the surface, it looks like it’s my own silly fault. This cleaning that I’ve been doing….I’ve gone through three toothbrushes at it…plus a bunch of bamboo skewers…untold numbers of Q-tips…a few toothpicks. I’ve been manic about getting that last bit of gunk out of whatever it is that I’m sprucing up.

There is so much to get done.  And yet I’ve been piddling around with a toothpick trying to get the dirt out of the ridges of a light switch. I’ve painted almost every wall and most of the ceilings of the new place. I’ve replaced the carpeting and refinished the hardwood floors. I’ve been absolutely anal about how I set up the kitchen.

Have I gone over the edge—to where cleanliness is no longer next to godliness but instead has moved into the marginally functional wing of a looney bin? How can I possibly get all the work done if I putz at little things? Why am I fighting with Time like this?

But as I admit this and look more closely, it’s starting to make sense. There is a lot to get done with this move. And I do like to start with things as clean as possible. (Dirt is okay but only if it’s mine.) But this move is one of a kind and involves more than getting my stuff from here to there. When I move, someone I love will remain behind—by choice, but still…. Much of what I take with me will have to be replaced if he wants to be able to cook, clean, eat off a plate, etc. (He’s a guy; he may not….) So this preoccupation with getting things clean was probably a good way to end up with the right pacing.

Is there anything in this insight that’s useful for life in general?

Yeah, I think so.  I’ve always been an exceptionally well-organized person. I have not been like that on this move. Instead of making list after list, I’ve been blindly doing whatever seems to need to get done next. It turns out I have been letting my heart lead instead of my General-Manager-of-the-Universe mind.

Sometimes a list is not the answer. Sometimes, you just have to trust it’s going to work out and keep trudging along, even if what you’re working on seems to be getting a higher priority than it deserves. Sometimes, your hands have a better sense of what must be done than your mind does.

And that’s a good thing to realize at the start of a new year. “Because I’ve always done it this way” is a weak reason not to grow. By now I would be a raving lunatic if I’d have tried to manage this move the way I’ve done them in the past. I would also probably be heartsick and depressed. There are too many layers, too many extenuating circumstances, too much room to cause emotional hurt–to myself or someone else–by steamrollering through this move. What a blessing that I had the chance to piddle around with a toothbrush cleaning up someone else’s microscopic messes.

I haven’t been wrestling with Time after all. We were dancing, and I just didn’t know it.

How Do I Fit This In?

How Do I Fit This In?

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.

Stay tuned.

 

It’s About Time

It’s About Time

I’m in a bar fight with Time right now. I’m not even sure who started it. At the moment, I’m in a big transition—moving to new space in a new area to a house that’s needed significant TLC before I moved in.

So I’ve been painting, cleaning, and  organizing storage areas, plus trying to corral all the stuff I’ve managed to accumulate in the two years I’ve been living where I am now.  All that takes time.  And I want Time to cooperate and give me enough to get it all done–to give me the sense that I have it under control. Time is not hearing a word of that. I am not in control. Nope. Not at all.

Time is not flying; it is evaporating, like needed rain that never gets all the way to the parched desert floor. There “should” be enough time. This move is certainly doable. I have good support from family and friends. I have good resources to call for paid help as needed. But still, I am in this absurd wrestling match with Time.

On the surface, it looks like it’s my own silly fault. This cleaning that I’ve been doing….I’ve gone through three toothbrushes at it…plus a bunch of bamboo skewers…untold numbers of Q-tips…a few toothpicks. I’ve been manic about getting that last bit of gunk out of whatever it is that I’m sprucing up.

There is so much to get done.  And yet I’ve been piddling around with a toothpick trying to get the dirt out of the ridges of a light switch. I’ve painted almost every wall and most of the ceilings of the new place. I’ve replaced the carpeting and refinished the hardwood floors. I’ve been absolutely anal about how I set up the kitchen.

Have I gone over the edge—to where cleanliness is no longer next to godliness but instead has moved into the marginally functional wing of a looney bin? How can I possibly get all the work done if I putz at little things? Why am I fighting with Time like this?

But as I admit this and look more closely, it’s starting to make sense. There is a lot to get done with this move. And I do like to start with things as clean as possible. (Dirt is okay but only if it’s mine.) But this move is one of a kind and involves more than getting my stuff from here to there. When I move, someone I love will remain behind—by choice, but still…. Much of what I take with me will have to be replaced if he wants to be able to cook, clean, eat off a plate, etc. (He’s a guy; he may not….) So this preoccupation with getting things clean was probably a good way to end up with the right pacing.

