A busy life is not a happy life

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” — Socrates

 A busy life is too often seen as a badge of honour.  Everyone is constantly busy.  Schedules are overloaded. People rush from one thing to another while often accomplishing little or nothing during a day. Life is busy yet it feels empty and unproductive.

My threshold for busyness has changed since I’ve retired.  Since I’m living the last third, perhaps the last quarter,  of my life, I am hyperaware of how I use my time. I refuse to be ‘busy’ with a predictable schedule of too many exhausting activities. What’s the meaning of “I’m too busy”

Every day I want time to read, to exercise, to write, to spend time on hobbies, and just to relax. Additionally, I like to go to see my grand-daughter, play bridge, attend the occasional concert, visit galleries, play with my cats and go to movies.  Living in both the city and at our Lake Huron cottage means taking care of two houses and two yards.

With these expectations and responsibilities, every minute is precious! Thus, I have to prioritize and set boundaries.  Unless I  limit the number of things I do, I get distracted, cranky, anxious, irritable,  and stressed out.

When I did my last life review a few weeks ago,  I took a hard look at my overloaded schedule to see what I could drop.  I reduced volunteer commitments to limit how much time I spend in meetings. To make life less insane, I’ve resigned from boards that require 2 −3 hours travel time to get to and from meetings in downtown Toronto.

To further protect my schedule, I’ve refrained from making new commitments. I’ve refused invitations, favours and requests. I decided that missing some activities would be preferable to attending but not enjoying the event. Are you suffering from FOMO?

I’ve also realized that I need a couple of afternoons or evenings with no activities. This allows me to absorb emergencies, surprises and setbacks such as needing extra time to finish writing a blog post.

Having a margin of time during the week also protects an amount of personal space.  It keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. It gives time for silence and for reflection as well as time for goofing off.  Idle moments were too rare before retirement!

I’ve also tried to add a margin of 30 minutes to every appointment to avoid rushing. This simple technique helps me to cope with unexpected delays and surprises.

Another technique I’ve been using to add space in my retirement schedule is what I’ve referred to as the ‘Rule of Two’. I plan for no more than two activities or appointments each day including gym time.  On most days, that means only one commitment as I go to the gym four or five times per week for exercise, yoga class or swimming.

Making conscious choices not to rush through precious retirement days has meant taking a hard look at life priorities, deciding what really matters, and scaling down commitments.

Hopefully these strategies will shield my Postworksavvy lifestyle from Socrates’ warning of the ‘barrenness of a busy life’. If you seek enjoyment and happiness from your hectic lifestyle, the best investment you can make is to take deliberate steps to use time effectively.

Thanks for reading my post.  If you life my blog, please consider becoming a subscriber to receive regular email updates.  I’m also interest in your comments about how you manage you own ‘busy life’.

How to motivate yourself

Do you know how to motivate yourself?

Are there aspects of your lifestyle, habits, or health that you want to change but you find yourself stuck in old routines? Do you find yourself in a holding pattern that needs invigoration?

After almost five years of retirement, I find myself repeating patterns that satisfy me.  Unfortunately, I also repeat patterns that leave me frustrated and wanting to change.

I have periods of productivity when I complete  writing projects, finish hobby projects, and make things grow in the garden of my life. I spend quality time with my husband, go to the gym for exercise, and have lots of energy. These are the times when I am happiest.

How to Motivate Yourself to Change
How to Motivate Yourself

There are also times when motivation lags. I get stuck in old ruts — reading until the wee hours of the morning, sleeping in,  missing gym classes, and resorting to take out foods instead of cooking nutritious meals at home.

I get lazy.  I procrastinate.

I don’t like spending the day doing a whole bunch of nothing. It’s a waste of precious retirement time. That’s when I know that I have to motivate myself and get out of a slump. 

I need to make the effort to get started.

Sometimes just sitting in front of the computer and starting to write makes the ideas and the words begin to flow.  The same happens when I pack my gym bag and set out to attend a yoga class or  exercise on the cardio machines or exert myself in the pool.

Once I get started, things happen. By just doing something, I begin to motivate myself. Taking even a small action can motivate.

I need to protect my sleep.

When I don’t have enough sleep,I lose energy during the day. The energy drop often causes me to take a nap instead of writing.  It also leads to nutritional short cuts and high carb/high sugar snacks.

Having a set sleep/wake cycle helps. I naturally wake up at 7:30 am regardless of when I go to bed.  My challenge is to get to bed at a reasonable time so that I sleep 7 or 8 hours before my internal clock wakes me.

I need organized workspace. 

By keeping the house reasonably organized, my desk reasonably clear, and my inbox reasonably empty, tackling various projects is easier.

When I’m not organized I waste time looking for things or putting things into place  or making lists and not accomplishing what I’ve set out to do. I’m not obsessed about cleaning but I don’t function optimally when things around me are untidy.

I need determination.

