What was I going to do with all my free time? That was a question that I frequently was asked when I decided to retire. I was not used to a lot of down time as I, like so many other professionals, thrived on a packed schedule and keeping lots of plates spinning at one time. So, I was not surprised by the question. But one friend, who had retired several years prior, surprised me.
She forewarned me – you will wake up in the morning with nothing specific to do but then find yourself going to bed at night further behind than when you awakened. I heard her words but was very skeptical that her warning would apply to me. I had built my career powering through a day using time management strategies – working my planned agenda plus working in all the unexpected things that popped up during the day.
I had worked in an international environment and across multiple time zones, so it was always office hours somewhere. I was used to checking emails over my morning coffee to see what fire drills had arisen in Australia and Europe while I had slept and getting those fires, and others, out before I turned off my laptop at night. So, I was used to time management strategies – focusing, strategizing, prioritizing and multi-tasking to get things done. And, while I was not overly worried about having too much free time, I also could not see myself being non-productive or easily distracted as my friend’s forewarning might suggest.
So I approached retirement with an idyllic vision. I had a near empty calendar which I could fill with my bucket list and a growing list of “to dos.” But, I would do so at a measured pace and in a very organized and efficient manner. I would use time management to eliminate a little bit of the chaos in which I had thrived and a little of the “multi” from the tasking. I would get the satisfaction of wrapping a bow around certain long-overlooked personal projects, not just getting them 90% complete and needing to rush off to something else.
And just as a precaution, I heeded advice from others to wait six months to commit to volunteer efforts and other outside requests for my time. I did not want to be over committed; my retirement would be productive, but that productivity directed by my own desires and whims.
I retired four plus years ago and for the most part, my vision has come true. I have crossed a few things off my bucket and to do lists and added a few more. And, I have rarely had a day with nothing to do. But then today, as I was sitting down to write this article, I was once again reminded of my friend’s time management forewarning. This is not the first time her words have popped into my head. And when they do, I acknowledge that my entire definition of “productivity” has changed; a “full day” today definitely does not equate to that of four years ago.
As I sit here writing, I am doing so with a nagging cold and cough, a house full of painters and a laptop that has been crashing almost daily since I installed the newest software updates. None of these would have deterred me in the past. I have definitely maintained a clear head and worked through lots of illnesses. And, workers in my home, in the past, would have been a reason to stay longer at my office. And, I would have called my IT support team to fix my laptop issues. But, now my home is my office and I am my own IT support. And curled up with a good book or movie sounds much better for my cold than writing.
So, today is one of those days my friend forewarned me about – I will likely go to sleep further behind than when I awakened. But there is always tomorrow to wrap up this article.
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