Manage Time — Manage Choices

In recent months, as I’ve struggled with managing time in retirement, I’ve realized that it’s not so much about how I manage time as it is about how I manage choices.

In 2010, when newly retired, I felt like a kid in a candy store.  There were so many options for retirement happiness. I was free from routines, obligations, and schedules.  With an empty calendar I said ‘yes’ to almost any interesting activity, challenge, and hobby.

Staying involved with the world, caring for my health, and  keeping my mind active guided decisions.

I started this blog and learned the basics of Word Press. I accepted numerous invitations for membership on not-for-profit boards. I got involved with committees in my church. I joined not one, but two, book clubs. I began to play bridge with a small group, first as a substitute, and soon as a regular player. I attended a weekly knitting group to re-learn knitting skills. I made time for regular exercise at my club and began to meet gym, yoga and pool friends for lunch at the club’s restaurant after exercise. I dedicated myself to cooking and eating nutritious meals.  I spent hours developing a shade garden at our cottage and maintaining our perennial and veggie garden at home. Interspersed with all of this was time for travel, time for entertaining, and time for our grand-daughter after her birth three years ago.

Writing this list confirms how the collateral damage of trying to do too much eventually discouraged and overwhelmed me.  I needed to re-assess how I was spending precious retirement years.

It took months to realize that many of the activities and hobbies that I had chosen in the early phase of retirement were not as fulfilling as I hoped.  Attending meetings and spending hours in various board rooms had filled my days when working.  Why was I repeating this in retirement?

To find retirement happiness, I needed to take responsibility for the choices that filled my time. I also needed more free time. I had to re-organize my schedule to maximize happiness from each chosen activity.

Sorting out which activities to keep created a dilemma. Since I have only one life and one retirement, identifying priorities took serious thought. I began by resigning from most boards and  committees. Shelving those obligations freed up meeting and travel time as well as time spent reading binders full of information in preparation for meetings.

The next choice entailed a mantra that I called the ‘rule of 2’.  I would not participate in more than two activities or appointments outside of the house on any day.  Going to the gym counted as one activity; attending bridge counted one activity; meeting a friend for lunch counted as an appointment.  The ‘rule of 2’ resulted in a more manageable schedule.  It also caused me to become discerning about commitments.

Since January 2016 I’ve augmented the ‘rule of 2’ with weekly and monthly planning.  A weekly overview, usually on Sunday evening, helps me to figure out how to better achieve both short-term and longer term priorities. At the beginning of each month I review and celebrate the highlights of the previous month. I consider what was not finished and why. This helps me to understand my productivity and my successes. When I accomplish very little, I’m able to assess why and self-correct.

I’ve tried not to become maniacal about the schedule nor too focused on productivity. Rather, I try to spend time on current life priorities. For example, because making time for de-cluttering, purging, and moving to a smaller house is a key 2016 priority for my husband and me, I commit several hours each week to take me closer to achieving this important outcome.

I understand that I won’t finish everything on the schedule. I’m also realizing that everything takes longer than planned.

Making better time management choices for a fulfilling and happy retirement remains a challenge.  I struggle with time stealers like spending too many hours on email or social media. I feel guilty when I goof off too often. A mindset focused on productivity sometimes prevents me from engaging in activities of pure fun.

With this awareness, I try to cut myself some slack. I have only one retirement.  I’m determined to fill each day with inspirational, satisfying and interesting choices. I’ll use every helpful technique to manage choices of how I spend precious retirement time.

You can see what I wrote about coping with time constraints and over-commitment in earlier posts by clicking these links.;

I know that postworksavvy readers are involved in many retirement activities. What have you learned to about how to manage time and manage choices?


10 Replies to “Manage Time — Manage Choices”

  1. Just under 18 months into retirement and we’ve realised that we have overcommitted – our holidays are lovely and are a priority, so they stayed.

    We realised that we had over committed to our walking club with doing two organises and the membership, so we picked two of three, and we’ll only do one organise and the membership, and we shall resist any external or internal guilt tripping.

    Then came the much more difficult decisions that were accompanied by a lot of angst – family committments – and it took a lot of stepping back and thinking through and feeling stressed and going round in loops and more loops…. But my brother had (jokingly?) said I could not say no to him and I then came to the realisation that I could and I would say no when appropriate. And that my brother could request more support from our sister. Families are such complex things – those of us that are lucky to have them, sometimes want to divorce them!

    1. Isn’t it too easy, at the beginning of retirement, to over-commit when it feels like there is time for everything and when so many opportunities come our way? I fell into difficulty with too many volunteer boards. Though I believed in the work of these organizations, I had to extricate myself to find time for myself.
      I’m happy to know that you realized that you needed to place boundaries on the time you were prepared to spend with the walking club and with family commitments. Making travel and holidays a priority should payoff with many good memories. Good luck with managing those family complexities as families can often make us feel guilty regardless of what decision gets made.
      Be well,

  2. I went through the same process Jeanette, when I first retired. Accepting board positions (5 of them!) seemed to replace what I was leaving in my working career. But like you, I determined that I didn’t want to spend any more time in a boardroom. I like your rule of two, but I have been cutting back more and more over the years, due to health challenges. Right now, I try to put a full day at home at least 3 times a week, to read, write and relax. What I love most about retirement is finally finding My voice – to say yes to the things I want to do and a big fat NO to the things I don’t. Keep up the good work.

    1. It’s all about choices, isn’t it? By making your health and time at home your priorities you are choosing to live these precious retirement years in a manner that is true to yourself instead of responding to the needs of others. It sounds as though you have conquered the schedule demons quite effectively. Good on you!
      Be well,

  3. I love your Rule of 2! I’ve been saying I have the energy and stamina for about five hours a day of “work” or “activities”. I think the Rule of 2 may be easier to implement.

    1. The ‘rule of 2’ works for me. I can push onward to 3 activities but then I feel rushed and grow impatient with myself and others. Limiting choices also gives enough slack so that I can indulge in last minute opportunities. Rule of 2 has become a mantra!
      Be well,

  4. Diane, I love your “rule of 2”. That sounds like a great way to keep control of a schedule of “free time activities” that can grow exponentially until, as you said, it’s completely out of control and leaving you exhausted. What you’ve described is a common stage that retirees go through. You managed yours admirably!


    1. Jeanette – I don’t know where my head is – calling you “Diane”. So sorry! I guess I need another cup of coffee.


      1. I’ve always loved the name, Diane…….no apology needed!

    2. The ‘rule of 2’ works for me. When I first wrote about it, a reader commented that she managed time by limiting the number of engagements in a week to something like 9 or 10. By that method, she sometimes took on 3 or 4 activities/appointments in one day but then curtailed herself for the rest of the week. Each of us needs to find a way to make the schedule work for us. Retirement is a special time — why give it away with activities that aren’t fulfilling?
      Be well,

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