August 24, 2017

What Time Do You Start Your Retirement Day?


I will admit, the posts that get the most readership and comments are never the ones I expect. This one is a good example. First posted over 4 years ago, it continues to be read to this day. The original post had many more comments than I thought it would generate. I guess the topic is universal and we are all curious about what other folks do.

In any case, here is the original post from early in 2013:


One of the questions I get asked on a fairly regular basis is what a typical day of my satisfying retirement looks like. The answer I usually give is there are no typical days. Except for beginning each morning with breakfast and answering blog comments and e-mails, there is no set routine. I have made a determined effort over the last few years to not have my calendar look like it did when I was working.

True, I have a to-do list of things I must or want to accomplish each day:things like reminding me to empty the trash and roll out the cans, refill a prescription, finish a post, water the pots...the basic stuff of a day. But, my calendar doesn't say when when I must do these things. That happens when it happens. 

I have tried a more structured approach: guitar playing from 10-10:30, take out trash at 1:00 and so forth. But, I'd never follow the times listed. Eventually, I realized there was no reason for the tasks to be completed at a certain time of the day so I just dropped that silliness completely.

There is one area, though, that I can't quite get a comfortable feel for: when to get up in the morning. I guess it is part of my personality but I have always believed that the "early bird gets the worm." Over the years, both before and after retirement, I have tried getting up at various times. My body quickly tells me it isn't happy with some of my choices. For a while the alarm went off at 5:00 am. By mid morning I was ready for a nap, which kind of defeated the purpose. I've experimented with 5:30 with similar results. 

I had always heard that older folks (I qualify by now) need less sleep. I have a friend who wake up at 2:00 in the morning and spend a few hours on the computer or reading. Another fellow can't sleep past 4:30. I, on the other hand, am finding I am sleeping later. Being awakened by the alarm just after 6 O'clock seems like the middle of the night. Recently, Betty and I have been getting up sometime between 7 and 7:30 if there is no morning appointment. 

Am I turning into a sludge? Am I missing a few valuable hours each day because I am lazy? Should I follow the old bromide that I can sleep when I'm dead?

Steve Pavlina is a superb blogger, writer, and self development teacher. Among his thousands of interesting articles are several on becoming an early riser. Clearly he is of the "get up before the sun" contingent. He makes it clear he links success in life with being an early riser. 

Two posts of his that I have re-read several times are How to Become an Early Riser Part 1 and How to Become an Early Riser Part 2He provides specific steps that anyone can take to gain control over the time one's day begins. I read these, feel guilty, and try again to get up early. Each time I cannot pull it off. As he suggests, I go to bed when I am tired but can't master the getting up early part. 

So, my question to you is simple: when do you wake up on a normal morning? Are you the the type that hits the ground running  even before the birds are awake, or do you enjoy a slow start that puts a premium on lingering in bed as long as you dare? Have you found a way to adjust your schedule that works for you? 

Even if every single comment is from someone who has checked the Internet, jogged 5 miles, and read three chapters of War and Peace before the sun comes up, I am not likely to try the early bird route again. All of us have a unique way to make the most of our days. I love to read how others use their time and make the most of their retirement journey.

So, tell us!

38 comments:

  1. I wake up when my body tells me to do so. Makes perfect sense to me. I can't imagine at this stage of life trying to enforce a regimen; kind of defeats the purpose of a relaxing, satisfying retirement. My body usually awakens sometime between 6:00 - 7:00. And it feels just right! Leisurely breakfast (eggs, fruit and tea) and then I feel ready for the day.

    Before I retired, my alarm was set for 5:00. Not setting an alarm is one of the great joys of retirement. Appointments are never scheduled for early morning. Since my husband's illness, I have become a big proponent of making sure that each day is filled with joy, at least as much as possible. Feeling rested and relaxed is a big part of that joy.

    Great topic; I'll be interested to see how other folks respond.

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    1. The dog generally decides when we get up. When we are dog-sitting our daughter's dog, she is even more insistent about when to get up---usually by 6:15. Some mornings we are wild and crazy and make it to 6:30. As the days get shorter and the sun comes up later we might be able to make it a bit later. Here's hoping.

      The only time we set an alarm is if something is happening that requires us to be up at a certain time: house cleaners who arrive around 8:00 or an early doctor's appointment.

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    2. Carol, can I say yes, this!!! before reading all the comments. I actually have read Steve's articles. I have also read the so called statistics on early risers, but I believe in allowing our bodies to do what they need to do. In my case, that means getting up at between eight and nine. I go to sleep sometie between eleven and one, depending. Hey, it's what works, ya know!

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  2. I wake up when I wake up, usually between 7:00 and 8:00. If I stay up later one night, I tell myself, "it's ok, I can sleep late the next morning." But I still wake up between 7 and 8. For me it is the most enjoyable aspect of retirement not to set an alarm to wake up to. Sometimes it can't be helped, if I want to make it to an earlier yoga class on time. Otherwise, I go to the later one. So much flexibility in retirement. Love it!

