Who would have thought that someone who is retired would be struggling to balance priorities? While I was in career mode the challenge to find work/life balance was constant and I always felt that I was losing. My frenetic lifestyle gave an adrenalin high but was slowly draining my life energy and sucking away the joy of every day.
Along with many other plans for retirement, I was determined to enjoy the luxury of time. In the first few months, enjoying ‘me’ time was a theme of many of the blog posts that I wrote. The easy living style happened without much thought during the long days of summer and I wrote about the beach walks, the sunsets, and the lovely visits with friends on the shady deck at the cottage.
With autumn came the transition back to city life and as the weeks passed, the pace of my life has accelerated to the point where I am continually consulting my calendar and negotiating with people to find time to meet and negotiating with myself to find time for my projects and hobbies. Blessedly, most of the meetings are for fun activities, but I have not yet learned how to have two lunches with two different people in two different locations on the same day!
All of this preamble brings me to the point of this blog post — balancing priorities. Contrary to the common opinion that your life stops when you retire and that you have a lot of free time, the opposite seems to be true. Every day there are opportunities to engage with the world. In the past week I have gone on two photo shoots, attended four yoga sessions, had two lunches with friends, attended an Indian cooking class, arrived late for my photography class, visited one gallery exhibit, participated in a day long round table on leadership, prepared for and attended a board meeting, attended several medical appointments including a 5 hour pre-surgery clinic, and entertained friends for Sunday brunch. The schedule felt more hectic than a week at the office especially since each activity was characterized with the chaos of happening at a different location. Thank goodness for the time change in Ontario which gave back an hour!
As I reviewed my commitments I had that nagging feeling that over scheduling was creeping into my post work Shangri-la. It is again time to take stock and review priorities in my life. There are several postworksavvy tactics that have worked well prior to this hectic month and I plan to use these more often:
- Refusing invitations. This is difficult because there are many temptations. For example, last evening my husband was going to a dinner with a former Prime Minister of Canada and invited me to accompany him. It was tempting. I knew that I would see many friends and former colleagues but I also knew that I would have to dress up, walk some distance to the venue, and stand through a pre-dinner reception. Given the ambulation problems I am experiencing as I await the hip replacement surgery the smart thing was to give this dinner a pass. I know there will be other dinners — perhaps not with a dignitary such as a former Prime Minister — but there will be other dinners. Refusing the invitation took some thought but I know I made the right decision for me. The bonus was spending time alone with my music, playing with the cats and getting to bed early.
- Saying ‘NO’. This strategy is similar to refusing invitations. Because of the work I did during my career, I have been asked to participate on various boards of charities and other not for profit corporations now that I have retired. Volunteering is an aspect of giving back to community and staying engaged so it is tempting. Prior to retiring I was on several boards and agreed to remain on just two of them. For now, that’s the limit and so far I have held myself to that commitment. It would be easy to fill my calendar with other volunteer work but until I have been retired for at least a year, I am staying with the pre-retirement resolution. I have also said no to other tempting offers including travelling with a friend. My current priority is ‘me’ time. I know myself well enough to understand that setting boundaries is respectful of myself and, ultimately respectful of others.
- Managing expectations.Creating expectations is a way to try to control what will happen in future and, although we know this is impossible, there is still disappointment when our expectations aren’t realized. I realize that I need to regulate the expectations that I have for myself. Learning to ‘be’ rather than to ‘do’ is a continuing challenge. Ensuring that social commitments don’t take over precious personal time requires that priorities such as physical exercise, family time, and R& R are part of every day. Staying focused on what I want for myself and dropping unnecessary activities remains a challenge especially for someone whose life as a professional social worker and manager was devoted to service to others.
- Allowing time to ‘goof off’. This should be easy but when you have operated with a driven personal style throughout the career phase of life, just goofing off feels like wasting time. I am still learning that having some time every day just to be with myself is important in staying grounded. This is the time when I connect with my inner self and day dream. While my ego tells me that this is an extravagant use of my time, my heart tells me that this time is my reward and that learning to goof off is part of learning to enjoy life for what it is.
- Finding the happy zone. This is different for each of us and it is different as we evolve, grow and change our lives. What made me happy when I was parenting a toddler is different from what makes me happy today. What made me happy ten years ago is different from what makes me happy today. Finding your own source of happiness involves some inner searching. It also involves learning to know yourself. Recognizing and doing those things that bring happiness and peace in your world will bring you into your happy zone. Over time, this zone is where you will find your true priorities.
In evaluating how I balance priorities in my postwork life, I realize that it is too easy to fall back to old patterns of living. Last weekend I found myself responding to emails at 11pm one evening and decided it was time to re-focus on balancing priorities or I will find that my life slips back into pre-retirement habits.
I strongly believe that all of us can change our lives to reap the rewards of intentional living by keeping personal priorities are the forefront. This is not selfish. It is simply caring for the self so that you can be there for others.
Thank you for reading this post. If you like my blog, please share it with others, become a subscriber, and most importantly, use my musings to balance your own priorities and live your life fully. Enjoy the blessings of your day, Jeanette