October 28, 2011

A Day Of My Retirement: How Has It Changed?

A little over a year ago I wrote a post asking, "So, What Do You Do All Day?" It generated enough comments to be in the top 10 most responded to posts of the satisfying retirement blog.. I think there is a natural fascination with how others spend their time. Especially if you are retired, or close to it, there is a real concern about how all that free time is going to be filled when work no longer takes care of 8 hours a day.

As someone who writes a lot about the importance of change in our lives, I decided to compare what I wrote 13 months ago to how I spend my time today. I would expect to notice some differences but I'm not sure what I will find. That's what makes it interesting. Let's start.

I begin with breakfast and then a quick read of two newspapers. I used to spend a full hour reading the papers but realized mornings is my peak productive time. Now, I scan the papers and am at the computer by 7:00 AM.   

OK, I'm off to a good start. I don't read newspapers anymore. That's not quite true. We get the Wednesday & Sunday papers after the company offered them for $50 a year. We use them for the coupons and grocery ads. But, I no longer start my day with two, or even one newspaper most days. Do I miss them? Absolutely not. The news was stale by the time it landed on my porch. The advertising content was far in excess of the editorial content. The weather was a joke. How someone can be so wrong with a 7 day forecast, every single day, is beyond me. The local news section was mostly obituaries. No, I don't miss the ritual of a morning paper. That part of my retirement lifestyle has changed for good.

From then until lunchtime I write, work on this blog, read other blogs, deal with e-mail, maintain my Twitter presence, and run any essential errands.

This is essentially the same for some days of the week. though the time I spent with the newspapers is now spent with a laptop. After a quick check of the news and stocks, I begin going through  e-mails. Several are the Groupon-type offers. Others are comments for the blog, requests to review a book, and, on average, 5 new Twitter followers. I must admit I am spending less time reading other blogs because this blog and writing my next book are taking up more time.

Two mornings are now taken over by out-of-the-house activities. On Mondays I volunteer at the prison ministry office for 4 hours. Wednesday morning begins with a Bible study at a friend's house with 8 other people. These commitments were not on my schedule a year ago.

After lunch is a 30 minute nap. That short break helps me maintain my energy for the rest of the afternoon. After the nap, three or four days a week I go to the gym. Like a nap, this is important to me. It helps me maintain my weight, gives me more energy, and helps keep my knees, hips, and back from causing me problems. Maintaining my health is worth this time and money investment.

This remain pretty accurate, though in all honesty three days a week is much more likely to happen than four. While my wife is often too busy for a nap, I will pay for it later in the day if I skip that 30 minutes of down time.

Then, back to the computer to answer e-mails and more writing. I try to quit by 4:00 PM. Guitar practice, a glass of wine, and it is time for an early dinner by 5:15 PM. My evenings usually include a movie, fiction reading, a little more computer work, and off to bed by 10:00 PM.

Now, afternoons tend to be when I am more likely to read other blogs I enjoy rather than in the morning. But, the writing is part of that time. I have also decided to complete household chores during the week so weekends are free for fun and family. I was finding Saturdays and Sundays were nothing but lawn work and other chores, so that changed a while ago.

I rarely do much writing or computer work at night any more. I am more likely to spend some time with the guitar, reading, and Bible study than I did a year ago. The amount of TV watching has dropped, though Netflix can be seriously addictive. Some readers have turned me on to British shows, like Doc Martin and Foley's War. I watch too many episodes in a row, I admit. Two nights a week I have commitments that take up most of the evening. Both are new to my schedule from last year.

Weekends are mainly reserved for family time and something special with my wife. I work as a mentor to recently released prisoners so some time each weekend is given over to that. I try to complete most of my chores during the week so Saturday & Sunday are kept as open as possible.

As I noted, this is more likely to be true now than it was 13 months ago. During certain times of the year, the amount of yard work, gardening, and maintenance can spill over into weekends. But, I'm making a concentrated effort to not let that happen. 

In summary, my overall daily schedule is pretty close to the one I followed 13 months ago. Frankly, I am a bit surprised. I thought I'd see more change. I am busier than I was one year ago after the growth of the blog and adding several volunteer and church commitments. Seeing my Dad once a week after Mom's death last December is part of my week, too. I think I am a bit more productive with my time. But, apparently, the pattern I have established is working well. My journey toward a satisfying retirement continues.

Whether you are retired or not, it is your turn. Think over the last year or so. Have you seen any major changes in your day-to-day schedule? Has something happened in your life that has turned out to be good, or bad to your productivity? Have you taken on new commitments? Has the economy altered your day? I'd appreciate your comments and thoughts. Like everyone else, I'm anxious to know, "what do you do all day?"

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  1. In my third year of retirement, I'm noticing seasonal changes. Warm weather = golf twice a week and yard work about once every two weeks. With the cold weather coming, I figure that time will be taken up with more reading, more trips to the gym, and more intense immersion in banjo skills.

    I am also now trying to limit my time on the computer re: blog reading/responding and general surfing. Fun, but being productive or more active in other ways feels more rewarding for me.

    Having pretty much spent time planning/structuring my retirement days some months before actually retiring, it's nice to see that I calculated/envisioned things pretty well. While I like structure, I try not to get too obsessive about having something to do every minute (one of the perks IMO is being able to be strategically lazy on occasion).

  2. BSteve,

    Good point about seasonal changes. Here in the desert southwest, we are finally emerging from our summer hibernation. That means replanting flower pots. picnics, and the urge to be outside while spending less time in front of the computer. As I type this is is 52 degrees on my back porch...the coolest morning in at least 6 months.

