May 31, 2013

Living A Satisfying Retirement: Do You Ever Get Bored?

One of the primary concerns of both current and future retirees is how one fills his or her day. There is a real worry about being bored. After several decades of having one's day (and nights) dominated by work commitments, the thought of unplanned days stretching as far as one can see into the future is a little unsettling.

One of the questions included in my new book, Living a Satisfying Retirement, is " How do you fill your days? Are you ever bored or does your time fill up?" I was quite intrigued with the tremendous variety of answers. Here is a sampling of some of the responses from the book:

Gail P. The joke in my family is that my headstone will say, “She was never bored!” Whether I’m busy or relaxing, I’m never bored. 

Paula M. I sometimes wonder how I fill my days!!! I look back to when I was a young wife and mom and remember all that I did in a day, and marvel that I could get it all done. And then I look at what I do now, and think that I am a “SLUG”. I also think I got a lot more done when I worked full time – somehow, you just fit it all in.

Without time restraints, it is easy to sit at the computer and before you know it, hours have gone by – or I go to the gym and 2 hours later, I am leaving – not having exercised for 2 hours, but having talked to a couple people, taken a shower, read the front page of the paper, etc. Before, I would have gone and exercised and been done and gone in 30-45 minutes because I would have needed to get to the store and buy groceries to go home and fix dinner. I guess there are times that I am bored, but not often – seems that there is always something to do and not enough time to do it.

Banjo Steve    My time seems to always fill up. Even when I don't know what to do at the moment, it becomes a time of contemplation for me rather than any kind of boredom. I don't mind, at odd times, constructively doing nothing in particular. Conversely, I try to avoid overbooking myself, having no desire to return to a new manifestation of the rat race.

Bill D. Regular routine includes physical exercise / activities with spouse, friends & family / reading & research re self development / volunteerism / financial (investments & home budget) management /periodic travel. 

Doug N. Our saying is "Retirement means you have to be responsible for your own entertainment." My analogy is that I have a copy of Ernie Zelinski's Get-A-Life Tree on my desk. It's been there for nearly a decade, but I haven't made the time to work on it. Too many other things to do.

I start almost every morning with 10 minutes of stretching while I'm brewing my tea. Next I check the surf forecast so that if conditions are unusually good then I can enjoy an extra dawn patrol. Finally I spend at least 30 minutes every morning working on the blog or the next edition of "The Military Guide".

After that the day writes the schedule: my spouse and I try to work out together every Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday morning (calisthenics, weights, aerobics). I try to train taekwondo every Monday & Wednesday evening. That leaves Thursdays and Saturdays for surfing, but I can also double up on Mon &; Wed if the waves are big.

I take a nap almost every day. I meet with an investment club almost every week. My spouse taught me "20 minutes a day". That means we try to do yard work or a home-improvement project together every day for 20 minutes. The reality is that once we've started, we get into it and frequently go for an hour or longer.

Roger W. I am like a little kid in that I get bored easily. For the most part I do what strikes my mood for that day. I am a prolific blogger so that takes quite a bit of time. I have two plus acres of land to keep up. I have an eighty year old home that needs constant attention. I enjoy reading and am now in the middle of a blog study of church history and how we got to where we are today. This and many unplanned things make up most of my days. But then there are some days where I choose to do absolutely nothing.

Michael V. In terms of other interests, my wife has always done a better job than myself. She has played organized tennis for years and has dedicated time to an assortment of local charities. For me, I seem to fill my time dealing with the maintenance of a house that is too big for us, bill paying, finances, taxes, etc., etc. I also enjoy baking, cooking on the grill, bike riding and daily walks. 

We have recently purchased 2 new bicycles and have started riding together. We will soon be taking this hobby on a road trip, right after we get our daughter settled into law school. 

Pat W. I do not remember being bored anytime in the last 20 years. My time fills up rapidly & I have to remember (repeatedly!) that I cannot do everything I want to do, even in retirement.

