Q: I’m newly retired after working for the same company for more than 30 years. I’m struggling with finding a new rhythm and want to find ways to be productive with my time. Any tips?
Welcome to the world of truly being your own boss now, the person who gets to decide how you spend your precious time. Consider my slogan: to retire is an opportunity to rewire. You have the chance to rewire your routine, your daily purpose and your idea of what constitutes being “productive.” With this newfound time on your hands you can contemplate the following questions:
— Have I honored this major transition? First let yourself acknowledge the considerable change taking place in your life after three decades. Recognize that all transitions come with some element of loss, so don’t be surprised if you feel tinges of grief, restlessness or jubilation for that matter. Give yourself permission to have a wide range of feelings as you adjust.
— Who will my community be? If your co-workers were your main social network, expect to feel a deeper sense of bereavement, or simply like you’re missing out. Connect with others who are retired or semi-retired so you have playmates. This can also be a chance to get reacquainted with yourself.
— What am I passionate about? From the moment you imagined retiring you probably asked yourself ‘what will I do with my time?’ Now you get to find out. No more putting off the hobbies you didn’t have time for when you were caught in the daily grind. If you lost touch with this part of yourself now is the time to explore what intrigues you. Research indicates that retirement may lead to cognitive decline. However research also shows that those who continue to engage in activities feel more useful and relevant. With age we can become narrow-minded in the activities we feel are suitable to engage in. I suggest you think outside the box as you experiment with new activities (ones that match your energy level and degree of physical limitations).
— How else can I be productive? Reframe what it means to be productive. There are many ways to be useful, constructive and purposeful in your life beyond a traditional job. This requires awakening to the potential within you and around you in your home, your community and beyond. Consider volunteering with an organization, or simply being more available to your loved ones who remain in the workforce. In addition to these new ways of being busy, I recommend you allow yourself to slow down. You’ve paid your dues. Now it’s your turn to relax and unwind. If the idea of unwinding feels not only foreign but downright uncomfortable, remember that play and rest are not only productive but essential.
— How can I create a schedule? We all benefit from some semblance of routine and now you get to determine what that is. Based on your unique history, designate an optimal bedtime, meal time, exercise time, meditative time and social time for yourself. Everything else will fall into place if you have a system for those five categories. Don’t get uptight if you can’t stick to it every day. This is not about getting rigid but about feeling more grounded.
— How will this impact my relationship with my spouse/partner? Everyone has different dreams of retirement. Does yours match that of your partner? If you retire at different times, expect to make adjustments to your domestic routine and perhaps sleep schedules. Some couples find they have too much time at home together and need to engage in different activities to reaffirm their own identity.
— Who am I without this job? Do not confuse “this is what I did” with “this is who I am.” Realize that the label attached to you in your job never defined you completely. Our jobs are an expression and extension of our essence, but they aren’t our fixed identity.
None of us are getting any younger. The time is now to utilize the newfound freedom you have with your schedule. So grab your reading glasses and sensible shoes and let the world be your oyster!
Dr. Rachel Allyn is a licensed psychologist in private practice. Learn more about her unique style of therapy at DrRachelAllyn.com. Send questions to Rachel@DrRachelAllyn.com.