Sometimes what I’m doing is difficult. I may be unsure of next steps or overwhelmed with the size or complexity of a project I’m trying to accomplish. I get confused. I worry about failing,

When obstacles cause motivation to wane, grit and determination are needed.  It’s tempting to quit or to spend my time doing an easier task. Suddenly doing the laundry seems easier than finishing research for a blog post or struggling to use new technology.

Sometimes I need a change of pace.

While persistence helps when feeling stumped,  sometimes a change of pace will get you back on track.

Going outdoors, making a cup of coffee, or taking an exercise break help me to re-focus. Even when the weather is inclement, taking a short walk outdoors changes my level of motivation. Physical activity clears the brain and caffeine re-charges it.

I try to stay positive and confident.  

During the past two weeks I’ve spent many hours knitting a baby afghan.  I started the project with excitement about the soft wool, the colours, and the pattern.

When the project was halfway to  completion I began to despair. I was unsure that I would finish it in time for the baby shower last weekend. I ran out of one colour of wool which meant a trip to the yarn store. I stayed up late, cancelled going to the gym,  cancelled attending my weekly bridge game — all to knit furiously.

The excitement waned. Yet, I stayed with it, positive that this would please a young mom whose career allows no time for handmade baby items.  I was tired but happy when I finished the afghan.  Visions of a new baby who will be warmed and comforted in the pretty afghan kept me going.

The Sweet Feelings of Success

Whether it’s finishing a big project like a knitted afghan or a smaller task like de-cluttering a closet, completion brings a sense of accomplishment.

Feelings of productivity and happiness result.  Those sweet feelings of success mean it’s time to goof off, to take a nap, or to waste a little time online without guilt.

 

 

 

 

Handling Loneliness

Have you learned how to handle loneliness?

Most of us, no matter how socially active, fight bouts of loneliness. Feeling lonely is not shameful nor is it a sign of failure.  It is a normal feeling that happens to everyone.

The presence of other people doesn’t insulate you from loneliness. Even when you are in the middle of a crowded room, at a meeting, or at a dinner party, you can still feel the ache of loneliness in your heart.

Together but alone — photo courtesy of Nadya Peek
Together but alone — photo courtesy of Nadya Peek

Many  people who are married or in long-term relationships find themselves feeling alone even when they are with their partner. Strained relations and a lack of closeness can leave you feeling lonely.   Years of poor communication may have caused emotional distance that is difficult to overcome.

Loneliness often comes after a major life change such as retirement, after a move to a new community, or after the loss of a loved one.  Such major life changes cause a disruption in the social activities that previously shaped patterns of life.  It may be difficult to build new connections.

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is an emotional reaction that occurs in response to life changes and events. Typically, it involves feeling sad and empty. In extreme cases it can lead to chronic anxiety and clinical depression.

Wikipedia defines loneliness as a complex response to isolation or lack of companionship.

Loneliness is subjective. If someone feels lonely and describes themselves as lonely — then, they are lonely.

Poor self-esteem,  feelings of being unwanted, and feelings of being unloved are sometimes associated with loneliness.

Loneliness and Isolation 

Loneliness is usually considered something that happens when spending time alone.  Faced with harsh Canadian winters, many older people hibernate in their homes and rather than going out in cold weather.  They find themselves feeling lonely and out of touch.

Others are socially isolated because they spend hours on the internet interacting with virtual friends.  Spending time in chat rooms and on social media is satisfying to a degree but online friends don’t substitute for real, live people.

Loneliness may cause isolation but isolation doesn’t mean you are lonely. Many people are loners, by choice.  They may choose solitude.  They are alone but not lonely.

If you are facing a bout of loneliness, there are ways to handle it.

Admitting you are lonely is the first challenge.  Feelings of failure and fear are sometimes associated with loneliness. By recognizing that everyone feels lonely at times, we acknowledge and normalize the feeling, thus allowing ourselves to move on.

Once you recognize feelings of loneliness, the next step is to decide to change.  This is difficult because the feelings associated with loneliness lead to immobilization and inactivity. It’s tempting just to withdraw from the world instead of pushing yourself to connect with others.

By making the effort to get involved with other people or in some activity, we begin to take charge again instead of letting feelings take charge.

Sometimes the simple act of going outdoors for a walk in the sunshine leads to a friendly ‘hello’ from a neighbour. Sometimes a trip to the library, to a coffee shop, or to attend a social event helps.  Perhaps it’s re-involvement with an activity you have always enjoyed.  Perhaps it means taking a bold step to try something new.

Moving your body and getting physical exercise often brings both a surge of energy and a more positive frame of mind. The endorphins and serotonin released from physical excretion increase happiness and help to change your emotional state.

Spiritual connections are helpful when combating loneliness.  Faith in a higher power helps many to accept what happens to them. Attending a church  or other religious institution offers opportunities to take part in a community of faith which influences perspective and offers social engagement.

Spending time with children, especially grand children is a powerful antidote for feelings of loneliness.  Children need attention and lots of interaction.  They laugh easily, love unconditionally, and bring a smile.

