April 27, 2016
Can You Enjoy Doing Nothing In Retirement?
The short answer is, No. Can you enjoy doing nothing no matter what stage of your life? Probably not. But, I understand the questioner's intent: without work and a schedule can you simply relax and do nothing meaningful during retirement? It that an OK choice?
The answer is actually a bit more complicated than a simple, No. There is every reason to do very little (maybe even nothing) right after you begin the retirement stage of life. There is a natural need to decompress, to shake off the stress and pressures that were part of your life for decades of employment. Not having to commute, deal with clients, customers, or bosses, respond to an alarm clock too early in the morning....all those things stop, at least for a time, when the paycheck does.
For most folks, this "kick back and let the world pass me by" period is one of the first, concrete signs that you are really retired. How long does it last? This depends entirely on you, but most people pleasantly wallow in the warm waters of inactivity for several months. Your body and mind need this break. Allow it to happen.
After a time, you will start to move to the next phase that begins to ask, "How am I going to fill all this time? What am I going to do all day?" These questions are your indication that your body has released the pre-retirement stress and is now looking for a direction and schedule. Okay, so how to move forward?
Importantly, one of the first things many retirees do after this initial period of lots of nothing, is too much. Suddenly the daily schedule is overflowing with volunteer commitments, coffee with friends, visits to the library and art museum, meals out, signing up for classes at the community college or university, helping family members with child care or babysitting, exploring new hobbies or starting up old ones again....there aren't enough hours in the day.
It is easy to go from feeling too unstructured to not having a moment left to simply be. Again, this is entirely normal. We are programmed to be productive, to contribute. Long term we are not happy unless we are doing things we enjoy. The trick is to find the proper balance between work and play, commitment and freedom.
Maybe not surprisingly, many retirees are deciding after they stop work, they want to start again. Some can't figure out how else to bring structure to the day. Others are a bit more positive in their motivation: starting a business or turning a hobby into a money-making venture is now possible. Part time work is a viable option for many. Extra income, staying in touch with people, and feeling needed are reasons often cited why part time work is attractive. Whatever your motivation, re-working or un-retiring is a valid choice. And, this time around, you control what you do and how long you do it.
So, you don't want to work and you don't want to do nothing. What to do to stay busy and motivated? Until actually living the life you won't really know what might unfold. My suggestion is to make plans. Get excited about doing the things you have not done during your working years. That might include travel, visiting family members, painting or playing the guitar, writing poetry, building a bookcase, restoring that old Harley in the garage, tutoring kids in math...virtually anything that has interested you in the past or present.
Then, remain flexible. Be prepared to make corrections in your direction. Be OK with deciding one thing you thought you'd love isn't the answer, but something new you just discovered may be.
If you'd like to see what others are deciding to do with their new life, check out this blog post. You might find the motivation and idea you are searching for right here: So What Do You Do All Day?