Don S. There are not enough hours in the day. I am NOT bored. Bear in mind I also stop "working" around dinner so you can call those hours wasted or not. For me I try to achieve some kind of balance between "work" and relaxation. What "relaxation" means is different to everyone but to me it means doing something brainless: maybe reading, TV, Internet, just not work.

Jane P.   I’ve had three boring days in two years. We have an exercise or swimming class every weekday morning. We have a garden. I try to meet one of several friends for coffee or lunch each week. I’m a mediator in training and I try to have one mediation event set up each week. I have a blog and a blogging community. I play games on Facebook.

Bertha T. When did we work? The days fly by and are productive. When I feel bored I do panic just a little. That is when I read a book or do a crossword puzzle. There are periods when a change of work is play. We live in a city that has a lot of opportunities for exploring and in the winters we travel to Arizona for a change of scenery. The fact that we have found a way to make changes as a part of our routine life keeps each day interesting. So the answer is "yes" sometimes I get bored but there are solutions for the short term feeling.  

Dick J. During the early part of my second year of retirement I did frequently become bored, and depressed at times. Not from serious problems but from thinking too much about how my pre-retirement vision of retirement wasn't matching the reality. 

Right now I'm doing some of the training but it will be finished within the month. I most likely will not seek to do more of that anytime soon. I fill my time planning for the next trip, traveling and spending time every now and then in New England, spending 3 or 4 days every few weeks with my 80-something parents who live about 4 hours away, cooking (always has been an activity I enjoy) and doing some light landscaping in our small yard. 

My wife and I enjoy reading and watching British mysteries on Netflix. As the months have gone by, I am more and more relaxed and satisfied with life without work.

John H. With my current routine, my day is usually close to full. Sometimes I get a little bored, but when that happens I call one of my kids, mother or sibling to chat.

Paula S. My days are full and varied which makes it difficult to tell anyone what I have been doing. Thankfully projects don't lie around waiting to get done as long, however there are many still on the list to be completed. I'm never bored.

Katie S. Communicating with friends, old and new, via Internet and Skype. Learning new things - anything that happens to grab my fancy. Learning new languages and planning my next travel. Art, art, art! I love to cook! Yoga, walking around my village and visiting with people I run into, writing, reading. spending time with my guy, gardening and hanging out with friends.

Mark R. I start the day off with what I like to refer to as “spiritual exercises” (including reading, prayer, reflection and meditation). This is usually followed by “coffee time” with my wife. I then usually end up spending an hour or so at the gym. During the late morning to mid- afternoon, I am often involved in various classes/courses offered at OLLI (some with and some without my wife).

My day is often quite filled and I have still not done many things that I wanted to when I first retired (e.g. do more ball room dancing with my wife, getting involved in a ministries that seek to make a difference in the world around me or to find more social connections with other people as I know that I can be a bit of a loner at times).

Carla H. I am always working on something, so rarely bored.

Janet L. When I worked, I regularly wished for a couple of additional hours every day as I always ran short of time. I continue to have that dilemma. The days fly past and often I find myself having to set time limits for tasks. I try to curtail myself from making too many commitments so that I don’t have to dread looking at my schedule for the week.

I feel like a kid in a candy store with so many choices about how I’ll spend my time. Although much is written about boredom as a retirement risk, I have never suffered boredom.

Doreen P. My time fills up. Two days a week I volunteer at the garden. I work with flowers now. I live in NYC so if I feel bored I go to a different museum, library or exhibit. If you live alone you have to leave your house and go out and meet people.

I read, go to museums, concerts, parks, events at the library, out with friends-it is just that everything is at a slower pace-no more rushing. I also like to exercise.

Shirley L. My days are filled with writing, biking or hiking, lunches with friends, gardening, reading, traveling, and probably a little too much news-following. I'm working on that one. And of course some cooking and cleaning--you still can't get away from that!

Bob B. During the summer, we’re active in a number of outdoor activities – hiking, bike riding, kayaking, camping, fly fishing, and target shooting. During the winter, we snowshoe or cross-country ski – when snow conditions permit. 