For people with chronic bouts of loneliness, owning a pet can help to handle loneliness. Pet ownership brings increased responsibility and leads to feelings of purpose.  A pet will offer companionship and affection which is an added benefit. http://postworksavvy.com/pets-increase-retirement-happiness/

Changing how you think has a powerful impact. Self-pity and other negative thought patterns reinforce feelings of loneliness.  Use positive thinking as an additional method of handling loneliness. Techniques such as re-framing, taking a long view, and practicing gratefulness are methods that can change thinking.

Extended bouts of loneliness can leave you feeling sad, even depressed.  If loneliness persists for extended periods of time, professional clinical intervention should be considered.

Handling loneliness takes energy. The steps I’ve recommended may not result in immediate change but will begin a process of change that gets you back to feeling like yourself.

 

 

Can a Password Mantra Change Habits?

Can a password mantra change habits? Have you tried using a mantra to reinforce a habit change? Can you use a computer password to reinforce your mantra?

This idea of using a computer password as a mantra sounds weird — yet intriguing.

To reinforce a new habit of keeping only two items per day on my retirement schedule, I’ve developed a personal mantra to remind me. Would changing my password reinforce the mantra?

Mantras as Passwords

The strategy of using a password mantra to change a habit came from hearing an interview on The Spark, a CBC program (cbc.ca/spark) about technology.   Nora Young, the host, interviewed Mauricio Estrella who described how he achieved life changing goals by changing his computer password every 30 days. Mauricio began using his password to make positive relationship changes with his wife.

His computer at work required a password change every 30 days.  On a whim, Mauricio began using positive affirmations —like forgiveness, respect, admiration — for his password. He adapted the affirmation into a password which then became his mantra.

This idea was interesting.  Because passwords need to be entered frequently, could a password change a habit?

Research on habits indicates that it usually takes about 30 days or about 100 repetitions create a new habit.  There is no hard and fast rule but the time frame must be of sufficient duration to produce new behaviour.

By using a positive affirmation in the form of a password mantra you prompt your inner voice each time you enter the password. This is a simple digital trick to reinforce the affirmation in your brain.

What is a mantra and how is it used?

A mantra is typically a Sanskrit word or words uttered repeatedly during meditation.  It is a powerful method to calm the mind and to create positive energy in the body.

Psychological or sacred power is believed to come from repetition of a mantra.

“Change your password — Change your life”

Learning Sanskrit isn’t a necessary prerequisite to use a mantra for your password. You don’t need to meditate or chant.

Instead, create a password that is some combination of a word with numbers and symbols that states the change you are undertaking. Each time you enter the password you will validate the mantra and reinforce the habit change in your brain.

Connecting the entry of a password to open a computer program is a simple way of connecting an ordinary activity with changing a habit, or living a bigger dream, or achieving a life aspiration.

The password mantra will trigger your brain and act as an unconscious tracking tool. It still sounds a bit weird, but I’m giving it at try!  I hope that some of my readers will be sufficiently intrigued to try it as well!

 

 

Do You Understand Your Habits?

Do you understand your habits?  Do you want to change your habits?

Are you aware that habits, both good habits and bad habits, control most aspects of your life including how you spend your time, how you relate to others,  and how you experience pleasure or pain?

In the past months I’ve noticed that many experts have opinions about habits. It’s a popular topic for talk show hosts, life coaches, advice columnists and bloggers.

Advice about how to develop habits that will improve health, wealth and happiness abounds. There are training programs, online courses, and books for people who want to develop good habits and kick bad habits .

At the beginning of this New Year many people made resolutions about habits they want to give up. Eliminating bad habits like swearing, nail biting, procrastinating, eating junk food, or wasting time top the list of things people want to stop doing.

Addictions to drugs, tobacco, alcohol, food, online gaming, gambling, shopping and, yes, even sex, are among  bad habits that people want to conquer.  Most addictions need professional help although the group support that comes from established organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous is often successful.

Self improvement habits such as getting physically active, keeping a journal,  eating healthy foods, saving money, practicing kindness  often top the list of new habits that people seek to develop.

Psychologists and other habit gurus offer advice about how to change habits. Some of the tips they offer include:

1. It’s important to understand the cues and triggers underlying the habit.

For example, know who you are with when the habit occurs.  When I was a smoker, I automatically reached for a cigarette when taking a break with certain co-workers, or when playing a tough bridge hand.  This habit was so strong that, even 35 years after quitting,  I often find myself thinking of a cigarette when I talk to these people on the telephone or when I exchange emails with them.

Other cues and triggers include the time of day when a habit is performed or the setting where it happens.  Many mothers automatically find themselves eating foods that toddlers have left on their plates.  Some people automatically reach for a book to read a few pages before going to sleep.

2. Every habit has its rewards.  Knowing the rewards of a habit helps to change behaviour patterns.

I am determined to develop new habits for time management during 2015 including allowing an extra 30 minutes of time for every appointment I make.  The anticipated reward will be that there is some slack for unanticipated delays in traffic or last minute holdups that might cause a late arrival.  The big reward will be that I honour my time-conscious nature and I’m not stressed about lateness.

