• Phyllis Prestamo

Newly Retired - Life Needs Structure

Updated: Jul 30, 2019

After spending many years being governed by a rigorous schedule at work, juggling social commitments, doctors appointments and family obligations, retirement gives us the time we all wish we had. All that time, though, can be very disconcerting and days can easily and quickly start to blur into one another. You might not remember what day it is or a week will quickly go by and you won't have accomplished anything. I was used to getting up at 5:30 every morning, out of the house by 7:00 and then back home again at 7:00 in the evening; for many parts of the year I left in the dark and returned in the dark. I worked in some way since I was 14 years old, and dreamed and imagined about the days when I was no longer bound by a work schedule. I have been retired now for almost a year and have learned many ways to deal with all this extra time. Humans basically feel more balanced when there is structure and routine. For those of you who have children, we know that establishing routines is extremely important to early childhood development www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials/structure and so it is for all phases of our lives. As we move through life's seasons, the need for some kind of structure contributes to one's feelings of well-being.

OK, so you have retired and now what are you going to do all day? Just because you are retired doesn't mean you shouldn't have some sort of schedule; you probably have a list of things you've always wanted to do or hobbies that you haven't had time to explore, but you need to be careful to not over schedule your time and enjoy the time that you have earned. Here are some tips to keep you on track:

  • Time Management - Try not to fill all your hours in a day with activities or tasks. This will make retirement more like work. Set goals or priorities for blocks of time and see that you attend to what you set out to do.

  • Your Schedule - Look at your week as a whole and block out doctor's appointments, weekly activities like exercise class twice a week, bridge club every two weeks, visiting the grand kids or a regular trip to the library. Having a framework and plans for the week is quite comforting. Every Sunday night, I click the calendar on my IPad and see what the next week looks like and where I can fit in a haircut or a free day to do just nothing.

  • Make a List - I cannot lie, I am a list person. I love to write a list for the week and the best part, checking off what I have accomplished. If you have things that you must do, having them on the list at your bedside can help you sleep without worry.

  • Be Flexible - Some people like to schedule every household chore on a rotating basis; I know that I do my laundry on Saturday mornings, but if we have planned to go away for the weekend, I do it on Friday instead. Laundry is not on my list. Look at your list at the end of the week and move anything you didn't get to to the next week...no big deal!

  • Slow Down - You do not need to do all your dreams and desires in the first year of retirement. I know, my list was long. We downsized and moved three months before I retired and I couldn't wait to have the time to paint, make curtains, properly organize the kitchen cupboards, organize the closets, sort the craft room....there was no way I was going to get this all done and not feel pressured to have a list of accomplishments each week. It's been almost a year and I have done a lot, but there is always more to do.

  • Find Your Own Rhythm - I am not, I repeat not a morning person, but feel horrible if I waste time sleeping in. So I have adjusted my wake up time from 5:30 to 7:00. For some this might still seem very early, but it usually takes me a half hour to clear the cobwebs and get down to breakfast at 8:00. Even though I find it hard to fall asleep before midnight, I feel comfortable and well rested. My husband on the other hand is a morning person, wakes up on his own at 6:00 and gets right out of bed and starts his day. He is also an effective napper; he can close his eyes for 15 to 20 minutes and be good to go. I don't know how we have been married for over 40 years, but this works for us. You need to find your own rhythm and work around it.

  • Stay Connected But Don't Get Sucked In - Nowadays our phones, tablets and computers can keep you connected with the world. I love Facetiming with my grandsons who live in another state, playing a mindless but fun game in the late afternoon, seeing what my high school friends have been up to on Facebook, posting my latest baking achievement on Instagram or searching Pinterest for new crafting or decorating ideas, but you can spend hours doing this. I schedule my Blogging and try to just check my Email twice a day. TV can also take up huge chunks of time. As a rule our TV does not go on until 6:00 for the news; so far I have avoided any daytime programming, but if you like a particular program limit yourself to just the one show.

  • Build In Time For Free Time - Sometimes I look at my schedule and see nothing is planned until the afternoon, but the morning is beautiful so I take that second cup of tea onto the deck and just listen to the birds. It makes me feel so relaxed to know that there is nothing that needs me and I can just breathe.

  • Shift Your Schedule - While I was working, my Saturdays were packed with chores and things that had to be done because there was no other time. Pick another day to do the grocery shopping or do your chores around your town center when everyone else is at work. In our area our local movie theater has Senior Tuesdays with a big discount on tickets so we have gotten in the habit of going to the movies on Tuesday afternoons or evenings. Our first big trip to Europe this year, we left on a Sunday night and returned on a Monday in the spring; the tickets were a fraction of what they cost at high tourist times and from weekend to weekend. Check out how I planned a trip to London here.

My interests are of course not yours, but being honest with yourself and building a list of things you have always wanted to do can help you build the structure you need for your retirement days. Get a planner or use an online calendar and start planning out your weeks. Be sure to leave a day or two each week to just do nothing; binge watch a TV series or download a movie you always wanted to watch or simply close your eyes and listen to some soothing music.

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