Structuring Your Time in Retirement

So…one month into retirement. How’s it going? Well, already, I’m learning the importance of  structuring your time in retirement.

structuring your time in retirementI was expecting to enjoy my newfound freedom. Instead, January turned out to be a hectic month.

Volunteer work, finishing up some leftover work from the family business, helping my brother move, caring for grandchildren, along with a few other surprise events, left me feeling tired and stressed by the end of the month.

As a result, a few bad habits were ensued or resumed. With a goal to become more focused on my health, diet and exercise plans were sporadic or fell to the wayside all together. That book I was supposed to finish editing – well, let’s just say I didn’t get as far along as hoped.

Without a schedule, I began to mindlessly react to unscheduled events and life swirling around me. As a result, I  wasn’t accomplishing some of the things I wanted to in retirement.

Obviously, I needed to structure my retirement life with intention. Now, I’m not talking about rigorously scheduling every moment of the day. By the time we retire, I think we’ve all had enough of alarm clocks, rushed days, and deadlines.

But I realized setting goals and priorities was important to make sure I was productive and accomplished what I wanted to do.

Of course, at the same time, I realized the importance of setting time aside for enjoyable activities and rest as well.

So, here are a few tips I’m learning along the way.

Ask: What Do I Want My Day to Look Like?

I’m currently reading Atomic Habits by James Clear. He points out that routine and consistency are essential whether you’re retired or not, especially when you’re trying to get rid of bad habits and establish good habits.

Why not do a bit of brainstorming? Ask yourself:

  • What is your morning routine? What time do you usually wake up? How can you start the day with a spiritual or inspiring thought?
  • What activities should be given priority during the day?
  • What will you eat and drink? What type of exercise will you enjoy?
  • How can you help someone today?
  • Who do you want to spend time with and when will you do it?
  • How will you relax today?
  • What is your bedtime routine? How will you wind down for the evening? What time will you go to bed so you get enough sleep?

This will give you a general framework to help live the life you envision.

Make a List

Everyone is different but, personally, I’m starting to use my datebook more than previously. I don’t jot down every chore or activity or over-manage my schedule so days feel like drudgery. Just some general framework so time doesn’t pass me by without noticing it.

Give it a try. Make a list of the important things you need to do for the day. As a bonus, you’ll sleep better if you aren’t worrying about something you’re supposed to remember to do tomorrow.

But be flexible. Give yourself permission to move an activity from today’s list to tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, or even never if you realize it’s something you really don’t want to do.

While you’re at it jot down some short-term goals. What do you want to accomplish by the end of the week/month/year?

Set Some Long-term Goals

Now look into the future. What are you passionate about? Do you want to travel more? Write a book? Do you want to conquer a fear? Learn a new language? Run a marathon? Write down these goals and small steps you can take to realize your dreams.

Clear points out in his book, when it comes to creating new routines or achieving long-term goals, tracking your progress can be beneficial. It’s easy to get discouraged if you don’t see results immediately. Don’t be impatient. As Clear says, “Small steps may not show for awhile but have amazing results in the long run.” And don’t beat yourself up if you fail at something. Instead of striving for instant perfection, strive to be gradually better every single day — consistently, he adds.

Include Free Time

Balancing projects and relaxing time is what retirement should be all about. As a USA News article points out: “Many retirees enjoy the structure of regular volunteer work, a seasonal job, or taking a class, followed by a period with no obligations. And then, just when they’re getting bored, it’s back to the routine again.”

Have a general schedule and goals, but leave gaps for spontaneity.

On the flip side, it’s so easy to let electronics, the Internet, and social media soak up all your time. Make a conscious choice about how much time to devote to these passive activities.

Beat the Crowds

This is one of the perks of retirement. Schedule going to the gym, grocery store, playing golf, or going to an amusement park during the week. Avoid the crowds and get a cheaper rate.

So, this is what I’ve learned so far. What tips to do you have for structuring your time in retirement? I’d love to hear in the comment section!



Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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12 Responses

  1. Scott says:

    Great article to help us to learn how to schedule time for ourselves and others.

  2. Great post, Julie. I know exactly what you mean. If nothing is planned for the day, before I know it, the day is gone and I have little to show for it.
    I try and set some goals each day. If nothing else, spend at least 5 minutes a day on my work. Most times, that turns into a lot more than that, which is always good.
    What a great time of year for all of us to think about our daily goals.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

    • juliegorges says:

      Glad I’m not the only one. And that’s a great idea – making it a goal to write at least 5 minutes a day. Reminds me of the book, Atomic Habits. The author says to just plan to exercise, write, or whatever you goal is, for 5 minutes. Chances are great that once you get started, you’ll continue.

  3. We must be on similar tracks. I just posted about trying to balance my time better. In my case, I have started to take too many classes which, although interesting, don’t give me enough free time. I’m one of those people who gets twitchy if I’m over-scheduled. That being said, I also feel that I can easily lose my day in front of my computer or tablet.

    • juliegorges says:

      Read your blog and we are of the same mind! (Great blog, by the way.) My first month of retirement was hectic, but I wasn’t focusing on the things I wanted to. It’s all about finding balance, I guess, which is harder than it sounds.

  4. Hi Julie, some great thinking there about schedules, planning etc, but remember, you are now retired and it has only been a month. Go easy on yourself, you deserve a break. You do not have to accomplish everything in the immediate future. I do agree, it is easy to lose track of time and let others intrude on your day, but that’s part of being retired. Be spontaneous and enjoy the ride for awhile before you get down to business. Having said that, I do have a morning exercise routine that I hate being interrupted.

  5. Chris Gorges says:

    Those are great tips for the net-yet retired too! At 37, I’ve been working on creating a better work/life balance and have found that using a planner and outlining some of the more important things I want to get done for the next day has been really helpful as well. I also read through Atomic Habits and I found that book very insightful and it’s helped me better establish habits that work for me and not against me. I’m looking forward to your next article.

  6. Diane Dahli says:

    After retiring, I tried to loosen up a bit (‘chilling’ some call it), but I found that unless I did some planning, and actually wrote some goals down, I ‘d never get anything done! Since I don’t like sticking to a schedule, which I find restricting, I took the middle road and use a daytimer for important appointments, and a general list for things I plan to do eventually. Surprisingly, , most things do get done!

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