Getting Things Done In Retirement

I do admit it.  Every once in a while when someone asks what I do in retirement I struggle to answer.  I think back to my week and realize that yes I exercised three times, volunteered for an afternoon at the school library, walked the dog daily, did some errands, helped my kid with a school project, finished writing 1250 words on my book, got some fall maintenance done around the house, read a book, worked on some crafts, bottle a batch of beer and baked some muffins.  But those things don’t sound all that interesting or particularly important compared to most people’s answers or stories from work about their 60 hour work week and having three major projects due next week.

Then I realized the other day perhaps my standards are all wrong.  Perhaps I should consider what I didn’t do in a week.  I didn’t spend over 20 hours in meetings where very little work actually got done.  I didn’t have to write up project status reports for anyone which most people won’t read.  I didn’t have to answer questions from co-workers or other interruptions at least ten times each day.  I didn’t have to book a meeting room to actually give myself some time to get some work done.  I’m not busy and I really should be proud of that fact.  The issue is we have confused busy work with real work.  Busy work isn’t real work, it takes you away from doing quality, well thought out and useful work.

Oddly enough, despite my relaxed weeks I honestly think I’m getting nearly as much done as I used to at work but in a faction of the time.  Do you any idea how much writing you can get done when you can focus completely on it for a hour?  I can usually get over 1000 words done on my book.   And that just isn’t crappy writing but rather a nicely thought out and organized draft  of 25% of a chapter.    Could I be doing more?  Potentially yes, but given I have tried to write more in the past in a short amount of time and I usually end up with a hot mess of text in desperate need of a good edit.  In short, I just make more work for myself to do. So I spend perhaps two hours a week focused on writing and then I don’t worry about it after I hit my weekly target.  It means it takes a bit longer to write a book but honestly I think I’m writing a better book because of it.

More time at work isn’t a good thing and I often thought during my career it was a failure when you did put in those extra hours.  Now that I’m retired from that job I completely agree.  Work could be so much better for people if the focus was on getting the ‘actual work’ done first and then ignoring much of the busy work that fills peoples’ days.  Why can’t we have a more sane work pace?  People aren’t machines and putting in more over time has been shown to actually get less done and often poorer quality work that often needs rework to fix it.

So yes, I wasn’t ‘busy’ this week and I won’t be busy next week either.  But you know what? I like this pace of life.  I can see doing this endlessly.  Can you say the same thing about your current pace at work?

9 thoughts on “Getting Things Done In Retirement”

  1. I get your life, it is much like mine as an early retiree for the last three years. Some difference in that I’m not writing a book but I do a little paid consulting so that takes up a day or so a week on average. I do not miss the meetings, we met often on everything and they were so inefficient. So I share your jubilation that we don’t have to do that any more! Congrats on winning the game my friend, life is very sweet now, isn’t it?

  2. I often think Work is like love. Well, more precisely, like a toxic relationship.

    You know it doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked for ages, and yet after you finally split up, you start having second thoughts. You start forgetting the bad things. And the ones you remember now seem minor and easily fixable.

    So that toxic way of being ‘busy’ at work (the ‘2-hours-wasted-in-a-useless-meeting’ type of busy, or the ‘I’ve-spent-a-week-preparing-a-presentation-noone-read’ busy) becomes minor; then it becomes ok, and before you know it it’s even better than the freedom you currently have.

    Some people end up going back into the toxic relationship they just got out of. Others get on with things, find new balance, and almost always end up finding a new, better love.

  3. Another brilliant post that I completely agree with! All I have to do is picture myself working full time again and ask myself would I want to go back to that life style? The answer is a definite NO!

    Just a couple days ago I bumped into my former boss. It was totally unexpected and a bit awkward for me lol. The first thing he asked was “how are you?”, then followed by “are you working?” lol. I’ve never felt prouder answering “NO”.

  4. So jealous of all you early retirees! Enjoy!

    Tim, I have a question. Since all the news people keep talking all doom and gloom about how the stocks are down, it is not a good time for investors and it hasn’t been this low in years etc., are you worried or do you just ignore it? Does that throw a wrench in your plans or do you see it as an investment opportunity (that’s how I’m looking at it)? I would love to see you do a blog about how you would handle situations like that. Thank you!

  5. I wanted to know the answer to Connie’s questions as well (I asked a similar question in the previous post). =) I’m down 30k now but trying not to worry and keep reminding myself that this is investment for long term and it’s money that I’m not going to touch anytime soon, but times like this makes me worried from time to time, although I’m not losing any sleep over it. I have some money in GIC expiring in November and I know my Financial Advisor will say that this is a good time to buy, but I don’t think I will and may just renew the GIC. I really don’t know where the market is heading towards.

  6. If you are buying the market (ie index or mutual funds) then any time it is down is a good time to buy as markets always go up over the long term.. If you are buying a specific stock then you need to do more due diligence to decide if you are buying a company that will be around for a long time or not. For selling, if you are invested in the broad market then don’t sell. If you are invested in individual companies then each one needs to be assessed individually to decide whether it is still a good idea to own them or not. If you don’t have the knowledge to determine that then it’s best to just buy the market. Look up Canadian Couch Potato for their model portfolios which are great for someone who wants to safely invest without paying the high MER fees that you pay to an investment advisor who basically puts you in the exact same thing.

  7. I’ve heard stories about some people who are bored with retirement and don’t believe one word of it. I took a generous buyout from a company in 1995, after working there 9 years. I went into semi retirement, working on and off and it was a good arrangement. I enjoyed the time off between jobs. As I got older, I found more age prejudice, it seems a lot of employers want someone under age 30 with over 40 years of experience. I decided to go into full retirement in 2013 and LOVE it. Not having to look for work is awesome, a big burden lifted off my shoulders. What do I do now? It seems something to do always finds me, I wish I had more time for hobbies and interests. Bored? What’s that? It’s an abstract concept my mind can’t comprehend at all.

  8. This was a really good blog, Tim. I love not having to do irrelevant work any more. I have been retired from my government job for several years but I still “work”. My husband and I buy, fix up and sell properties. We have been doing this for the last 10 years and it has been very rewarding both from the work side and the income side. We might work full days for a month or two and then we are done for the year. Our deadlines are our own and the work is productive.

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