Find joy in retired life by creating a retirement routine. Design a weekly plan with the goal of dedicating time to the things you value.
Two full years! It’s been two full academic years since I retired from the university.
On my 55th birthday I formally submitted my letter of resignation, finished out the academic year, and retired from my faculty position at the age of 55. (BTW-55 is the earliest allowable age to retire and still earn a monthly retirement pension from the Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System. Count me in!)
Since my official retirement anniversary was last month, I thought this would be a good time to sit down and do a bit of reflection on my retirement routine: a few of the lessons learned during my first two years of retirement and the routines I’ve established as an early retiree with the goal of fully enjoying retired life.
This is how I find joy each day in retired life, some of the things I’ve learned about myself and some of the things I’ve been doing and not doing.
And if I do say so myself, retired life is amazing! Let’s jump into the details.
What do retirees do with their time?
Really…what do you do all day???
This is definitely the most often asked question I get as a new retiree. Mostly from those thinking about retirement and not sure what they would do all day if they didn’t work.
What would you do with 40 hours of newly found free time?
For me, once the days of catching up on sleep and relaxation passed (something many new retirees crave), the desire to add a bit more structure (or dare I say create a retirement routine) emerged.
My solution to my newly found free time…create a plan, a weekly plan with the goal of dedicating time to the things I value (health, relationships, creativity and peace).
How do you create a retirement routine?
First, consider your personal values. Action Item: Make a list of your 3-5 core values and then use your values to determine how you want to spend your time.
As a retiree, I have a schedule that I create as opposed to one influenced by someone else (aka, a boss). And I intentionally fill my schedule with activities directly related to my values.
For me, if I don’t have a plan…I’m not very productive. And although retirement doesn’t require high levels of productivity, a bit too much couch time can quickly lead to what feels like boredom.
So, I make a weekly plan.
Monday Morning Planning
Specifically, I sit down each Monday and create a calendar and “to do” list for the week. (Note: I didn’t do this right after retirement; it took me a while to desire a calendar and a routine. Check out my post HERE for the details.)
But now, each Monday morning I create a weekly calendar and I love it!
I start by including activities centered around my values (health, relationships, creativity and peace). I block out time for walking & swimming, time to create & learn, day trips with Bill, and lunches with girlfriends.
Then I add appointments, errands, and other “to do” items aligned with my goals of staying healthy, creating a peaceful home and maintaining strong relationships.
What does a typical week look like for a retiree?
This is what a typical week looks like for me. I say typical because it doesn’t include any overnight travel. Check out my post HERE for thoughts on travel time.
And my schedule is very flexible. For example, Bill recently asked to help plant crimson clover before the rain hit, so I scrapped my morning plan and Midge (my rescue dog) and I jumped on Pippi (our utility vehicle) and headed out to the field to help.
Also, I’ve only included my retirement routine for my former work week, Monday thru Friday. In general, I wake up around 6:30am (some habits stick with you) and go to bed (I wish I could say asleep, but I’ll save that for another post) around 10pm.
Regarding weekends, we have kept our same pre-retirement weekend routines with one exception…we avoid the grocery store on weekends now that we’re retired.
My Retirement Routine
I’m sharing my typical weekly schedule as an idea for how a retiree might spend their week. Please keep in mind that now that I don’t have a boss this entire schedule can be thrown out in favor of an unexpected opportunity or desire to do something else.
First thing each morning, Bill and I typically walk 2 miles. We just head out the front door, stop by the barn to check on the chickens and fur animals, walk a mile up the road and then a mile back home. We may also end up walking through our woods especially during the fall season.
It’s a great time to talk, share stories and make plans. Our walking routine is typically on (5 times a week) or off (almost nil). We’re in a nil phase right now (the temps have been 100+ too many days for me to count), but now that I’m thinking about it (and the fall temps have arrived), I’m sure we’ll be walking together again very soon.
After our morning walk, I make a hot cup of coffee and find a cozy spot to curl up and enjoy a slow morning. Coffee time sometimes includes breakfast, sometimes not. It also includes a bit of time on Instagram (check out my account HERE), and maybe reading a new magazine or book I’ve picked up from our local library. And if Bill is making bread, I’ll pop in the kitchen to score the loaf before baking.
And about once a week, coffee time includes errands the two of us run together after I make a cup of coffee to for the road. We may do a bit of grocery shopping, head to the mill to pick up feed for the chickens or stop by a local garden center to buy more plants.
