“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.
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