Is there anything in this insight that’s useful for life in general?

Yeah, I think so.  I’ve always been an exceptionally well-organized person. I have not been like that on this move. Instead of making list after list, I’ve been blindly doing whatever seems to need to get done next. It turns out I have been letting my heart lead instead of my General-Manager-of-the-Universe mind.

Sometimes a list is not the answer. Sometimes, you just have to trust it’s going to work out and keep trudging along, even if what you’re working on seems to be getting a higher priority than it deserves. Sometimes, your hands have a better sense of what must be done than your mind does.

And that’s a good thing to realize at the start of a new year. “Because I’ve always done it this way” is a weak reason not to grow. By now I would be a raving lunatic if I’d have tried to manage this move the way I’ve done them in the past. I would also probably be heartsick and depressed. There are too many layers, too many extenuating circumstances, too much room to cause emotional hurt–to myself or someone else–by steamrollering through this move. What a blessing that I had the chance to piddle around with a toothbrush cleaning up someone else’s microscopic messes.

I haven’t been wrestling with Time after all. We were dancing, and I just didn’t know it.

 

How Much News is Enough?

How Much News is Enough?

Remember the adage “No news is good news?” What happened to that?  Now, no news means you’re either dead or lost in a South American jungle where even satellite reception falters.

“News,” at least in the dictionary, is “information about recent events or developments.”  Sometimes it’s in print.  Sometimes it’s on television and radio.  Sometimes it’s through the computer.  News is information about what’s going on where we aren’t.

If we care about that place or have loved ones there, of course we want to know what’s happening.  But what’s the point of being thoroughly informed about all the bad things that have occurred all over the world in the last 24 hours?

In this morning’s newspaper, I read about a train wreck in Spain that killed 79 people, a bus crash in Italy that killed 38, and an accident in Switzerland where two trains collided, seriously injuring five.  I live on the West Coast of the United States.  The only reason I can think of for needing to know of those three disasters is to pray for those involved.  But does such specificity improve Divine access?  Would I do any less good if I skipped the news and prayed “God, bless everyone who needs it right now”?

In my own life, there’s local news, sports news, national news, weather news, business news, and financial news.  Our local TV news starts at 4 AM.  The 24-hour news channels give me a dose whenever I choose to look for it.  The internet can even custom tailor alerts about whatever I’m interested in.  Around here, “the news” is often on midday, for as much as two hours at dinner time, and another hour or two before we go to bed.  Is that a good thing?

It’s nice to be able to find out what’s happening regardless of when I decide I need to know.  But being connected to everything that’s going on in the world all the time carries a lot of stress.  There’s nothing I can do about most of it.  Why is “the news” such a big presence in my life?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and there’s only one thing I’m 100% sure of.  I need to go on an information diet.  A lot of what I take in isn’t even good as “news.” Journalistic junk food.  A while back, I used a stopwatch and learned that over 50% of what I was getting from the local 10:00 news was ads.  Just how much of my time do I want to dedicate to car commercials and lovey-dovey couples touting erectile dysfunction drugs?

“News” can also be defined as “somebody or something interesting or something previously unknown.”   If I think about it that way, I can chart a wiser path to the information I really want to ingest.  If I want news about someone I love or want to get to know, a phone call or e-mail beats Inside Edition.  If I want to learn about something new, surfing the Net or going to the library will get me a whole lot farther than waiting through five minutes of ads so I can hear the 30-word follow-up to the 20-word trailer the evening news teased me with before going to commercial.

We hear way too much about stuff we don’t need to know–politicians who should have kept their pants on; paramours who should have kept their mouths shut; financial difficulties and deceits; personal tragedies and traumas.  We hear about crime and mayhem all over the globe. We hear the same awful stuff multiple times a day.  It’s not just me.  This is not good for any of us.

A steady stream of bad news is hard on you, even if you have no emotional connection to the people facing the problem.  The very best we can hope to get from witnessing the current horrible thing is a fleeting moment of “feel good” when we write a check or text a donation in response.  The rest is a combination of unrequited compassion and insensitive gawking.

I do want to be informed about what’s going on in the world.  And I do care about people.  But you can get too much of a good thing.  Am I an informed citizen of the world or a news addict?