Create & Learn
I include lots of daily “create & learn” time on my schedule. This is by far my favorite part of my retirement routine. Now that I’m not working, I truly enjoy using my free time to create and learn. I also capture what I’m creating as content for my blog and Instagram.
My creative activities include antiquing, gardening, baking, playing the piano, home projects and writing. I’m also continuously learning about growing cut flowers, photography, videography, editing and website development.
I love the water and take a swim class 2-3x a week at noon. The exercise is great, as it is chatting with the women at the pool. But mostly it’s the water that I love. I find it very relaxing and good for the soul.
Better yet, before retirement I took a water class twice a week at 6am so that I could make it to work at a reasonable hour. Swimming at noon is so much better! I did say retired life is amazing! Right!?!
Going to Town
About once a week, I head into town to run errands, wash my car, take care of appointments and have lunch with girlfriends. And if I don’t have an appointment, I might check out a local thrift store or favorite boutique while I’m in town.
Last summer I started volunteering at our local food pantry for 3 hours each week as a shopper. Bill joined me and now he volunteers about 15 hours a week at the pantry.
Volunteering as a shopper is simple and rewarding. The pantry has an online volunteer system that allows you to see what days/times volunteers are needed and a provides a sign-up system that can be completed the day of and up to a month in advance. The system also allows you to cancel if your schedule changes prior to your volunteer slot.
Dinner at Home
Bill and I eat dinner at home together most nights of the week. And we both cook. We don’t have a master plan but rather let one another know if we’re planning dinner that day as well as what we’re planning to cook.
Around 5:30pm each evening, Bill and I meet up in the living room to watch the nightly news then we pop up at 6pm, head to the kitchen and finish making dinner (which one of us has typically prepped prior to the news starting).
Gardening & Time Outdoors
After dinner, we clean up the kitchen and then head outside to the garden. Bill takes care of the veggie garden and our property. I take care of the cut flower and herb gardens (and try to avoid getting eat up by mosquitos…I really have no idea why they seem to prefer me to Bill).
We might also take a ride on Pippi, walk Midge or play a game of chase with Pippi and Midge (if you have a bird dog, you’ll understand my meaning).
Day Trips and Eating Out
Finally, every week-typically Fridays, Bill and I go on an outing. Sometimes we simply go out to eat at one of our favorite local restaurants. And other times we head to a restaurant further away.
Our most recent outing was to Eischen’s Bar for lunch in Okarche, it’s a 90-minute drive from our home and well worth the drive. The fried chicken is fantastic. We also took a detour through Oklahoma City to stop at Costco. We have a thing for grocery stores, big and small.
Other times we intentionally make a day of it. Heading out early in the morning to an event (like the monthly Tulsa Flea Market), grab lunch and make additional stops (most likely garden centers, antique shops and grocery stores) depending on the town that we’re visiting.
Should retirees include regular commitments in their retirement routine?
Maybe? Maybe not? There’s not a right answer, but it is an important question to consider.
As you are considering your retirement routine, one of the questions to consider is “are you ready for commitment?”
I’ve quickly learned that I’m not ready for commitment. I don’t want someone else to expect me (much less require me) to show up on a regular basis at a specific date and time.
For me, regular commitments to someone besides myself, my spouse and my loved ones feels like work…and I’m retired! Who needs that?!? As a university professor, I had commitments, lots of them and I gave them up when I gave up the salary to go along with the responsibilities.
But, Bill, my husband-also retired, is a bit different and has committed to regular service to our local community.
Let me explain, about a year ago we both started volunteering at our local food pantry. Typically, once a week for 3 hours to help clients shop for groceries. It’s a great organization and service that both of us support.
After about 6 months of volunteering, I was asked to train for intake and Bill was asked to help with grocery recovery. Both require a regular weekly commitment.
Since then, Bill has committed to showing up every Wednesday to help with grocery recovery and I have decided that a higher level of responsibility isn’t for me.
My gut said no…and that’s ok.
I’m not ready for a weekly commitment. Instead, I continue to volunteer as a shopper, sometimes deciding early in the week that I will volunteer and sometimes waiting until the last minute to check the volunteer system and see if volunteers are needed that morning or afternoon.
Should you create a retirement routine?
So, should retirees commit to new schedules? It’s completely up to you, give yourself a bit of time to adjust to not having a work schedule, explore different opportunities and do what fits your personality and motivations best.
Each of us is different (even spouses are different).
And keep in mind that it’s ok to change your mind. Maybe a few years down the road, I’ll be ready for a weekly commitment. Who knows?
Cheers to retired life, and as always, happy gardening!
x Penny Pennington Weeks