Most people look forward to all the extra time they’ll have in retirement, picturing more frequent rounds of golf, more extensive travel, or just more time in a comfy chair to read some books. That’s probably why many folks are surprised to find how overwhelming it can feel to face filling all those extra hours vacated by their former jobs. Glenn Young, a recent retiree in Bountiful, Utah, completed his entire list of backlogged tasks around his house in just the first month of his retirement and is wondering what to do next. Here’s how to figure out what’s next for you.
Clean up your life. Young is off to a good start. Retirement is the perfect time to cross off all those tasks that have been needling you. I finally painted my bathroom and all the baseboards in my house. We ripped out the lawn and re-landscaped with drought tolerant plants. I cleaned out my closet. It’s a great feeling to kick off retirement with a blank to-do list.
But it’s not just your house that may need some cleanup. After all those years of neglect, your health habits may need a little cleaning up as well. You’ve got time to prepare healthy meals as well as commit to a regular exercise routine when you’re retired. Focus on your health from day one and you’ll set the stage for a happier retirement.
Look to your childhood. What did you love to do when you were a kid? I spent hours at the piano, an activity that I abandoned in college and never returned to after I started my career. I also loved to knit, another hobby I never made time for while working. Now, all the newborns in my life have a blanket made by Aunt Syd. A few weeks after I suggested that Young look back to his childhood, he wrote back to tell me he retrieved his old bike from the garage, spruced it up a bit, and was enjoying pedaling through country roads just like he did when he was a kid.
Look back at your college years. Were you on the college newspaper staff? Perhaps you can rekindle your love of writing by starting your own blog. Did you play on the tennis team? Sign up for a tennis class with your city’s recreation department and meet some new friends to play with. What clubs were you in or what electives did you take? I studied Spanish in high school, French in college, and Italian several years ago before a trip to Italy. Retirement is the perfect time for me to brush up on my French before an upcoming trip to Montreal.
Figure out what you loved about your job. I’m sure there are plenty of things you are happy to be leaving behind, including office politics, annual performance reviews, and endless meetings. But there are probably many things you really did enjoy about your job, besides just the paycheck. My dad retired from his job as an architect over a decade ago, but he didn’t stop creating spaces. He donated his services to a local university’s off-campus dorm for international students, remodeling the kitchen, dining area, and bathrooms. He also finally has time to devote to his own design projects, including a modern new kitchen, a sleek bathroom, and an elegant back patio space complete with fruit trees and an artistic garden wall.
Follow your friends. When my husband first retired, a friend introduced him to mountain biking. He already enjoyed road biking, but she led him to a peaceful new world of biking on mountain trails with no speeding cars in sight. Maybe you have a friend who will introduce you to a new sport or hobby. Not only will you learn something new, but you’ll already have someone to enjoy it with.
Repeat. With a retirement of perhaps two or three decades to fill, finding meaningful, engaging activities is not a once-in-a-retirement exercise. Your tastes will change, and eventually so will your physical limitations. When they do, it’s time to start over, move on, and pick up something new.
Sydney Lagier is a former certified public accountant. Since retiring in 2008 at the age of 44, she has been writing about the transition from productive member of society to gal of leisure at her blog, Retirement: A Full-Time Job.