I’ve decided I need to learn to imbibe more responsibly.  From now on, I’m going to make myself answer three questions:  Do I really need/want to be fully informed about this?  Is this the best source for the information I need?  And, much as it makes me uncomfortable:  Am I just watching/hearing/reading this news as a bogus way to feel connected?  If the answers aren’t yes, yes, and no, I need to pass.

 

Re-thinking My To Do List

Re-thinking My To Do List

Are you playing fair with your To Do list? I’ve been abusing mine for about a decade now and didn’t even know it.

I tell myself that I’m not a slave to it–I did finally see the light about the lunacy of “getting it all done at all costs” a while back.  But I’ve just discovered I’m stilling approaching that To Do list the wrong way.

I’ve been using it as a daily confirmation that I have worth as a person—salvation via getting a lot done.  And the painful truth is that this is just another perfectionist strategy—a way to avoid the pain of being deemed not good enough in someone else’s eyes by completing task after task after task, day after day after day.

To let go of perfectionism, you have to stop worrying about what other people will think.  I thought I had accomplished that–and in many ways I have.  But I still worship at the altar of “getting things done.” The wrongheadedness of this finally became clear to me courtesy of Brene’ Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.  The gifts she discusses aren’t consolation prizes.  Imperfection is actually a whole lot better way to live than all the perfectionist striving I’ve been guilty of over the years, including my worth-through-productivity mania.

Brown knows my game.  She too was devastated when she learned that a stiff dose of work ethic wasn’t a particularly evolved approach to life.  She refers to herself as “a recovering perfectionist and aspiring good-enoughist.”  She’s also a social scientist who’s been doing qualitative research on shame for much of her career.  That’s right—perfectionism is a facet of shame.  I’ve been driving 90 miles an hour down that dead end for decades!

The news was a shock, but also a big relief.  I’ve been frustrated for months about how little I get accomplished these days compared to three or four years ago.  I used to write a long list of chores for the next day every night, and then, bright and early the next day, I would get going on those things—roaring through them like I was on a mission to save the world.  Much of the time, nobody but me had decided they needed to be done.  In the vast majority of cases, if I didn’t get them done, nothing bad was going to happen.  But getting through that list made me feel like a superstar.  I was effective.

Recently, it’s gotten more and more difficult to make myself work on the list each day.  More and more often, I don’t even write one out the night before.  I’ve been worried that this meant I was losing my grip on my life. I can’t even get a simple to-do list done?

After reading what Brene’ Brown had to say, the dawn came.  A while back I asked the Universe for help to get wiser about doing what really needs to be done.  I thought that it was a case of rededicating myself to that daily list.  Until I read about her experience, I didn’t even realize the resistance to my To Do list mania was the answer to that prayer.

Who says I have to get anything done?!  Who’s keeping count?  I’ve been in an ever-accelerating role as Simon Legree, meanly enslaving myself. That’s no more admirable than subjugating someone else.

A few days ago, I turned over a new leaf.  Instead of that long To Do list, I jot down what I really do need to remember to do.  Then I remind myself that my day is mine to do with as I choose.  Yes, I need to honor my commitments, but usually, it doesn’t all have to get done “today.”  And it’s okay to change my mind as the day progresses.

Work is a good piece of life; it’s not work that needs to be eliminated here.  It’s important to keep that in mind.

What I—and maybe you–need to stop doing is the frenzied rush through an arbitrary list of tasks that has become the default proof that I (we) deserve to be alive today.  I need to erase the notion that work—even meaningless work that doesn’t need to be done at all—trumps the less socially acceptable stuff like play and taking a nap.

“To Do” lists are great for remembering what needs to get done.  You do want them in your toolkit.  But they aren’t inflexible marching orders, and there is no correlation between the length of your list (with everything crossed off) and your value as a person. To be really wise, you need to use a strategy that includes knowing when to ignore them.

 

Having Enough Time

Having Enough Time

All that angst about “not having enough time” is supposed to go away when we retire, right? Well…

For the last couple months I’ve been struggling to “find the time” for things I really want to get done.  I’ve also been feeling guilty about not getting to the “shoulds” (like dusting).  A lot of stuff is just not happening.  It’s not because I have a major project at work that’s burning holes in my own choices.  I have been captain of my clock for almost 20 years now.  You’d think I’d have it figured out.

I don’t.  But when I started to look at it more closely this morning, I made a startling discovery.  Maybe “having enough time” is the wrong way to look at it.

