Category Archives: Happiness

The New Groove

It’s been almost a year and a half since I left my job and just now I feel like I’m finally hitting my new groove to my life.

That might come as a bit of surprise to some people, but I would say honestly it really does take some time for you to adjust to your new retired life.  The reason is you tend to go through a series of phases when you retire.

The first is the most obviously: the initial high of being retired.  Let’s face it when you finally leave work after all that planning it feels fantastic.  Your walking on air and the world seems to be brighter and happier.  That phase can last anywhere from days to months or if your really lucky up to a year or so.  Then it wears off and while nothing has really changed you start to  think:is this all retirement is?

Ah welcome to being disillusioned.  The next phase of your retirement.  Here is where things start to go wrong and you often don’t know why.  I personally hit this phase in six months (as you can see here). It was a crappy place to be. You can feel unhappy,  anxious, lonely, and even in more severe cases outright depressed.  I personally never got that bad but yes I did hit a low spot there where I was seriously doubting my decision to retire early.  And yet oddly enough this phase of doubt doesn’t really get talked about all that much.  What causes it?  Basically you are missing things from your work life and you didn’t really understand how important they were for you life such as:  a structure to your days, work friends, a sense of contributing to something bigger than you, and even goals with feedback on how well you did on your goals.

Yet after that low point you have a choice.  You can give up and get a job again and return to something like your old life.  Or you can push forward to building your new retired life.  Here is where you start to make adjustments to your new life.  You can add new activities, more social interactions, and even more structure to your life.  You can search to do something you find meaningful and gives you a sense of progress on a goal.  And know this search might take some time but don’t give up on it.  Then finally after a time you will hit your new groove.

Which brings me back to where I started this post.  I finally have a bit of routine to my life that makes me happy.  I’m not bored or lonely.  I feel productive working on writing material for my book which matters to me.  I’ve finally built a new identity of the retiree not the worker without a job that I started at after I left work behind.

There is a long process to get to this point.  It doesn’t come easy and while it can take years to get to a new groove it is possible.  Just stay the course and give yourself some time.  After all, you are retired right?

So retirees, how long did it take you to find your new groove?

The Importance of Day to Day

Okay, you are ready to retire.  You have your financial plan all sorted out, you have your first post retirement trip planned and you have even started to disconnect from your workplace by saying no more often.  Yet, despite all of this you really haven’t done the one thing that will matter most when you actually retire.

What is that?

Well, I think the single most under rated things people can do for their retirement is planning out what you day to day existence is going to look like.  Pardon? Day to day? Why the hell does that matter?!?

It matters because let’s face it after the first big trip is over and the initial emotional high of retirement wears off (and yes it will wear off at some point) what you are left with is asking what am I going to be doing next Tues at 3pm.  No that isn’t a terribly exciting question but it is an important one to ask yourself if you want to have a happy retirement.

Retirement more than anything else is about drastically altering your day to day existence.  Your job will be gone and now you will have all this time to do things but how exactly are you going to decide what to do and when to do it?  And if you haven’t given any thought to how you will live day to day, you might find yourself bored, anxious and unsure about living your new lifestyle.

So really what are you doing next Tues at 3pm after you retire?  No idea…you might have a problem coming up.

I’m not saying you need to know exactly what you are doing but you should have an idea of what you could be doing.  What hobbies will you be working on?  What goals that matter to you do you want to complete?  When do you want to get those goals done?  What exactly is your day to day going to consist of?

And it is perfectly find to just focus on relaxing initially but eventually you will get the itch to do more than try to clear your Netflix to watch list or finish reading a 15 book series.  These things are fun but since you don’t actually create or work towards anything concrete they don’t fill you up in the long run.

And it might be tempting to consider the fun answer of: I’m doing nothing.  Nothing is fine when you need to relax but you also have to consider that being happy also means accomplishing something  meaningful to you.  Now exactly what that is can be hugely subjective but the key is to have something long term that you are working towards.

What exactly are you going to be doing with your life now that you are retired?  For me, one of my big things is writing books.  Why?  I really love reading and writing books.  It’s really time consuming work to do and yes it is frustrating at times but I enjoy the result.   But that is just my answer, you need to find your own and while you don’t need to know exactly right away giving the matter some thought  can significantly improve our odds of enjoying your retirement.

After that then you can look at building out what your day to day will consist of.  Keep in mind you can fill it with many things and keep changing it up.  I, for example, like to cycle through hobbies.  So this week I might focus on playing old school video games, next week will be focused on building terrain for our D&D game and the week after I might focus on reading a few books.  The point is I like the variety of hobbies and it allows me breaks on them when I get stuck on something.

So what do you plan to fill your day to day with?

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?