  3. Now there is so much more free time -- discretionary relaxing. The amazing time-saving push-button conveniences of the nineteen-fifties have further evolved with more and more computer-aided processes, sophisticated electronic devices, and efficient multi-tasking in a normal 2011 lifestyle. Tons of slack time now (in a Satisfying Retirement, your copyright)


  4. QwkDrw,

    I have plenty of free time, but my mind still tells me to do something productive with most of it. I can't sit and do nothing, unless it is on vacation. I have no problem becoming a vegetable while on Maui. But at home, it is a different matter.

    AS long as I protect my nap time, I'll be fine.

  5. I get up at 7:30 and have my coffee. That is when I usually read the blogs, although today I had an appointment so I am just getting to you now.

    Then I have breakfast around 8:30, work in my studio until 9:30, exercise for an hour or two depending on the season. In summer I bike for 2 hours and in winter I only do an hour. Then back in my studio with a short break for lunch. Knock off making art at 3 and pick up my grandson from school and crack the homework whip until his mother picks him up.

    Make dinner.


    Whew. How did I ever have the time to work?

  6. I am intrigued by your daily nap. My DH naps almost daily since he retired last year. I've always had a higher energy level than he, and I figured this was going to get worse, but I find it refreshes him and he still sleeps well at night. And, as we know, after tired comes crabby. So I'm a nap fan. :)

    I am still working and recently took a job that entails a home office. One of the biggest advantages is the ability to multi-task during the day when I'm not out on calls. Laundry and cleaning can be done during the week and the weekends are actually free for fun. Or home projects.

    We are currently remodeling our master bath, so it's hard to know what all of DH's activities will be in retirement. Right now it's all about tiling, grouting, and painting. But he has high hopes for more sailing next summer.

    BTW, I'm envying you the change of seasons. It's 45 and raining here. blech.

  7. Roberta,

    Maybe your schedule this weekend will include snow shoveling. It looks like your neck of the woods might get a foot or so. Seems a bit early in the year for that foolishness.

    I like your morning schedule, though I'm up by 6:30 at the latest. At this time of year that is just before sunrise so I enjoy seeing the day begin. The balance of creative work in your studio and physical exercise is good.


    There are days the nap can't happen and I am OK, but it does give me extra energy. Anything more than 20-30 minutes, though, will leave me muddled for the rest of the day.

    Our next major project is to sand down, wood fill, and paint the front door and sidelight area. They are showing the effects of 28 years of Arizona sun and heat. Hiring a company to do that would be almost $2,000. I figure we are a lot cheaper!

  8. Congratulations, angry birds win ...

    Wait, they're not angry. Red birds win ... no, check that. St. Louis Cardinals win 2011 World Series Championship


  9. QwkDrw,

    I think we can figure out how you spent part of your retirement day yesterday!

  10. My wife and I have gone from seasonal residents of an "active adult community" to full-timers in the past year.

    I, who hated it, have learned to tolerate it by avoiding all the planned "fun" activities and filling my day with writing, landscape painting and a fair amount of loafing, which I am very good at.

    My wife, who used to tolerate it on a part-time basis, now hates it because she is absolutely terrible at loafing and idle pursuits (which age 55-plus communities specialize in).

    We are both beginning to blog and I can see both of us being as busy as you are in a few weeks or months.

    Doing something worthwhile in retirement takes work, and a schedule, as you so ably illustrate.

  11. Bob,
    I don't have the documentation to precisely evaluate the changes in my schedule but I fear that my discipline is going down the tubes. I waste too much time that can't even be identified. My twelve week plan schedules 35 hours of work per week but I am more likely to put in 20.

  12. Ralph,

    Why is the discipline slipping? Can you identify Where the time is going by keeping a time log for a week?

    I'd be interested if you discover a leak in the boat!

  13. H & F,

    My wife and I are having the same discussion about eventually moving into a continuing care community. It just seems so depressing even though the one we are looking at is a high end facility with a great staff and amenities. The reason we'd make the move (in 15 years or so) is so our kids don't have to worry about caring for us.

    Like you two, the enforced activities are lame and would bore us to tears. Finishing out my life by playing bingo isn't going to happen.

    So, your plan to blog and get busy on your own sounds like wise choices. Volunteer, write, travel if you can (even if only within your own area or state). Use it or lose it.

  14. I have to say that I hope my retirement includes a walk to the local coffee shop for coffee and a leisurely reading of the newspaper. That's my week-end routine right now, and my favorite part of the day.

  15. Grace,

    No reason it can't if that's what is important to you. The only fly in the ointment...will newspapers still be around?

  16. Bob,

    Well, I'm up at 5:30, off to work by 6:15. Finished at work around 5:30-6. Then I drive 45 minutes or so home in the traffic that seems to have accumulated since I moved here 11 years ago. I work out, fix dinner and fall exhausted into bed.....5 years and 10 months until retirement, but who is counting?? I am envious of your retirement, and I hope to be there one day.

  17. Anonymous,

    Hang in there. Your schedule reminds all of us, working or not, why retirement continues to be something we all aspire to reach.

  18. It is so interesting what people see as "retirement". The routine you talked about here would be a normal days work if you were getting paid. The big difference is the opportunity to make choices.

    And I bet you are much smarter that you were a year ago...at least about the blogging world. You are a great success. I would say that is a very good years worth of work (retirement).


  19. b,

    Thanks for the compliment. I am more efficient with my schedule than I was before I started writing 2,500 words a week. Someday maybe the work on the blog will pay off, but I'm quite content just to write and get nice feedback from folks like you.