We all have “enough time”–we are blessed 24 hours every day.  You don’t get 27 hours because you need it as a young parent, or 18 hours because you’re tired of it all and waiting to die.  24 hours is it.  It’s how we manage it that makes the difference.  Depending on your personality, this may be a conscious thing or it may not.

I am a planner.  I make specific decisions about how I am going to spend that 24 hours.  I make a list of what I want to get done every day.  I cross stuff off when I get it accomplished.  My sweetheart rarely does lists.  He’s a lot more casual about whether something gets done or not.   At the bottom of it though, we are both making choices all day long about how we spend our time.

One of the things that bugs me most about the current version of “retirement” is the boast by retirees that “I’m so busy I don’t know how I ever had time to work.”  It’s not about being busy.  It’s about filling your 24 hours each day with what you really value.

I finally realized this morning that the dilemma for me is that I have a hard time making peace between what I want to “get done” and the things that come along on a spontaneous basis that have more value.

In the last two weeks, my list has been ursurped by helping decorate the nursery for a soon-to-arrive new grandson, a trip to the zoo with my granddaughters, hours of televised sporting events as part of Father’s Day, and a hike in Mount Rainier National Park on a glorious sunny Summer Soltstice.

Every one of the things that I did instead of spending time on the important projects really was more important.  But I’m giving myself a stress pill by fretting over what didn’t get done because I did those things.

Not so very smart, I agree.

But what’s a better approach?

This morning I finally saw the light: see it as the budgeting process it is.  Cutting out the little time wasters can help.  E-mail, especially forwarded stuff, needs to be demoted.  Forgetting how to get the Spider Solitaire game to load would be good.

I need to stop pretending I can do it all.  When the unexpected requires resources, the original plan has to change–be it with money or time.  Maybe it’s a timeline I set for myself on a writing project that needs to be stretched,  Maybe it’s putting a “creative fun” project on hold for a little while.

But  I’m concerned with just leaving it at these kinds of solutions.  I’ve done this before, and eventually I start to resent that I’m getting to what everyone else needs of me but not to my own interests.

That’s where the “Ah ha!” occurred this morning.  When I was managing operations in the gas industry, one of my most unexpected challenges was teaching the guys I supervised that it’s no better to be way under budget than to be way over.  When you’re under budget, the company holds back resources you say you’ll need that could have been used elsewhere.  Something that could happen didn’t because you said you needed those dollars.

It’s the same deal with time management.  It’s wiser to live near the tipping point between “enough time” and “not enough time.” on an on-going basis. Living well does not come from “getting everything done.”  It comes from using your time on the things you value.  Sometimes that’s going to be on the “to do” list and sometimes it’s not.

That means a granddaughter’s excitement over a hippopatomus trumps getting a blog post up. And that is just fine.

 

How to Use a “To Do” List

How to Use a “To Do” List

Making a list of what needs to be done is easy. How you deal with it once you make it is a different story. Assuming you’ve failed if everything isn’t crossed off at the end of the day isn’t wise. But not taking the things that really must get done seriously is also ineffective.

Somewhere between kindergarten and now, most of us have grasped the value of making a list of what needs to get done.  It’s the best way to keep a sense of control over having too much to do as busy adults.  In retirement, the “To Do” list can take on a different purpose.  For some, it becomes a way to confirm you have something to do.

So to use a “To Do” list effectively, it’s good to understand what you’re trying to do with it.

To remember what you need to do.  The common reason for writing things down is to not forget them.  This is important if you have a lot going on or if what needs to happen isn’t central to your own life (rides to soccer practice or the airport, for example).  For this use, lay the list out in chronological order.  Otherwise you remember you were supposed to meet that busines contact for breakfast after you’re on your way to pick up your cousin at noon.

To corral everything you really need to get done today  This one is the most likely to get you in trouble.  Just making that list is good if you don’t have  a lot on your plate and need to jog your memory.  But making an unrealistically long list of things that you insist you are going to get done with too little time just sets yourself up for failure.

If you have so much on the list that it’s not likely you can finish it, you need to do more than just make a list.   Your first step needs to be an honest assessment of how much time you have.  Next make a quick estimate of how long each thing on the list will take.  Then figure out what you have to cut.

Telling yourself you’ll just make it happen when you have 35 hours of work for the 7 hours available is Stress City.  Instead, look at each item on your basic  “dump” list and ask

  • How important is getting it done?
  • What happens if I don’t get it done?
  • Is it really mine to do?