Rewards of developing new habits may also include better overall health because of regular exercise, better sleep patterns, and the satisfaction of accomplishment.

3. All habits have emotional roots.  To  understand the emotional roots of habits we need a certain amount of self-awareness.  Addictions often have deep emotional roots which is why professional help is needed when working on addictions.  Other habits can be changed with conscious appreciation of how these habits were formed and what basic needs they satisfy.

Anxiety and stress may cause over-eating. Worry about failure may hinder someone from trying new activities or hobbies.  Some habits, such as nail biting or over-eating provide comfort.  A person addicted to shopping may find relief from isolation by going into a store and making a purchase.

Sometimes habits — even bad habits — make you happy and provide genuine satisfaction. The habit gets performed without conscious awareness of what precipitated the behaviour and without awareness of the many psychological rewards.

Never Too Late to Change Habits

All of us want good habits that lead to happiness. As an optimist, I believe that it’s never too late to change a habit.   The process for changing a habit takes determination and focus. The experts suggest the following techniques:

1.  Choose what you want to change  

If the habit relates to a major life change like attaining physical fitness, beginning with a commitment to take a daily walk may be the starting point. Likewise, if losing weight is the goal,  eliminating junk food from the grocery cart may be the beginning of better diet. Small incremental improvements are easier to achieve.

2.  Make it specific

Making a commitment to a daily walk might include some measure of time or distance.  For example, you may want to develop a habit of walking for 30 minutes for a certain number of city blocks.

3.  Make a public commitment

When working on a new habit,  involving others gives support.  Groups such as AA assign a sponsor who is there to give support when needed.

By writing about my commitment to limit daily activities and allow extra time for appointment, I know that my friends and family who read this blog will be watching me and encouraging me.

4.  Set short term goals

Some social psychologists advise that it takes 30 days to make a habit begin to stick.  Others advise 100 repetitions as a rule.

I’m going to set a 3 month target (90 days) to develop the habit of allowing an extra half hour around scheduled appointments.  It’s more than usual 30 days but with 90 repetitions I’ll have sufficient time to test drive this change.

5. One Change at a time

Often we try to make several changes at once in our efforts at self-improvement.  Major life changes like weight loss or improved physical fitness or better time management involve breaking patterns. These behaviour patterns have  developed over long periods of time with strong emotional roots.

Focusing on one habit at a time is recommended to allow you to gain confidence in your ability to change. To go back to the example of daily walking,  after 30 days of consistent practise, this habit can be augmented with strength training or with other physical activity that will lead to greater fitness levels.

6.  Reward yourself

Once the behaviour becomes automatic, new cues and triggers that become self-rewarding will develop.  Some habits, such as attaining better fitness give automatic rewards such a tightening the belt by a few notches or having clothes fit better.

Sometimes a more concrete reward is desirable. Many smokers who quit use the money they save from buying cigarettes to purchase a vacation or a piece of jewellery.

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” — Aristotle

Unfortunately, New Year’s resolutions are often abandoned because people have insufficient awareness about the factors underlying a habit. In this post, I’ve summarized some of the best tips for understanding habits and for changing habits.

I’m using this advice to make changes in my life.   Hopefully, you will be inspired to change some of your habits as well.

 

Living with Purpose

In 2015 I am determined to live with purpose  To make it a more rewarding year I’m making a few changes.

Even though the New Year is a few days ‘old’, this is still a time of new beginnings as I suffered a bout of the flu during the celebrations. I’m feeling rejuvenated from the rest I took while recovering. With the return of health and stamina, I feel like a new person for the New Year.

There’s an overused saying that states “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” This phrase has rung in my head for the past week as I’ve thought about purpose, my 2015 word of the year.

I chose this word to guide and focus my behaviour and activities.

Living with purpose requires decisiveness about use of time. In 2015 I’m making changes to make sure that I don’t squander any precious retirement days.
Use Time effectively — photo courtesy of beautifulfreepictures.com
Use Time effectively — photo courtesy of beautifulfreepictures.com

Purpose Reflects Intention

Wikipedia defines intention as “a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action or actions in the future.”

By living with intention, I can focus on deliberate actions to bring about the results I want to achieve.  Setting an intention  for each day that relates to purpose, my word of the year,  will help me to take better control of my life and my time.

Purpose Reflects Resolve

Resolve means backbone to me. It will take  strength and confidence to make deliberate choices consistent with aspirations of how I want to live.

I may have to get up earlier to spend time writing or exercising.  I may have to refuse interesting invitations to avoid distractions that take me away from purposeful activity.

If I am true to my decision that I won’t squander precious retirement days, I will need to make courageous choices about eliminating activities, meetings and appointments that don’t satisfy, inspire and fulfill my life aspirations.

Purpose Reflects Determination

When I am determined to make things happen my productivity improves.   I have achieved difficult goals throughout my life.  Having a tenacious mindset allows me to stick to my purpose regardless of obstacles that I encounter.

