10 Tips for Managing Time in Retirement

Here's how to find a balance between an over-scheduled retirement and boredom.

By Tom Sightings, Contributor

You might want a schedule in retirement, but you get to decide what's on it.

A major benefit of retirement is that you no longer have to punch a time clock. But this can be a mixed blessing. Without the structure of job and family, you might begin to feel disoriented. Perhaps you can't remember what day of the week it is, or you suddenly realize that a whole year has passed and you have nothing to show for it.

Just because you're retired doesn't mean you shouldn't have some kind of schedule. Remember to build in time for your favorite activities, including hobbies, volunteer work, visiting grandchildren or whatever else you want to accomplish in retirement. Here are ten tips to manage time without feeling like you are back on the clock.

1. Keep things in perspective. Time management in retirement does not mean rigorously blocking out every minute of the day. It's more about setting goals and priorities, then making sure that you accomplish what you set out to do.

2. Make a schedule. Organize your activities on a daily or weekly basis, not hour by hour. That way you know that you exercise on Tuesdays and Thursdays, have class on Wednesdays and play cards on Fridays, without having to rush from one activity to the next. Don't over-manage your schedule or your days will feel like drudgery. But we all need some general framework, or else time passes without our even noticing it.

3. Make a list. Some people are planners, while others are more free form. But whatever your personality, you probably want to know what you're going to do when you wake up in the morning. So make a list of the important things, or the things you need to get out of the way. Also, you sleep better if you don't lie in bed worrying about something you're supposed to remember to do tomorrow.

4. Be flexible. You might not need a set schedule for everyday chores. So instead of planning out the housekeeping or gardening, just tackle a few tasks when you're ready, knowing it will all get done in the end. Also, give yourself permission to move an activity from today's list to tomorrow, next week or even never if you realize it's something you really don't want to do.

5. Learn to slow down. Many of us feel anxious about all the free time we face in retirement, so we fill our days with busy work. But busy work just eats up time, without offering any sense of fulfillment. Once you accept that you don't have to be busy every minute of the day, you can stop putting pressure on yourself and start accomplishing the things you want to do at your own pace.

6. Find your rhythm. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Many people do their best thinking in the morning, so that's when they take care of finances, write in their journals and plan family vacations. They leave routine work for afternoons and evenings. Others can only concentrate after the sun goes down. It doesn't matter what your daily rhythm is, only that you find it and follow it.


7. Alternate periods of structured activity with free time. Remember when you were in school and the structure of the school year was followed by the freedom of summer vacation? This variation can add texture to life. Many retirees enjoy the structure of regular volunteer work, a seasonal job or taking a class, followed by a period with no obligations. And then, just when they're getting bored, it's back to the routine again.

8. Limit your time watching TV or the internet. It's easy to let electronics soak up all your time. Make a conscious choice about how much time to devote to these passive activities. You might even set aside specific times to check email and Facebook or watch TV, so you don't fall into the rabbit hole of cyberspace.

9. Take your weekend during the week. Avoid lines by shopping on Monday or Tuesday instead of the weekend. You save time and enjoy more attention from salesclerks. Similarly, play golf or tennis or go on vacation during the week to avoid the crowds and get a cheaper rate.

10. Remember, times change. Some people begin retirement doing all the things they'd been putting off because they never had the time, such as painting the house, going on a trip or joining a club. But what happens after you check off those activities? You may want to reconsider your priorities and revise your schedule. That's perfectly normal. Your retirement needs will change over time.

Tom Sightings is the author of “You Only Retire Once” and blogs at Sightings at 60.

Last modified: Thursday, March 4, 2021, 9:59 AM