Use your answers to create the spine of your list–the big projects for the day.  Then fill in with lesser priorities that can be handled around those tasks.  (If you have 15 minutes before a meeting, you can handle a few e-mails or make that reservation, but prep for the meeting first.)

Be sure it’s your work, too. Quite often, we end up saying “yes” to other people’s work.   (The adage “If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person” is, unfortunately, very true.)  There’s a trick to dealing with these situations though.  You have to say “No” right away.  Once you say “yes” or even “maybe” or simply refrain from saying anything, you’re stuck with it.  That’s because it usually takes exponentially more time to get out of it than to do what wasn’t yours in the first place.  This is just as true with family members as on the job.  Think before you say “Yes” and if you aren’t sure, say “No” and then decide if that’s really the right answer.

To manage your time.  To do this well, you have to do the time estimates and the prioritization suggested above.  And there’s one other thing.  You have to take what you say you’re going to do with the day seriously.  Have you ever had a day where you can’t believe how much you got accomplished?  Usually, those experiences come when something is limiting you so much that you don’t let yourself have those easy little distractions like spider solitaire or rehashing last night’s ball game.

Getting yourself in that groove works best when you really do need to get everything on that list done and there’s a positive outcome for you.  (You can leave work early for something important,  for example.)  But if you can teach yourself to focus well every day, you will gain an immense amount of calm.

To validate your relevance.  This–and remembering what you need to get to–are more likely reasons for a “To Do” list if you’re retired and don’t have a purpose-centered effort going.   Making a list every morning gives you a sense of purpose for that day.

But if this is why you’re making that list, consider adding another item every day:  “Work on my sense of purpose.” Exploring how you want to include meaning in your lifestyle is time well spent.  People who have a sense of purpose are both healthier and more satisfied as they age.  It doesn’t need to be a ‘”save the world” kind of effort.  Just look for something you believe in that goes beyond your personal pleasure and see where that leads.

 

Yes to the To Do list.  Use it to build the life you want.

 

Retired Time — What Others Think

Retired Time — What Others Think

When you retire, you certainly have more timee.  What other people expect of all your “extra” time, especially friends and family, can get dicey though.  And the disappointments that come from loved ones not spending time we thought they’d want to spend with us can also be pretty painful.  This is another piecer of what retirement changes:  time with others.

Finding time when you’re retired and your loved ones aren’t is just plain difficult.  The extremes of not dealing with this issue are feeling like a doormat because you’re spending all your time doing what these other people need done or feeling like an orphan because they’re all away doing something else.  They’re among the most unhappy experiences of this stage of life.  Both are avoidable.  They develop when we aren’t paying attention, either to who we really are, what we really need, or both.  So pay attention–to yourself.

We all want to help. especially when it makes difference to someone you love.  But you don’t want to be taken for granted or taken advantage of.  Yes, most of us thrive on being needed.  But that’s different than being expected to carry a load that really isn’t yours.  Taking care of grandkids full-time without pay is being taken advantage of (unless you have a place to live by doing it).  Carrying a heavy volunteer load at church because “You have more time,” is being taken for granted.

Maybe you do and maybe you don’t have “more time.”  Maybe you’re spending every waking moment learning how to build kites or Not So Big Houses or play baswe guitar.  Others don’t know what you are really doing with your time–they just assume since you aren’t working, you aren’t doing anything.  And that doing what they need is better than doing nothing.  Don’t agree with them by default.  Speak your truth.  If you want to spend your time that way, say “Yes.”  If not, there’s another word.

“No.”

“No.  I don’t have time for that.”  Or maybe “No, I have other things that are higher priority for me to work on right now.”  In truth, there’s only one word you need to do this well… “No.”  A sweet smile.  A shrug.  And you’ve re-declared your freedom.

It’s harder with aging parents who need a significant amount of help.  Yep.  Those tasks have to be done.  And you might need to be the one to do them.  But don’t do it all if there are others who can share the load.  And don’t buy the guilt trip if anyone suggests that you should do it all because “you aren’t working.”

The bottom line on this challenge is WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO DO?  Be honest.  And then be ready to stand firm while others try to convince you otherwise.  Harriet Lerner does a great job of laying out how to do this in her book The Dance of Connection if you need some pointers.

The other end of the spectrum–when loved ones don’t have time for you–involves dealing more effectively with yourself.  What you are telling yourself about what should be happening?  We retire to “spend more time with the family.”  Too often, “family” is off doing other things and doesn’t have time to spend with us.  What do you do then?