Judicious use of precious time

You might wonder how ‘purpose’ with its related meanings of intention, resolve and determination relates to use of time. In my mind, each of these relates to time and how easily it can slip away.

You’ve heard it before — everyone has the same 24 hours each day.  The choices we make are totally up to us. By using time effectively — and with intentionality — our choices will lead to outcomes that are consistent with the big dreams and aspirations we have for our lives.

Unless longevity takes a steep up curve, I know that I am living the last third of my life.  I realize that I have a finite number of days so how I spend each day has to count. Because I can’t get wasted time back, I’m cautious about squandering precious days and hours.

If I’m not careful, my free time can get cluttered with unnecessary activities.  This results in getting behind on things that relate to purpose, missing out on sleep and then finding myself grumpy and de-energized.

I’m focusing on commitments that I make.  I won’t say  ‘yes’ unless making that commitment is consistent with how I want to live.

A few months ago I realized that I had made too many volunteer commitments.  Precious time was used going to meetings of boards and committees that no longer held interest for me. Many of the roles and responsibilities were similar to those I had during my career.  I have stepped away from most of these commitments to free time for activities that I find more rewarding at this stage of my life.

The Rule of Two

I am  implementing ‘the rule of two’ when it comes to my schedule.  I will commit to a maximum of two activities in a day. A class at the gym or a workout counts as one activity.  A meeting or appointment counts as one activity. A social commitment counts as one activity. A major project or task at home counts as one activity. 

Limiting what I do will leave time to work on writing projects, to spend time with my husband and family, for hobbies, and to goof off — if goofing off suits me.  I’m determined to have free time to just be me.

Allow extra time

To stop feeling rushed all the time, I’m allowing 30 minutes of extra time around scheduled activities.  If an appointment is at 10 am, I’ll focus on 9:30 am as the targeted time. Unexpected delays won’t derail my plans because I’ll have a cushion of extra time.

As I am time-conscious, this simple mind-game should help me to manage distractions and arrive on time. By living with the ‘rule of two’, I won’t be over-committed and stressed rushing from one over-booked activity to another. When life throws a curve ball, I won’t have to make an excuse.

These  changes should give me more time for the things in life that matter to me.  Who knows, there may even be time to spend learning new things, or de-cluttering the basement, or thinking about what really matters in my life.

Thanks for reading this post. I’m interested in how you have decided to make 2015 rewarding, remarkable, or memorable.  If you like my blog,  please consider becoming a subscriber.

  

Year-end Evaluation

It’s time for the postworksavvy 2014 year-end evaluation.

With two days left until a new year begins, this is the time to take stock and to think about changes in 2015.  Regular readers of the postworksavvy blog know that I stopped making resolutions for the new year.  Instead, I prefer to think of this time as an opportunity to focus on how I’m doing on my life’s journey and to focus on aspirations for the next year.

Before thinking of future aspirations, however, it’s useful to evaluate what happened in 2014.

What were the highs and the lows?  

Every year brings both highs and lows.  The highs in my life included watching our grand-daughter grow and change during the first year of her life.  The delight of seeing a new generation in the family mitigates losses of the past decade including the premature deaths of both of my siblings. Connections within our small family brought laughter and happiness.

I’ve enjoyed opportunities to travel including an extended holiday driving through South Africa, a trip to Florida including a condo stay on the Inter-coastal Waterway, and a trip to New York City to celebrate American Thanksgiving with friends. Spending another relaxed summer at our cottage, reading good books for two book clubs, and taking bridge lessons would also stay on my list of highs for 2014.

2014 also had its lows.  Our garden was a disappointment.  I was away during May and early June so my part never got started. Aside from hardy perennials and a few herbs, there was no excitement from the bright colours of annuals nor the delicious produce of vegetables.

I made little progress in de-cluttering my life.  De-cluttering has been an aspiration for several years. The reality is that I’ve been avoiding it.

Most disappointing was a feeling of rushing through every day and every week. Too often I was late for an appointment which annoyed me.  The unhurried image of a retirement lifestyle that allows time to pursue creative interests eluded me.

What changes did you make that you will continue?

My word for the year was ‘action’.  I used ‘action’ as my mantra to encourage me to stop putting things off. Having a word to help me focus on moving forward with some task or project kept me focused on life priorities.  Sometimes it was a small task but the sense of accomplishment from completion always brought a smile.

Another change that I made was to a set time each day for writing.  I’ve done well with this with regular journal entries. When I’ve stuck to my writing schedule for completing blog posts, productivity has increased.

Since July I’ve been writing monthly guest posts for a newsletter based in Ireland.  I’m pleased that John Copleton, editor of Exploring Retirement issued an invitation.  You can read this newsletter at www.exploringretirement.co.uk

I’m also proud to have begun writing stories of my life and our family for our grand-daughter.

What did not work?

Related to feeling that I rushed through the year and the mantra of taking action, I always had a ‘to do’ list with too many items.  From my knowledge of time management, I tried to limit the daily list to 3 or 4 items but I kept another running list that grew longer and longer. This  list weighed me down.