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    1. If I had my druthers (great old-fashioned word!) I would get up around 7. I generally start each morning with a light breakfast, coffee, and reading the paper. As the weather gets cooler, the back porch will become the go-to place for mornings.

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  3. For me, one of the great gifts of retirement is waking according to my natural body rhythm. I wake naturally around 4am (and love it!) when the days are longest; the time gradually changes as the seasons do. These days I wake around 5; in the dark winter it will be slightly later.

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    1. Based on responses so far, you are a serious early bird. In Phoenix, in June and July, it begins getting light before 5:00, so we have darkening shades in the bedroom that helps a bit.

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  4. I'm with the previous commenters. My first response when reading your post "Why would anyone who doesn't have to, set an alarm?!"

    The joke on me is that now that I don't have to set an alarm, I naturally wake up around 5:30. I don't think that is particularly important. I go to bed early too. People have different rhythms. I used to be a night person--I liked to stay up late and sleep late. Now it's reversed. The important thing is that I get enough sleep.

    Even though I get up early, I am not in a hurry to shower and get dressed. I do some stretches, meditate, eat breakfast. I get dressed when I have to. Until then, even if I'm busy around the house, I enjoy my pajamas and a soft robe.

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    1. We all have a natural rhythm that is all too often ignored during our working years. Retirement allows our bodies to do what they want, if we (and the dogs) allow it. Like you, I prefer to go to bed earlier than many (10pm is my limit) which seems to work best for me.

      I don't own Pjs but find sleeping shorts and T-shirt are perfect for the first hour or so before a shower.

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  5. When I first retired, I continued to wake at 5am as I did when I was working. Then slowly I noticed that I was sleeping a little later every day. Now I wake between 8 and 8:30am. Unlike some who can just jump into starting their day, coffee and the news are my morning routine. By 9:30am, working on my to-do list begins.

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    1. That is a nice, relaxed start time. As you can tell from earlier comments, you are a sleepyhead, and doing exactly what your body requires. Good for you.

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  6. One of the highlights of retirement is not having to punch the clock. I usually waken between 7-8AM. I love slow mornings with coffee, often in bed with a good book especially in the winter. Unless there is something pressing, my morning "warm-up" takes ~2 hrs. This includes making a plan for the day and maybe doing a little preparation for the to-do list. I enjoy morning lifestyle tv programs and read some blogs. I do my best thinking and work in the morning so aim to get the most pressing things done then. A quiet time usually comes late afternoon ~3-4PM. The seasons often influence how the day is spent.

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    1. I like your approach, Mona. Some mornings I will be in a slow morning mood too and take a full 2 hours before showering and dressing for the day. If there is a new blog post, I allow whatever time is needed to respond to the comments before I start anything else on my daily list.

      I find scheduling my time at the gym for early afternoon helps with my energy level, but 4pm is still quiet time with a glass of wine and a book.

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  7. OK, I'll be the outlier here as usual. When I was working I got up about 7:30 and got to the office about 8:30. But on weekends and vacations I slept in. Now I've been retired for a few months and it's all weekends and vacation :) So I get up sometime between 10 and 11 :) I've always been a late night person given the opportunity. I just don't get sleepy! For instance, last night I went down a guitar rabbit hole and looked up and it was 3AM. I was not the least bit sleepy but forced myself to go to bed. I'd love to be a morning person - I'm envious of you guys - but it just seems to be my nature to be a night owl. My life is nothing like my retired friends lives, they think I'm an oddball :). lol

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    1. You are being true to your internal rhythm, I guess. Obviously, you are the guy who should host the New Year's Eve party.

      I'm glad you commented, Richard. I know there are others who have a pattern somewhat like yours but are hesitant to express it. You have just made it permissible. Thanks.

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    2. Richard, Iwould say you are right where you should be-and as some of Bob's folks know, I used to be much more like that. I live with two people who still work and love it, and I'm not willing to wear ear plus. so now I tend to wake when I start hearing movement outside at eight thirty to nine. I still remain in bed forawhile though, and have been known to read to finish a book until two.

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  8. We wake up about 9am, but we read in bed til around midnight, so we sleep later. Love to read, and the quiet late night hours suit us.

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    1. See, Richard is not an outlier! Reading later in the evening is one of my pleasures, too.

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  9. Fun reading others who are retired and how they go about it. Oh looking forward to see what I will do when retired. Still working now, alarm set for 4:30 AM during the week but never sleep to it :( Even on weekends and vacation up about the same time 4 AM-ish. I do love the naps this generates on the weekends though and know I will love that in retirement if the 4AM thing continues.

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    1. If I got up at 4 or 4:30 I'd be sound asleep by 8pm.

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  10. I'm not very consistent, but sometime between 6 and 9. Depends how I slept, when I went to bed etc. It's what I enjoy most about retirement, no time table, no alarms.

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    1. Interesting. Of course, you are right. Retirment doesn't demand a set schedule, though you may be the first comment I have received over the years with that much morning flexibility.

