It seems like if you look back on your working career, there was never enough time to do it all! Of course, career requirements for most took up large chunks of days, weeks, and months, with leftovers of minutes or hours allotted to other concerns–families, vacations, activities with friends, and maybe even some travel or hobbies. I know that as a working parent, I was always juggling the tradeoffs of the demands of work life and the time required to be spent away with the life and role as a mother to my three kids. They say that time is like a currency and there’s rarely a way to ‘earn’ it; the trick is figuring out how to spend it to get the most value for your investment!
Yet when work requirements go away or diminish, as retirement looms, why is there another scarcity of time? I have to laugh at the irony of those who are in retirement who say there’s NOT ENOUGH TIME to do what they want! And it’s true, a sense of urgency and surely a matter of prioritization comes into focus when now there is time available, but also, many competing interests- more than ever- for that time!
I think for some, it’s an eye-opener to realize that their long-awaited dreams or hobbies can now be pursued, unimpeded by the interruptions that work required. My father-in-law, when asked if he missed flying the planes in his former occupation replied, “Heck no! I don’t know how I ever had time for work before!” This was a pretty honest assessment of the way he had filled his days, working on cars and projects he had always wanted to pursue. But the fascinating perspective isn’t when retired people say, “I have ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD to do what I want now that I’m no longer in the workforce” but when each person realizes that he or she does NOT have all the time in the world left. I don’t think it’s morbid to say–we are all terminal–we are! And there’s a point for some sooner than later, when we get the aha! that there is a finite amount of time left, to spend on people, activities, and things we value most.
So, there it is, the prioritization of our use of time in retirement. Many I have spoken to cannot envision what their retirement looks like, because they’ve been so busy working and juggling time-supply demands that they haven’t taken some moments, here and there prior to retirement day, to think about how they will spend that precious currency after work ends. Others who do recognize the limit of what is left, begin to feel somewhat anxious that they will not have the opportunity to realize a long-held dream or pursuit, understanding the nature of life and the effect on physical and/or mental abilities as we age. There is panic, not prioritization, and surely it cannot be a healthy condition to have this induced pressure or contrived stress about the limits of time left.
One more factor in considering your approach to retirement and use of that time is that with no hard demands or requirements, the time it takes to do something expands to the time you have (known as Parkinson’s Law and related to the coefficient of inefficiency). Ask any college student or retiree, and they will tell you it’s true! I’ve noticed this effect when there is one event on the calendar, say, a night out with friends or for dinner, and whereas you could dash over after a full day of work and putting kids to bed, now the entire late afternoon is devoted to “getting ready to go”, and even driving leisurely to the event. This kind of “relativity” can either cheer you or concern you, but it’s important to make an opportunity to think about what YOU want to do with your most valued currency – the time you have left. Some vision, some philosophy, and some consideration of what will bring you contentment in retirement is worthy of spending that time now, before you retire, to make the most of your time in the future!