The Art of Accomplishing Your Heart’s Desires

In the retirement years, you might find yourself on a metaphorical see-saw, displaying your style of “getting things done.” Possibly, you are bogged down on the ground, which is the side for people with an infinite “to do” list – or, you could be poised up in the air, perplexed about how to handle your seemingly limitless free time.

Whether you are incessantly running from volunteer slots to gym classes to babysitting dates, or you are hiding at home behind screens and taking too many naps, both lifestyles will ultimately need a reboot, because they are both too extreme.

Why Do We Need to Do Anything? We’re Retired!

Most of us need to “get things done.” We need to have food in the house, clean clothes, bills that are paid, and dogs that are walked. In the world of retirement, we only have a surplus of 40 hours per week. Somehow this presents a dilemma. Without some conscious structuring of time, many retirees become disoriented and depressed.

The day of the week is unknown and there is no tangible result for the passage of a large chunk of time. Too many hours are clocked on the sofa or laptop. Conversely, to some, retirement doesn’t feel like retirement at all, because those folks are operating at the same speed as the fully employed!

Two Helpful Solutions: One Macro and One Micro

A helpful way to begin thinking about this new bounty of time is through the symbiotic dichotomy of setting intentions and creating an actionable list of tasks.

A common beginning to any yoga class is the directive to “set an intention.” Usually, the teacher asks the students to think of what brought them to the mat today. What would they like to accomplish? This idea is also embraced by spiritual practitioners and life coaches. It is the macro part of time planning, the big idea component, the opposite to letting fate steer your ship.

The idea is to focus your attention on a personal desire. Some suggest putting these ideas on paper and doing weekly or monthly check-ins. Examples of intention setting include personal health goals, creative pursuits, making time for important relationships, spiritual goals, and social action activities.

I am constantly updating my intention setting through daily meditation, readings and reflection. Your way might include some scheduled walks, leisurely soaks, or listening to music.

Intention setting is always dynamic, hopefully, because one is always growing.

Once room has been made for these yearnings, some work can be done on the more banal items. There will probably be some crossover between intention setting and actionable items.

I’ve found in retirement that “things to do” fall into several categories:

physical – exercise, moving things around, and organizing;

paperwork – bills, elderly parent issues, taxes;

social – friends, relatives, neighbors;

house – repairs, maintenance, purchases;

learning – news reading, podcasts, books;

creativity – writing, cooking, music; and

volunteering – commitments tosocial issues. Finding the right balance in these realms requires both intention and planning.

Doing the Work

Fortunately, or unfortunately, our days are populated by seemingly unimportant tasks. Being a person more likely to be on the lower end of the see-saw, I like to have a running list of things I could do. I don’t treat this list as a life coach’s suggested slip of paper with three things to be accomplished on a particular day.

No – this list serves as an anxiety mitigating artifact. I only turn to it when my regular weekly plans feel too thin. My actionable items reside on a weekly tear-off calendar on my kitchen counter. Along with time sensitive appointments, the reasonable number of tasks I’d like to accomplish are listed, worked on when convenient, or are carried over to the next week.

An Organizational Guru Weighs In

David Allen, creator of the book and philosophy entitled Getting Things Done, is a personal and organizational productivity guru, ranked by Forbes Magazine as one of the top executive coaches in the United States. His suggestions can be quite helpful for the scattered retiree.

He encourages the unorganized to capture their vision (on paper or electronically), clarify what is actionable, organize the ideas in a visual way, reflect regularly on their utility, and engage, or get them done! He moves ideas out of the mind into action. Allen covers both ideas of setting an intention and creating an actionable list through his five steps.

Take a Breath – You Are a Retiree!

It should be noted that a big difference between a retiree and someone in the prime of her career is age, or stage of life. It is not appropriate to be quite as focused on outcomes as someone decades younger. That is where the sweetness of retirement comes in. If you are honest with yourself, you really don’t want every minute to count. You want to feel the benefit of your good planning and years of diligence which brought you to this time by having a good measure of freedom and flexibility.

When approaching time management in the later stages of life, it is best not to be too rigorous. Flexibility, especially being able to pivot when an opportunity arises, is key. Discovering your own tempo, honoring the lark or owl in you, are the gifts of slowing down and olde age. There is no longer anyone watching or evaluating your retirement. After all, time is starting to feel more finite.

“Intentional Idleness” is a skill worth developing. By slowing it all down, it will be possible to live more deliberately. The moments in your life will begin to feel more valuable.

Here is a simple recipe for accomplishing your heart’s desires: set your intentions and create an actionable list – BUT DO LESS! Be present, go out into nature, focus on the people around you, and see what arises.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you had difficulties structuring your time in retirement? Have you identified goals for yourself for this stage of life? How do you accomplish the day-to-day tasks required of you?

Leave a Reply