For starters, don’t take it personally.  Young lives are complex and hectic.  Important relationships that aren’t part of the everyday scene can get ignored without any intention of doing so.   When you are available anytime, “tomorrow” seems like a a better day to plan something.

Take a careful look at the possibility this is the case if you are thinking of moving to “be near the kids.”  You move…they don’t have time…you don’t have your old circle of friends.  Pretty soon, the high point of your day is Seinfeld reruns.  If you still want to do it, please start with a trial run.  Find a furnished apartment and spend three or more months where they live.  Then be honest about what you experienced.   Does how it went match what you need?  As a bonus, you can start making friends in the new locale, which will make the transition easier if you do decide to move.

What other people think of your time once you retire can be pretty wrong-headed.  They think they know and they don’t.  Tell them the truth about what you have time for and are interested in.  About what you really want to do with them.  And if they don’t have the time you want to spend with them, no moping!  There are great people who do.  Go out and find them.

Retiring Means You “Have Time.”

Retiring Means You “Have Time.”

One of the biggest pluses of retirement–at least before we get there–is that we have 100% control over what we do with our time.  But once we have that control, what happens?

All too often, it translates into stuffing anything that comes along into our days and calendars to make sure we are “busy.”  The very thing that we yearned to get away from becomes the modus operandi all over again.  I cringe when people brag “I’m so busy now that I’m retired that I don’t know how I ever had time to work.”  Is that what you retired to do?  Be “busy?”

Going from “not enough time” to “all the time in the world” is a big change.  As we move through our career years, that eventuality becomes more and more alluring.  But once we get to actually make the transition, an interesting thing happens.  We start to recreate the “crazy busy” of work life with all kinds of commitments and involvement.

Understanding why we do this might be good.  I think it’s a case of seeking the familiar.  We know how to be busy.  We’re not so good at relaxing.  We might also be subconsciously resisting the assignment of “doing nothing” that the current cultural mindset assumes for this stage of life.  (I personally detest that role.)

The first weeks of retirement are easy.  You sleep as long as you want.  You linger over your coffee and actually notice how wonderful it smells and tastes.   You go out in your yard and really see what’s there.  You putter with a plant that needs help or a errant brick at the edge of the patio.  You start to look at travel brochures or check out websites.  But after a while, all this time becomes unnerving.  Then comes the  “I have to fill it with something!” reaction.  That’s when we start saying “yes” to everything that comes along.

“Do you want to join my book club?”  Sure!

“My health club is running a special promotion.  Do you want to join?”  Yeah, that might be fun.

“The volunteer fire department needs volunteers, are you interested?”  I’d love to.

Never mind that you are dyslexic, loathe being a gym rat, and faint at the sight of flames.

So is there a better way?  Yep.

The first thing is to know what you really like to do and where you truly want to put your time. So if you haven’t done that part already, some of that newfound time needs to be spent on learning more about yourself.  Really.

This kind of discovery appears selfish to many, but it’s the kindest thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your community.  When you know what you like and want to do, you end up doing that instead of “anything that comes along.”  People who are doing what they love are happier and healthier.  Plus the community gets the benefit of that focus if you decide to work in some way, either as a volunteer or for pay.

The second piece of a good time management strategy for retirement is to leave room for the unexpected. We need to learn to leave gaps on the calendar for starters.  That, in and of itself, can be scary to many of us.  A blank space is so….empty!  Taking an hour or two might be relatively easy.  But how about a day?  A week?

Try scribbling “save for as yet to be determined adventure” over an entire day.  Then, when that day arrives, do what sounds like fun at that moment.   If you’re really gutsy, try a whole week at it.  Then watch how you actually use that time.  Do you sleep longer?  Read more?  Watch TV that you’re not really interested in because you don’t know what else to do?  If it’s this last one, go back and read the previous paragraph again.  You need to know more about yourself so you can focus on what you truly find enjoyable.

The third step is to find out how you like to structure your time. Predictability is a good thing in the right dose.  All of us need some amount of structure.  How much is your call.  Do you need a morning routine to get your day going well?  Or is it better for you to start the day a different way every day.  (I was going to say “morning” but maybe you don’t get up in the morning.)  Some of us like standing commitments, like a bridge club or golf tee time.  Some of us run from that stuff and always will.  Either way works, as long as it’s your way.