The Art of Retirement…Time management in retirement

A major blessing of retirement is that you no longer have to punch a time clock or cram all your personal errands into the weekend. But too much unstructured time can lead to feeling disoriented and aimless. Finding the right mix of structure and freedom seems to be key to leading a happy and fulfilling life post-career. Your goal is to invent and adapt a “schedule” that allows flexibility yet helps you accomplish what you want to each day. Not like the schedule you had while you were working but not totally “fly by the seat of your pants” either.

Larry shared with me his trial-and-error experienced with time management after retiring from his job in insurance. First, he kept a daily calendar just like his work calendar with blocks of time assigned to various activities. He said not only did he feel pressured to meet his made-up schedule but he found himself adding activities just so he could check them off. Then he tried a totally unstructured “go with the flow” system. Turned out, that was even worse for him. He felt he was puttering around the house most of the day and that did not feel right to him either. Ultimately, he arrived at a happy medium with a mix of to-do lists and freedom to move those items around when other opportunities arose.

  Here are some time management tips from retirement lifestyle experts.

  • Don’t overschedule yourself. It is more about setting goals and priorities and making sure you accomplish what you set out to do. Short lists work better.
  • Make your lists on a daily or weekly basis. Not hour-by-hour. I like to have both a master list of items I hope to tackle sometime soon and a daily list made first thing in the morning to guide me. My husband enjoys making a weekly list on Sunday and he keeps the old lists to remind him of time well spent.
  • Be flexible. Give yourself permission to move items to tomorrow or to next week or to delete them totally!
  • Find your rhythm. When do you have the most energy? Are you a morning person, an afternoon person, or a night-owl. Schedule bigger projects and time for exercise during your high energy period.
  • Don’t forget to allow yourself free time. If you have to put “nap” or “relax and read” on your list – do it! Some of my clients like the idea of noting on their calendars “afternoon or day off.” Permission granted!
  • Take your weekends during the week. It is so wonderful to be able to run errands or go to the store during the week when the lines are shorter. Let those working folks take all the parking spaces on the weekend. Also, consider traveling during the week. Go to the mountains or the coast during the middle of the week. Rates are often lower and crowds are smaller, too.

Pamela Karr is a Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor specializing in career counseling and a Certified Professional Retirement Coach. Please contact her with questions, personal experiences you want to share with others, and ideas for future columns at

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