After doing a leisure audit in October, I realized that I had made retirement commitments that no longer brought satisfaction and that I needed to spend more time on things I enjoyed. I decided to curtail certain activities, especially activities that involve meetings and time spent in board rooms. I resigned from several boards and committees to clear time from my schedule.  I’m also evaluating social commitments that leave me fatigued and not fulfilled.

What will you add to improve retirement happiness in 2015? 

The most important aspiration for 2015 is to have time to live purposefully and without rushing.  My word of the year is ‘purpose’.

P1010419

I’m going to use the rule of ‘two’ for scheduling my days — two activities or meetings or appointments or gym classes. I’m also going to allow an extra half hour for each activity so that I don’t have to rush.

I’ve got some new techie toys and my aspiration is to sharpen my knowledge of how to use these.  My new iphone can do so much more than make calls, send texts and fetch emails but I need to feel comfortable using it.  This is another year when I have new camera with more gadgets and settings than I understand.

Completing the 2014 year-end evaluation has forced me to face some of the realities of my life journey.  Mostly, I’m satisfied, however, making small adjustments will add to retirement happiness as I aspire to make 2015 a year of purpose.

I’m interested in hearing your reaction.  Do you make resolutions? Do you do a year-end evaluation?  Does it inspire you to make changes in your life?

Thanks for reading this post.  If you like my blog, please consider becoming a subscriber to receive regular updates by email.

7 Tips to Avoid the Last-Minute Christmas Crazies

It’s time for a bad case of the last-minute Christmas crazies.  With only days before the 25th, many of us are moving close to panic mode.

I’m at the front of the line.  December has flown past and the Christmas crazies have hit me and, it seems, many around me.

This happens every year.  I used to think that Christmas crazies resulted from having both work pressures and family/entertaining pressures in the lead up to the holidays.  Now that I’m retired, I realize that Christmas crazies happen regardless of how many hours per day/week you devote to preparation.

With the final countdown near, here are a few tips to help you through:

1.  Make the uber-list.  If you’re like me, you have several lists.  Now is the time to review all the lists and make the uber-list. Hopefully, there are some completed items that have already been crossed off!

I made my uber-list yesterday  I included only the things that absolutely must be done.  Things like tidying up the garage, re-arranging my closet or cleaning the cold room in the basement will wait until after the holidays.  Things that stay on the uber-list include  finishing the gift shopping, wrapping gifts, buying groceries for entertaining, baking special treats and preparing for guests.

I also made a schedule with key tasks on each day keeping in mind that Ontario weather can change quickly.  An unexpected storm  can ruin plans including last-minute desperation trips to the mall.

2. Delegate some jobs.  My husband doesn’t like cooking and isn’t a great cook.  But he is happy to help with kitchen clean-up after I’ve prepped vegetables, or baked.  I’m happy with this arrangement and he feels included. I’ll also be delegating household chores like vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, and some of the laundry that has a way of piling up.

3.  Accept offers of help.  Christmas Eve festivities will be hosted at our home this year.  One guest offered to bring a big salad; I graciously accepted.

4. Beat the crowds.  Malls and grocery stores are crowded.  Traffic is a nightmare. Parking is a challenge especially when snow banks make each spot smaller.

This is the time for retired people to get into stores early in the morning before most people arrive — or late at night when others have gone home.  One of my friends told me that she went to the mall last week when a snow storm raged in the Toronto.  She had quick service, lots of help with finding items on her list, and had her bags carried to the car by a young man who was happy to help!

This is not the time to go to the grocery store on the weekend. The shelves are cleared of the best produce. Go early in the morning ready with a list and don’t blink when grapes, pineapples, avocados, melons, and lettuce are selling at outrageous prices!

Hopefully you’ve already completed online shopping and received those items.  If not, check delivery dates carefully and pay the extra fee for expedited delivery!

4.  Decide to ‘buy’ rather than ‘make’.  While having all kinds of homemade goodies may a family tradition, taking precious time to do a lot of cooking or baking from scratch is not practical once the deadline is near.  Purchasing some prepared foods may cost only slightly more but will save both time and stress.

Likewise, consider paying for gift wrapping to save time.  A local mall offers gift wrapping with the proceeds going to a children’s charity.  Getting gifts wrapped at that kiosk saves time and contributes to a good cause.  One of the big book stores offers wrapping of children’s books as a gratuity.  Also, remember that gift bags are ever-useful, especially for items of odd shapes and sizes.

5. Do a blitz clean/tidy of the house.  I’ve placed the stacks of newspapers and magazines that were accumulating in the living room and family room into the re-cycling box.  I’ve also placed more boot trays in the front foyer as the winter snow means that assorted foot gear that we use piles up near the door.  I’ve disciplined myself to clean up as I move through various rooms to avoid having to re-trace my steps to pick up or put away clutter.

6. Take time to rest between tasks.  As we get older, some of the stamina and energy enjoyed in years past is gone.  Taking breaks, making time to have a cup of tea and put up my feet for a half hour works wonders.