Billie S. I’m never bored but I am sometimes “lazy”, ignoring chores for the moment and reading a lot. That’s happened less and less over the course of this first year. I miss being part of something I consider important to society, i.e., making a contribution. I am ready to find a way to do that which will fit with my time in the next year.

Sarah V. I play competitive league tennis which fills my schedule for at least three days per week for nine months out of the year. I spend time volunteering for local charities and organizing fundraising events. I am active in our community book club and Zumba class and I love to travel, cook, entertain and take photographs.  

Tammy P. My normal daily routine (not that too many days are normal, actually) consists of waking up around 6:00 AM, enjoying coffee and conversation with my husband before moving on to our morning workouts. This is followed by breakfast and time on the computer doing my various electronic chores of email, itinerary planning and blog reading and writing.

We generally have anywhere from one to three activities planned on any given day, plus our normal chores to get done. Plus, we each have a lot of follow ups we need to do each day as a result of the activities we are involved in. For myself, this means I need to practice piano, the recorder and my Spanish each day, as well as stay on top of the subscribed reading from the four book clubs I belong to.

Other things we do regularly are listening to educational DVD’s on topics ranging from Greek history to the science of wine making, take weekly long distance bike rides, attend yoga classes, attend a lifelong learning program at our nearby university, gardening, and in my case, needlepoint, baking and cooking. We also utilize a variety of online discount sites to enjoy a multitude of entertainment and dining options, often last minute but at a fraction of the price we used to pay prior to retirement.

Regarding boredom: As long as we understand TV is not an option to alleviate boredom, we are never bored. In our experience, using TV to alleviate boredom actually creates an enhanced state of boredom.

This is a sampling of the answers to just this one question. Nearly two dozen more questions provide the same thoughtful and helpful guidance for you, whether you are already retired or still moving in that direction. Living a Satisfying Retirement provides real life insight from those already living and planning their own retirement journey.

I hope you'll consider buying a copy for you, a family member, or friend. It could be the best $2.99 you have invested into living a satisfying retirement.



  1. To be fair, I doubt that people who are retired and bored would respond to the question!

    1. There were a few respondents who said they were bored at various times (see Dick J's comment above). But, none of the responses said they wanted to go back to work because of there was not enough to keep them engaged.

      I certainly agree that most of those who agreed to be part of the book are having a satisfying retirement and that implies they have figured out how to have a full life. Part of the purpose of the book is to encourage those who are thinking of retiring by presenting all the options available.

      Are there bored and unhappy retirees? Absolutely. But, is that the natural state of things or does it have to be that way? I don't believe so.

  2. I am an early retired person and I think that instead of calling it retirement, I would say that I changed course to fill my days with things I like to do. I am a freelance writer and quite busy at it, plus I have a small business quite small:). I run and do yoga, I travel inexpensively for long periods of time, visit with my children and friends, and I love to cook when I have time. So not sure if I actually am retired but I spend my days doing great things and wake up happy every day now. I could keep on doing this forever, I think!

    1. Hi Kelly,

      I just popped over to your looks like I should be a regular visitor!

      Your days fit the pattern of the happiest people profiled in the book: plenty to do and a great attitude. Waking up happy every day is a goal for us all.

  3. I thought that was one of the more interesting chapters of your book, Bob. While I cannot yet count myself in the retired category, I have always felt that those who said they are bored are not trying hard enough. There are so many things to do, new things to try, places to see and do both near and far - how can one get bored unless they want to be?

    1. I agree, Chuck. I re-read the answers in this section over and over, getting new ideas and energy from all the different things folks do to stay active and involved.

      The "old person in the rocking chair" is about as accurate a description of retirement as a Model T is of an automobile.

  4. I'm rarely bored -- I try to keep the attitude of Try New Things above. But I must admit, sometimes I realize I'm busy, but still feel aimless. By and large, it's enormously satisfying to run your own life (instead of having your job and family run it for you); but sometimes it's hard!

