July 22, 2013

The Suzanne Lifestyle Challenge: How Did I do?

Last month, fellow blogger, Suzanne, posted a challenge on Life Out Loud.  She wrote, "Almost everything I do has a purpose toward a greater goal. The tasks may change under the heading, but the heading will never change - Physical, Social, Fiscal, Spiritual, Family, Creativity and Community. Those seven little words establish a foundation that give meaning to my days."

She issued a challenge to her readers to pick words that represent a balance in one's approach to life and prioritize them. Then, for thirty days track what is done under each category. At the end of the month, how closely does your actual time spent match up with what you say is important?

That is the type of challenge I enjoy. I am always interested in how I spend my time and whether I am using it in a way that aligns with what I believe is important to me. So, I found a small notebook and began to record how much time I was spending each day in each of the headings. To keep things simple I used the same seven words that Suzanne did.

The month is up. What did I learn? That my priority choices for my words match the amount of time I spend on each pretty well. At the same time, this exercise pointed out some areas that need more work on my part. Specifically:

My original priority list:                   My 30 day list:

1. Family                                            1. Family                     
2. Creativity                                        2. Creativity                
3. Spiritual                                          3. Spiritual life             
4. Fiscal                                               4. Travel Planning         
5. Travel planning/doing                       5. Physical                   
6. Community Service                          6. Community Service   
7. Physical exercise                              7. Fiscal                       

Family  remained at the top of the list. This month's total included a birthday party for my granddaughter, helping my other daughter with some work issues, helping to get the RV ready for a my oldest daughter's family vacation, and weekly lunches with my father.

Creativity was virtually all time spent on the blog, with an hour or so devoted to re-working a travel book. This area needs more diversity. I am looking seriously at a few on-line courses through Coursera.org for the fall. I need to use more of my creative muscle on something other than blogging.

Spiritual time included Bible reading and church services. Small groups and discussion groups are shut down until fall or the total number of hours might have put this category first (where it probably should be!).

Travel Planning was one place higher for two simple reasons: I am working on our trip to Portland next month and an RV trip to California in October. Making reservations and looking for interesting places to visit is fun for me.

Physical Activity moved up two spots, and that is a good thing. After I cancelled my gym membership three months ago I stopped doing much of anything for my physical well being. That was not going to work out well long term. This challenge helped me restart some exercise, specifically walking inside a local mall four days a week for 2 miles each time. That isn't nearly enough but at least it is a start, and about the only option during a Phoenix summer.

Community Service is an area I am going to have to work on. My relationship with my latest mentee through the prison ministry organization has ended. After five years and five mentees I need a change for awhile. So, I am going to have to find another way to give back. I have given some thought to being part of a ministry that presents a Bible study once a week in a retirement home. That might be a good choice.

Fiscal means time spent on managing our money. The fact that this category was three slots lower than I expected it to be is actually a good thing. Our financial health is good, the systems I have in place are working well, and I am not spending much of my time worrying about this part of my satisfying retirement.

By the way, my broker just called to tell me about an investment that has tanked. He suggested I sell to get something for the money. Since we both agreed on the purchase and these things happen I didn't get upset, but chalked it up to the cost of investing. That calm acceptance pleased me.

These seven words worked as well for me as they did for Suzanne. Thanks to her for the idea to check on doing what I say I am doing. This was an excellent exercise I will repeat at least annually.

How about you? What words would you pick?


  1. I think that this kind of balance is what is missing in my "new life" as a retiree. I still feel like I am on a long wonderful vacation. However I realize that this can't last forever, and to experience a more meaningful life, this type of exercise has great value.

    The very exercise of prioritizing and then actually tracking how time is spent hopefully will give me a better focus on a more balanced life. I imagine that over the years, some of my categories will change, or at least move up or down the list. All part of an evolving, satisfying retirement!

    Thanks Suzanne for this thoughtful experience, and thanks Bob for sharing your results!

    1. You are very welcome, Carole. All the credit goes to Suzanne for the idea. I would never had kept track of the hours spent on each category for a full month without her suggestion.

      Balance is important to happiness. During these very hot days of July I am finding myself slipping back into bad habits of too much TV (Netflix) and too much reading. It is easy to go into hibernation, but that is not satisfying. What I do about it will be the key to a solution.

  2. Mine would be Creativity, Travel Planning and Physical Activity as the top three. Interesting that as a newly retired person, those three are all the things I was unable to do when I worked full-time so they are now my priorities.

    I think that this list will change and evolve as time goes on and as I settle more into retirement or semi-retirement. And I will focus on the other three on the list.

    1. Frankly, I have to struggle with physical activity as a priority. Even though I know it is important to my longevity I will find all sorts of reasons not to do something. Seeing it move up my list during this challenge was helpful.

  3. Bob, I am glad you found the exercise productive. I like that you expanded Social Self to include Travel&Planning. When I made the list in my 30's I needed a reminder to include time in my week to socialize with other couples. As the mother of a toddler it was easy to neglect that aspect of my life.

    Now, at nearly 60 I still get side-tracked with other activities and need to remind myself to schedule time with other couples, but the category has become more of a reflection of our travel and planning time as well.

    My priorities have become fairly predictable and shift with the seasons. Right now, staying fit and healthy are at the top of my list.

    Best wishes and thanks for sharing your results.

    1. Thank you for the idea! It has proven to be quite insightful and something I will revisit on a regular basis.

  4. I keep an eye on the triangle of Mind, Body, Spirit, because I get off kilter if any are ignored for too long, plus I added Travel after retiring. When I responded with these on Suzanne's blog on this, she rightly pointed out that I didn't include Family and/or Friends because I likely considered them a given (which I do, she was correct).

    I'm weakest with community, or perhaps it's more correct to say I prefer to devote my time to preservation of our natural resources vs our human resources. I find my greatest peace, joy and contentment in nature, and wish to help preserve what we still have so that future generations can experience what I am so fortunate to experience. Particularly right now, when we are traveling through such breathtaking country here in the Pacific Northwest.

    Suzanne, I do intend to go through this exercise though, once we return home, because I am as guilty as anyone of occasionally wasting time on activities that don't necessarily leave me feeling like my time had been well spent.

    1. In retirement one of the problems we often face is having too many demands on our time or choices we can make. As Suzanne's challenge points out it is up to us to determine our priorities and what gets our time.

  5. I am curious about your wife's priorities, and how they match up with yours. Or do you both pursue your separate goals.


    1. This is Betty - Bob's wife

      I think the list changes daily. I would want Spiritual at the top of the list every day but unfortunately it fluctuates and it really shouldn't. I believe that all of these are intertwined with each other so it's extremely hard to list them because you're really doing most of these on a daily basis and you really can't judge on the time spent on a particular area. You can spend all day halfheartedly on community service and 5 minutes with a heartfelt prayer. Which one was time better spent?

      Where Bob and I are radically different is Fiscal, (That's at the bottom of my list. Bob does the financial books Note... Everyone should know this in the family! I'm lax on this and should not be!)Physical, (I'm a lot more active than Bob)and travel planning (He loves to plan and I love to watch him plan!) Bob forgot Social - We both are loners naturally, but that's slowly changing.

      Creativity and Physical are in everything

      Family/Community service (I put these together because they get flipped around a lot)
      Travel (The doing part!)

  6. Hmmm I like this and think I will try it. I already know what 1 and 2 are going to be but I am not sure about the rest.