Before I retired, I was a great time manager.
I’d transition to a new activity at 9:16AM then to another one at 10:12AM and so on throughout the day. Bells would ring, bracketing precise pockets of time, neatly managed. Such was working life in a public school.
Nowadays, I do a lot of creative work. I’ll look up and four hours have passed. I’ve forgotten to eat. Never mind walk the dog, run the errand, do the yoga. Apparently when Creativity is in charge and the Muse is in the driver’s seat, structure and natural order disappear.
The benefits of retired life certainly outweigh the constraints of a ringing alarm clock (my least favorite bell). Except, as my retired life began, I became a time management disaster.
I missed those bells.
This felt a bit shocking. But in reality, most changes mean that our routine will take a hit. And retired life is a big change.
I remember arranging lunch dates with my retired friends when I was still working, and I remember how differently our lives seemed to flow. You’d schedule the 45 minutes allotted in your workday for luxury dining. They’d show up all rested and dewy skinned and declare, “I’m so busy, I don’t know how I ever had time to go to work!”
In fairness, some of them were really busy. They were running non-profits, doing good works. Taking care of grandchildren, saving the whales. But now I believe most of them were simply learning how to navigate a new relationship with Time.
Time is dynamic. It’s constantly re-shaping. It’s stretchy and elastic and bends in every direction. Time can feel like it’s running amuck and needs a ringing bell to control it. It can feel like it’s flying by. Or standing still.
It’s ironic that this is the season of life when we can fear we may run out of time. We have the same amount we’ve always had, and we can often do with it as we please. But as retirees we must renegotiate our relationship with it, well, from time to time.
Six years have passed since I designed my daily life around ringing bells. This flexibility can still be tricky. I can certainly feel delighted. But sometimes I can feel disoriented. Like I’m back in school in a whole new way. Like I’m in that dream where I miss the exam because I had the time wrong (I can’t be the only one who has a dream like that…).
But I’ve learned a few hacks that help me dance with time:
Use it to complete a task that’s unpleasant and must get done or just the opposite… when an activity threatens to dominate your day.
Catch your breath, stare out the window, or do anything else that makes you feel at peace.
Many things take a lot longer than we think they will, and other things happen that we didn’t see coming.
If you need three or four days (or weeks) between vacations or houseguests, take it.
Eliminate the word should and start using choose. You decide what to do or not do, what invitation to accept or which one to decline. Empowering!
Since the year I was born, 13 presidents have been inaugurated, technology has changed our lives, air travel has become a chore, and one beloved Queen reigned over the Commonwealth.
But I’m still a work in progress. I’m embracing Structure Lite: no bells and slightly scheduled.
As I sign off, I see another hour has ticked by. Creativity should be checking her watch… except she doesn’t wear one.
I hope there’s something in the fridge. It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve eaten.
How are you managing your time during retirement? What obstacles have you faced? What’s working for you?