Many people contemplating retirement look forward to no longer
having to schedule their days or weeks and to freedom from work-related
time pressures and demands. However, without effective planning for life in
retirement, studies have shown that retirees are at risk of experiencing
boredom, depression, and feelings of emptiness or uselessness 1.
Preparing for new or different ways to use one’s time is an essential
part of planning for the transition to retirement. Where to start? You likely
have developed many different skills through years of work that have value
as you prepare for this major life change, including planning, problem-
solving and organizational skills. Yet, to what extent do time management
skills matter in the retirement transition?
Time Management Versus Planning
Time management is an essential workplace tool when juggling many
different responsibilities. It is also important when juggling the demands of
both work and home. But is time management still relevant when, in
retirement, all of one’s time is ‘free time’? If every hour of your day is ‘free
time,’ how can this time be structured to avoid boredom and a sense of
uselessness? Time management skills seem to make sense. However,
researchers 2 found that, for some people, scheduling leisure activities (i.e.,
specific times to start and/or complete activities) can result in experiences
feeling more work-like or obligatory.
So, while over-scheduling or sticky too much to a rigid schedule can
lead people to feel obligated to participate, I wouldn’t throw scheduling out
all-together. I and other researchers have found that for retirees to follow
through on some activities—particularly physical activities—people talk
about needing a balance of structure (e.g., caring for grandchildren or other
obligatory activities) and freedom. How then do we reduce the sense of
obligation that comes from over-scheduling and maximize the benefits that
come from planning? From my perspective, beginning with the end in
mind—in other words, being clear on one’s goals—is key to avoiding living
by a list of ‘got-to’s (obligatory activities in one’s schedule).
‘Goals’ versus ‘Got-to’s’ as Priorities for Planning
Having something to look forward to is motivating! Retirees in my own
and other studies expressed the greatest satisfaction with their time use
when daily routines and special activities were both meaningful and
enjoyable. Being clear on one’s priorities and goals and then creating
‘opportunities’ to achieve these is what retirees expressed as bringing them
the greatest satisfaction and enjoyment.
By shifting the focus from time management to goal fulfillment,
planning focuses more on identifying and then intentionally working
towards achieving goals. This happens through every choice we make
about our time use each day!
The Bottom Line
Whereas time management can be about maintaining productivity
within existing activities, planning is geared toward making a change, thus
aligning with what’s needed to successfully make the transition to
retirement. Investing in yourself by identifying your goals and living your life
now the way you want to in retirement are the best ways to set yourself up
for success as you plan for this next big change in your life!
If you haven’t given a lot of thought to your needs or goals, now is your
chance. Under the Tools link on the Retired You website is a ‘Values and
Needs Assessment’ which is a planning tool that can help you start to think
about the possibilities for prioritizing your time use in retirement:
1 Rosenkoetter, M. M., Gams, J. M., (2001). Retirement planning, use of time, and psychological adjustment. Issues
in Mental Health Nursing, 22, 703-722. doi:10.1080/016128401750434491
2 Tonietto, G. N. & Malkoc, S. A. (2016). The calendar mindset: Scheduling takes the fun out and puts the work in.
Journal of Marketing Research, 922–936.