7.  Focus on the enjoyment and memories of family traditions.  Many of the tasks that consume me before Christmas are part of the season’s rituals.  During the rush of preparations I am often reminded of many past Christmas celebrations.  The menus, the cards, the ornaments on the tree,  the music, and even the smells of various foods bring memories.

Thinking about how some of these simple things have become rituals strengthens my resolve to complete the work involved to fully experience the joy of the season once again.

The Christmas crazies should never overtake the retirement happiness that comes as we appreciate the wonder and beauty of this season.

Thanks for reading this post.  If you like my blog, please consider subscribing to receive future posts by email.

You may also enjoy previous holiday posts from my blog roll:

Catching The Christmas Spirit

Musings About Christmas Tree Trimming Rituals

What Everyone Ought to Know About Generosity

 

What’s the meaning of “I’m too busy” ?

Do you often hear words like “I’m too busy” or “I’ve been busy” or, simply “busy” as a response when greeted with ‘how are you’?

When someone greets me with “how are you?” — too often, I respond with words indicating that I’ve been busy.

The response says little yet it is socially acceptable. “I’ve been busy” is an easy answer yet It feels evasive.

I don’t like hearing it from others. Because I don’t like myself when I use it, I’ve been thinking about what it means.

‘Too busy’ as an excuse

Telling someone you are ‘too busy’ is a handy excuse.  I can tell my husband that I was ‘too busy’ to finish errands, ‘too busy’ to prepare dinner or to ’too busy’ to complete household chores.

’Too busy’ is a handy excuse when I’m under-productive.

‘Too busy’ is also a form of laziness. I tell myself that I’m ‘too busy’ to finish writing a blog post or to exercise.

I can tell a friend that I’ve been ‘too busy’ to call her.  I can explain that I forgot someone’s birthday because I’ve been ‘too busy’.

‘Too busy’ as avoidance

Being ‘too busy’ is a good response when I want to avoid doing something — especially something that will take a lot of time.

Anyone who has chaired a board or a committee knows that when it comes to grunt work, people avoid taking responsibility because they are ‘too busy’.  Does too busy really mean ‘let someone else do it’?

Professors and teachers know this tactic well. Students are often ‘too busy’ to complete assignments. But are they really ‘too busy’ to improve their knowledge?

The truth is that being busy is a way of avoiding something uncomfortable or difficult.

‘Too busy’ builds importance

‘Too busy’ is a response that indicates priorities that supersede. It’s a status badge  — being super busy means that you are in demand — it’s cool to be busy. It’s a form of self-glorification.

Sometimes ‘too busy’ is used as a sign of success of a flourishing career or a full life. Perhaps ‘too busy’makes you seem better to someone else.   In some circles it’s regarded as a virtue.

People fall into the belief trap that if you aren’t busy, you aren’t good.

What are the consequences of ‘too busy’?

What’s behind the ‘too busy’ excuse? Is the ‘too busy’ response a form of irresponsibility?

I have a good friend who is always distracted and anxious. She flits from one task to another.  She is always late.  She often forgets important commitments. She misplaces her keys, her cellphone, her handbag.

She knows she is overwhelmed but rejects helpful suggestions from her husband or her friends all the while complaining that nobody understands the pressures of her life.

What is she busy with?  She is busy reading blog posts, newsletters, tweeting, and talking on the telephone, All of these are time wasters that keep her from the important things she is trying to do.

In my career days I was often overwhelmed with projects, meetings, and other work commitments.  It left me too busy to have much of a personal life.

Just like my friend who is addicted to online media, I was addicted to the emotional highs of work.

I was also tired and miserable and anxious as I managed too many balls in the air.  In truth, I was fooling myself. I worked longer hours, travelled more and compromised on sleep. My enthusiasm and motivation for work that I loved began to wane. The macho attitude of ‘busy’ robbed me of enjoying the last years of my career.

Regaining focus

After retirement, I regained focus. In recent months, however, I’ve fallen back into old habits. Too often I have used “I’m too busy” as an excuse or an avoidance tactic.

I’ve resolved to change this habit to increase retirement happiness. I am working on managing my life priorities to make time for what matters without compromising  or feeling stressed by over-commitments.

I’ve begun dealing with over-commitment as described in post last week.http://postworksavvy.com/many-commitments/

If I don’t want to do something, I find a polite way to refuse and not say that I’m ‘too busy’.  I won’t be available for things that don’t interest me.

I also decided to be more efficient with how I use my time.  I give myself time limits for certain tasks.  If I see something that will take 2 to 5 minutes to finish, I do it right away.

I set priorities for every day and limit my priorities to three high value items. Setting priorities also helps me to plan what I can reasonably do in one day.

Re-evaluating how to spend precious retirement time means identifying self-imposed expectations, saying NO more often, and keeping life priorities in crisp focus.

When someone greets me with ‘how are you?’ I make a conscious effort to give a positive response.  I talk about something in my life that is enjoyable or rewarding.  Today, I answered the question by saying simply, “i’m happy”.

