Enjoying your retirement — how to stay focused on your priorities

All of us look forward to enjoying retirement and to filling our days with activities that matter.

Enjoying Retirement
Enjoying Retirement

Through the last months of my career, I often thought about how I would spend my time.  I dreamed of having enough time for hobbies, for physical fitness, for entertaining friends, for relaxing, and for learning new things.

Now that work has ceased to be the central focus of my life, I realize how  the quickly days pass without me paying attention to the previously established priorities — especially when languishing at the cottage as I’ve been doing for most of this hot Ontario summer. At the cottage priorities get de-railed by sleeping late, spending an hour or two drinking coffee on the deck, browsing the internet for daily news, playing with my cats, and enjoying the charms of the beach in the afternoon.  Time for hobbies, for fitness and for learning new things is easily compromised.

Since staying focused on these priorities is important to enjoying retirement, changes to this relaxed approach were needed unless I wanted to have the summer pass by without any sense of achievement.  Here’s what I have done to  re-focus:

  • Reviewed annual priorities — I looked at my journal and reviewed the priorities that I set for myself at the beginning of 2012.  While my heart sank at how many plans/goals were still to be achieved, I was happy with the challenges that I had met especially the ones that involved preparing for the festivities of our son’s wedding in the spring.
  • Made adjustments — Given the renovations and construction at our cottage during the past 6 months,  adjustments to plans were needed to allow for the necessary work of cleaning up after contractors.  Physical activity became lifting blocks to re-build walk ways and carting wood chips from felled trees.  Some projects were put on ‘hold’ as I faced the reality that gardening can’t be pursued when there is a bulldozer parked in the front yard or when the temperature exceeds 34 degrees Celcius!
  • Used lists — Lists help with focus.  Deciding what has to be accomplished during the coming week/month allows for planning and priority setting. Which days have appointments or activities that can’t be ignored? Who have we invited for cottage weekends?  Are there seasonal requirements/challenges?  Where is there flexibility?
  • Updated my schedule — Activities that matter won’t happen unless you put them into your schedule.  After retiring, I resisted a schedule for months, but found myself missing important events because of memory gaps.  I now use a simple written agenda book to track appointments.  Setting time aside in the weekly schedule for hobbies and personal priorities such as time for writing blog posts keeps the focus on priorities.
  • Used discipline— There is no point to making lists or scheduling activities without the discipline to follow through.  My advice:  don’t get too rigid about your plans but remember that they will keep you focused on priorities.  When I did not feel like doing my fitness routines at the cottage, I reminded myself that  maintaining health is one of my priorities.  That reminder made it easier to incorporate physical activity into the schedule.
  • Set time limits for activities — Sometimes it’s hard to get started especially when faced with a project that will require lots of focus and/or lots of time.  When I find myself avoiding something, I start by setting aside just an hour to get started and then allow myself to switch to something  more relaxing or more fun.   I often use this tactic when I faced with household chores.

It’s often been said that retirement is as good as you make it.  Staying focused on goals and dreams that are realistic, making adjustments as life evolves and using a bit of self-discipline will keep you enjoying your retirement.

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Photo courtesy of hyden 2012 (Harrison Hyden)


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