    1. Taking responsibility is always hard, isn't it, Tom? Too many folks, in both their working careers and in retirement, expect things to simply fall into place. Life doesn't work that way.

      I read your blog. I am pretty sure you are much closer to the approach of Try New Things than not.

  5. Cari in North TexasFri May 31, 01:06:00 PM MST

    I'm not entirely retired yet, but I can't imagine myself just sitting in the rocking chair or on the couch just watching TV. There are so many activities I want to do, both old and new, that I"m looking forward to having the time to do them! Your book is on my wish list, and this will be one of the first chapters I turn to (after looking up my answers, of course) :-)

    1. Based on your comments in the past, I am convinced there is no way you will be content to simply sit when you are fully retired. There is too much life to live!

  6. I'm fairly new at this, but so far there has not been any problems with being bored! I love the fact that my time is unstructured, except for how I choose to structure it. Being physically active gives me a great deal of happiness and satisfaction. Prior to retirement, I would stress, trying to fit in my physical activity around my busy, stressful work life. But now I can ride my bike, hike, Zumba, lift weights whenever I want!

    I am reading a lot more than I had time to before. Spending time with two of my close friends who are also retired is wonderful. My husband and I are able to go out to lunch at the drop of a hat. And travel possibilities are endless.

    Am I bored? No. Will I feel the same way in a year? I think so. But I also know that we change, and I am open to developing new interests, hobbies, and whatever else comes my way.

    I have not yet explored volunteer opportunities. Eventually I think I will.

    When I thought about retiring prior to actually doing so, being bored was definitely one of my concerns. As much as I tried to anticipate what it would be like, I was delighted to find it even more rewarding than I had imagined.

    Loved your book! I've been reading your blog for quite a while. It was instrumental in helping me to think and plan for the many dimensions that are involved in retirement.

    1. It makes my day when I read such a positive comments. Not only am I pleased you like the book and the blog, but that your life is so full and active. I truly believe this has been the most productive, creative, and gratifying period of my life, and I see decades ahead of me.

  7. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are bored once in a while. My wife can have the exact same routine day-after-day, month-after-month and not be bored with the sameness of life. I on the other hand need new experiences on a regular basis. So, yes when things just become too routine I am bored.

    Being bored now and then is not a bad thing as many here, including you, seem to infer. :) It is just a normal part of life. If your are bored for an extended period of time then that is a problem. Being retired means that you can stave off boredom by the choices you make and that is one of the best things about retirement.

    1. I can always count on you, RJ, to give these comments a fresh perspective!

      The only thing wrong with boredom is not doing anything about it. I'm pretty sure the folks in the book (you included) were referring to long term boredom, not a slow day or even week. That type of boredom isn't a problem, but as you note just a normal part of the daily flow of life.

  8. I received \ a bit of motherly advice on this topic many years ago. Mom said, "Keep a good book on hand, and you'll never be bored." Were she living now, she might have included a good set of links to interesting blogs or other web sites.

    1. I come from a family of librarians. If I ever has less than three books going at any one time and another two or three on hold for me at the library, I feel adrift. Books are a blessing. Your mom was right.

  9. Honestly, Bob..The thought of my impending retirement (15 years from now) scares the hell out of me. That number of years may seem like a lot, but time flies. I don't want to feel that I have become "conditioned" to operate under my structured schedule which involves a lengthy commute, but when it all comes to an end, what will I do the Monday morning after my weekend retirement party? Sit around the house? Also, the social isolation fom my colleagues and friends is scary. Afterall, we spend a huge chunk of our life at work and co-workers are more or less "family" in a sense. I have ultimately decided to "retire" officially, then work part time and spend the free days on travel. I think retirement is diferent things to different people, and "boredom" is relative.

    1. Retirement is different things to different people, and different for a retired person as the years pass. My retirement today looks nothing like it did 5 years ago and nothing like I thought it would when I stopped working in 2001.