Time is a gift. Retirement is a gift.  Lets make sure we use time constructively to build meaning in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

Thanks for reading this post. I welcome your comments on the post. If you enjoy my blog, please consider becoming a subscriber to receive new posts by email.

 

Too Many Commitments

Is your retirement happiness compromised by too many commitments? Is your daily/weekly schedule overloaded? Are you stressed out with too little time to smell the roses? Do you have time for goofing off  or doing nothing?

Too many retired people say they are busier than ever. As a result, they find themselves overwhelmed because a plethora of activities fill the day leaving little time for themselves.

My Story of Too Many Commitments

I struggle with over-commitment.

After retirement, I wanted to keep purpose in my life.  As a result, I  got involved with various organizations as a volunteer including not for profit boards, church committees, and community initiatives.

I also started this blog without understanding just how much time would be needed to write blog posts and to keep up the blog. I revived a project of writing a family cookbook and started another writing project of stories for my grand-daughter.

I took courses in gardening, photography, coding, cooking, knitting, and writing — and found little time to act on what I learned.  Instead, I went on to take more courses!

When reviewing journal entries over the past year,  too often my daily writing ends with “too much to do…… too little time”.

Overcommitment often leaves me with feelings of anxiety and distress.  Instead of looking forward to the day, I worry about how I’ll get everything done. I go into ‘determination’ mode instead of ‘pleasure’ mode.

I’m tired of telling people I’m too busy. It feels like an excuse and a form of irresponsibility.  Where is retirement bliss when I’m frantic about all that I’m expecting myself to do in a day?

Taking Stock of Commitments

What makes retired people ‘busy’?

Perhaps there are commitments made before retiring when there was concern about staying active and involved.  When I look back, this is where my overcommitment began.

Perhaps there is over-involvement with family including obligations for elder care or babysitting grandchildren.  Because of lack of affordable child care, many retired folks are the primary caregivers for  their grandchildren.  They begin by helping out and find themselves tied to a schedule that exhausts energy levels.

Perhaps there are clubs or groups with extra demands for time. Many organizations depend on volunteer help.  It’s easy to become deeply involved with worthy organizations.  Unfortunately, there are few exit options.

Perhaps there are activities or hobbies that take too much time while providing limited satisfaction. I play bridge occasionally with a woman who collects small antiques and re-sells these items.  She spends almost every day in second-hand shops buying her ‘finds’ which include not only the re-sale items but also many things that she neither needs nor wants.

Managing Overcommitment

Over the past two months I’ve taken a page from time management gurus.  I took a hard look at my schedule and did an audit of how I’m spending my time.

On the negative side I’m spending hours every month travelling to meetings or sitting in meetings!  Horror of horrors! This is how I spent too much of my working life.  I also found that my limited computer skills result in hours spent trying to solve technical problems.

On the positive side, I spend a good amount of time in the kitchen, at the gym, and with family activities including child care when my grand daughter’s Montessori school has professional development days.

Because good health through nutrition and physical activity are retirement priorities, I won’t compromise time spent cooking and eating foods made from fresh ingredients.  I won’t stop going to the gym or doing my daily walks.  Most of all, I won’t compromise time I spend with my grand-daughter.

As an outcome of what I’ve learned about how I spend time, I’m in the process of making changes.

I have resigned from  two not-for-profit boards where volunteer time means reading long tomes of board materials, participating in committees, sitting in uncomfortable board rooms, and travelling to and from meetings.   One of my church committees has finished its work and is disbanding so that commitment has ended. I found someone who helps me with occasional technical glitches with my blog.

I’m still left with decisions like whether belonging to two book clubs, exercising at the gym four days a week, and playing bridge two or three times a week are excessive. At the moment, I’m evaluating how to modify these activities.

Dealing with too many commitments

Set priorities for yourself by periodically re-assessing interests and retirement aspirations.  Nobody expects you to continue with an over-achieving, over-scheduled lifestyle during retirement years.  It’s time to de-stress, to live to the beat of your own drummer.

Make commitments sparingly.  A commitment means giving a sacred gift —  the gift of your time.  A decision to invest personal time needs as much thought as a financial investment decision. 

Adjust priorities as needs and interests change.  Retirement doesn’t mean you stop changing or growing.  You get tired of certain activities.  New opportunities arise and you want to take advantage of them.

Keep your life in balance.  Too much free time leads to boredom.  Too much activity leads to stress, distraction and frenzy.

Say NO.  If you were brought up with the value of honouring commitments you make, then keeping commitments is important. A thoughtful no is better than a yes that leads to regret.

Too many commitments result in a full schedule. The result is insufficient time to enjoy and appreciate the benefits of retirement. Taking time to get a fresh perspective will help in shaping the precious days of retirement time by making time for what is truly important.

Thanks for reading this post.  If you like my blog, please consider becoming a subscriber to receive new posts by email.  I would appreciate comments on your experiences with overcommitment. 

Inspiration for a Happier Retirement

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