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  11. One of the great benefits of retirement, from my point of view, is not having to get up in the dark. I get up when it gets light; and at my northerly latitude (near 45th parallel), that time changes considerably from summer to winter. In summer, I go to bed earlier and get up around 6 a.m. to get out for an early morning walk. As the sunrise gets later and later (and as the mornings get frosty) in autumn, I change my routine to get up later and walk just before lunch. By the winter solstice, I am going to bed an hour or more later than I do in the summer and getting up between 7 and 8. -Jean

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    1. We have a large swing in Arizona, too. It starts getting light about 4:30 in the summer and not until 7am in December. So, like you, we adjust our morning schedule depending on the time of year.

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  12. I'm the early bird in our house and my internal clock wakes me between 6 and 6:30 every day. Occasionally, we set an alarm if one of us has an appt. I also randomly wake up at 4 or 5 AM and can't get back to sleep, so I read until I fall back to sleep or it's light and I start my day. Either way, it's glorious to be retired and sleep whenever I want to. My DH is a napper, which I am not. I can't sleep during the day unless I'm sick or exhausted. But I am blessed with really sound sleep most nights.
    --Hope

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    1. Both I and our dog look forward to our afternoon nap. It is very refreshing for me and she loves chewing on a bone.

      I can tell when I am stressed or bothered by something..I will wake up at 4:30 or 5 and doze on and off until we get up.

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  13. When I first retired I was getting up at 8. Now 7 years later it is frequently 9. I may wake up at 6 or 7 but I usually do not feel like getting out of bed. When I get up I do yoga for about an hour and than have breakfast. If I don't have any appointments everything is at a leisurely pace. I don't have any problem getting up early if I have a planned activity. I love the freedom of retirement. I can be as busy or lazy as I want. It really is a wonderful life. I wish everyone was able to retire - unfortunately so many people can't afford it. So grateful that I could.

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    1. How true...retirement is a blessing that we should be thankful for.

      I could count the number of times I slept past 7:00 on one hand. For some reason my brain tells me I am wasting my day..silly but true.

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  14. Before retirement I went to bed at 11pm and alarm at 5:30 am during the weekdays and midnite to 9am on weekends...Now 2 years into retirement I go to bed at 11am and get up at 5:55am every day of the week...I has less stress thus do not need the weekend catchup sleep.

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    1. Assuming you meant 11pm, I applaud your consistency! Most sleep specialists will say that it is best to keep roughly the same schedule 7 days a week so as not to disturb the body's rhythm.

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  15. I get up at 5AM each and every morning to share a cup of coffee with the SO before he goes off to work. Ha ha. Then I take a nap at 9:30AM, wake up around 10ish and putter around the house before I leave at noon to do whatever there is for me to do. I'm back around 4PM, where I listen to the Wall Street news and take another nap till around 5:30. I get up, prepare a dinner, walk the dog 2 miles and await my SO's return.
    Life for us retirees is good.

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    1. It sounds like you have a pattern that fits you well. Good for you!

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  16. I have to say, after reading all the comments, it does seem that for many of us, the joy of retirement is not just in not having to set an alarm, the also the ability to not have to jump out of bed. I would say that more than the ability to wake up when I want, I also appreciate having that time to do stretches in bed, read or journal for awhile and stretch and so on. That time of having to not just get but, but be fully alert in a showrt period of time I do not miss at all.

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    1. I actually slept in until almost 7:30 this Saturday morning....I feel so decadent!

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  17. I still have to get up early to get my grandson up for school and drive him. No rest for the weary. I look forward to sleeping past 6:30 someday.

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  18. Now that I no longer have to set an alarm, I have discovered that my body naturally wants nine hours of sleep each night. Maybe it is trying to make up for the accumulated sleep deficit from all those working years! I usually go to bed around 11:30 or 12:00 (unless a really good book has me in its thrall) and wake up around 8:30 or 9:00 (unless I had insomnia, in which case I'll sleep until 10:00 or 10:30).

    Being a night owl by nature rather than an early bird, I have often noticed a moral overtone favouring early risers over late sleepers. But I think that different people just have different sleep rhythms; neither is better than the other. When working, my most productive periods were from 10:00 am - 2:00 pm, and then again from 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm.

    Jude

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    1. I'd agree that much more has been written about the joys and productivity of an early start to the day rather than the night owl approach. I'm not sure why that is, maybe we should blame it on that "early bird catches the worm" cliche.

      I am going to try a slight shift in my schedule when the sun rises (or the earth turns!) later. Staying up until 11pm instead of 10 and getting up at 7 instead of 6:15-6:30. Darkness might make that easier. I do find it harder to get going when it is dark outside. I spent some of my youth in Boston, where wintertime days were quite short: sunrise close to 8 and dark by 5pm. Of course, people in Alaska, Iceland, or Sweden would point to their 24 hours of near total darkness in the winter. But, I found the short Boston winter days depressing.

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