Why You Still Need Time Management after You Retire

After you retire, you may believe that you no longer need to manage your time. Perhaps you regard time management as something you get to leave behind when you end your working career. After all, you have been a slave to your work schedule for decades.

If you are not retired yet, you may envision that the ultimate retirement lifestyle will consist of getting up whenever you want, eating whenever you want, doing whatever you want or nothing at all, and going to bed whenever you want.

That may be therapeutic for the first few weeks after you leave your job. It can help you decompress from decades of work. But that approach won’t remain satisfying for very long.

With no discipline or direction, you’ll discover that days and weeks will pass without doing much that’s meaningful. The next thing you know, months will have passed and you’ll have no idea where the time went or what you did. You will end up bored, unhappy, and sedentary. You’ll spend most of your time in front of the TV or the computer. That’s probably not what you had in mind for your retirement. It’s not very healthy, either.

Sooner or later, you’ll discover that you still need some form of time management if you hope to do everything you were planning to do after you retire. However, you will probably approach it differently than you did while you were working.

“Quality of life is not affected as much by the amount of free time that a retiree has, but on how effectively the person manages this time on hand,” says Wei-Ching Wang of the I-Shou University in Taiwan, who has studied how retirees manage their time and their resulting quality of life.

You will probably find that a happy and satisfying retirement lifestyle consists a mix of activities that provide physical activity, mental stimulation, socialization with others, and personal fulfillment. Add in the mundane tasks such as cooking, shopping, laundry, and household chores and your life might seem overloaded again. You will need some form of time management system to prioritize these competing interests and find time for it all.

Which system you use is up to you. You can use computer applications such as Outlook Calendar or Google Calendar, a phone app, a traditional paper day planner, a white board, or even sticky notes – whatever works for you. Trello is good for managing tasks and to-do lists, and so is a simple pad of paper.

If there are things you want to do every day or on a certain number of days per week, such as meditating, writing, or going for a walk, schedule them.

Some retirees want to devote time to writing. This can take many forms: writing a fiction or non-fiction book, blogging, writing your memoir, documenting your family history, etc. Regardless of the genre, every serious writer I have encountered claims that the only way you’ll make good progress on your writing endeavors is to devote time to it every day. It can be 15 minutes or three hours, but it needs to be consistently scheduled every day. Otherwise, it’s too easy for everything else to step in and preempt your writing time.

The same applies to many other pursuits: art, music, going to the gym, volunteering – you name it. You need to schedule time for these activities every day, or at perhaps on certain days of the week. If you don’t, you’ll quickly find that you are not doing them as often as you would like.

The beauty of maintaining a schedule during your retirement is that it’s totally driven by you (and perhaps your spouse). During your working years, your schedule is not always under your control, but after you retire, it is. Your schedule can be as loose or tight as you want. And there’s really no penalty if you don’t adhere to it every single day. If it’s a beautiful day and you feel like getting out of the house and going for a hike or a nice meal out, you can! No boss is going to hold you accountable.

It’s fine to alter your schedule or postpone some things until tomorrow. That’s part of the freedom of retirement. But if you find yourself postponing things consistently, you should ask yourself whether the items on your schedule are things you really want to do or if they are just things you feel you should do.

Do your best to limit your time on the internet and watching TV. Decide how much of each day you are willing to devote to those passive pursuits, and do your best to stick to it. You may opt to schedule this time. For example, you might allot a half hour to check email and Facebook each morning and a half hour each evening. Perhaps you can use watching TV as a reward for completing everything on your to-do list each day.

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This topic is explored in greater depth in my book Smooth Sailing Into Retirement. This book will guide you from your last few months of work through your first year of retirement. It identifies the many ways your life will change and prepares you for the emotions you may experience along the way. You will learn how to design your new day-to-day life in a way that will reflect your passions and interests. You will be inspired to create a new identity for yourself that embodies the way you plan to live in retirement and frees you from the limitations of your former job title.

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It’s possible to go to the other extreme, too. You can fill each 15- or 30-minute block of time with every little thing you hope to do throughout the day, such as preparing meals, reading, answering emails, paying bills, and so forth. But it’s unlikely that you will enjoy or stick to a schedule that is so regimented that it seems like you’re still at work.

If the idea of maintaining a daily schedule just doesn’t appeal to you, you can take a less time-based approach. First thing each morning, write down three things you want to get done that day. You may prefer to make this list before you go to bed the night before. Then, once you have accomplished those three things, you can give yourself permission to spend the rest of the day doing whatever you want.

You will probably end up with a balance of scheduled activities, unscheduled time to spend however you like, and to-do lists. The exact mix is up to you.

As a retired person, you will become more conscious of the fact that you don’t have as much time left. When you were young, it felt like you had an infinite amount of time left in your life. After you retire, you will realize that time is more finite and it seems to pass more quickly. Therefore, it’s important to use the time you still have in a way that is satisfying, memorable, and purposeful.

Please feel welcome to comment below.

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© 2021 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.

Photo credits:
Open schedule book: Eric Rothemel.
Sticky notes: Pexels.
TV and remote: flash.proSome rights reserved.
To-do list: successtiming.

8 Responses

  1. Kevin says:

    Since I retired 5 years ago from the USPS, I have rarely found myself bored, even during Covid. But I think that might just be in my nature. My mom said all I needed was a shoe as a toddler. If I had a shoe I was wildly entertained for hours apparently.
    But I think your article is right. Sorry Jack, lol.
    I quit my gym, again Covid, and bought an app for calisthenics at home and it set me up on a M, W, F, Sunday schedule. I find that because it IS on a schedule and I am paying $5/week for the app, I stick to it. Also same thing with my Meditation app. It keeps track of my meditation streaks which encourages me to come back again the next day.
    I should get a calendar or dayplanner maybe. 5 years and I’ve barely touched the ukulele I promised myself I would learn when I retired!

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for your comments. During 2019, when I was working on my last book, I would reserve two hours in a study room at my local library every day for writing – and I went. I arranged the rest of my day around it. I would probably never have finished the book if I had not done this. Sometimes I worked on it more at home, but this ensured that I got at least two hours in.

  2. I loved reading this post. It shows just how important time management is even after you’ve retired. Time management also helps in measuring your quality of life in retirement.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Thanks, Linda! Until I started researching this article, I didn’t fully appreciate the connection between time management and quality of life, but I do now.

  3. Suzanne L Swick says:

    Thank you so much for the article on time management. Because I live in a winter climate and have fibromyalgia, I often find myself sitting in a chair watching TV or playing a game on my tablet. I need to get past this and get up and moving. I’ve joined a line-dance g club and am trying to make a major change in my life so I don’t have to live in a confining winter climate. Your article helped solidify my urge to break free of the sedibtary life I have imposed on myself. Thank you again.
    Suzanne

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Thanks for writing. I’m glad my article helped you. Best wishes for dealing with fibromyalgia – I know that can be really rough. From what I’ve read, regular exercise and regular sleep are two of the best things you can do, but that’s difficult when you’re in pain. Good luck!

  4. Jack says:

    This article is wrong.

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