Recently I chatted with an old work friend, and shared the update that we quit our jobs last year and are now retired. After the usual “Wow!” and “So jealous!” reactions, the friend asked, in all seriousness:
But what are you actually going to do? You don’t know how to be retired.
This is a common sentiment, one that most of us who’ve talked about early retirement to non-FIRE folks know well. It usually goes along with “But won’t you be bored?!” and other similar questions that bloggers often dismiss out of hand. And I hear it especially often from people who’ve known me in a work capacity, who know that my interest in nearly everything and eagerness to get my hands dirty usually results in saying yes to too much.
But the question raised something else for me:
The idea that not knowing how to be retired is somehow bad.
Why would we ever expect to be instantly good at something, despite not having ever done it before? Isn’t it okay not to know how to do something at first?
Maybe, despite how much we might look forward to it or dream of it, we actually have to learn how to be good at retirement. Or at least some of us do, those of us who have always willingly chosen the faster paced life path. Occasionally when I’ve written posts about things like acknowledging what you like about work and trying to replicate that in retirement, I’ll get a naysayer comment along the lines of, “You’re doomed. If you like work stuff, you’ll never last in retirement!” And without reopening the debate about whether retirement can include work (spoiler: it can and often does), those comments strike me as not just wrong and bizarrely mean, but also incredibly short-sighted. Because:
Anything that we can master instantly probably isn’t that worthwhile anyway.
The things that feel best in life are those we have to earn, and early retirement is earned not just in saving up for it, but by learning how to be good at early retirement itself.
Obviously we’re not there yet. We’re still catching up on sleep. (I know! Still.) We’re still figuring out how to not keep forgetting to put the trash out on garbage day, because what are days of the week again? We’re still very much in the “one day at a time” phase of things where we aren’t planning too much because we don’t know whether we’ll want to be home or traveling over the summer, or next week, or tomorrow.
But we’re game to learn. We’re highly motivated to get good at early retirement, which we define as successfully living out our purpose while still feeling relaxed and free to do whatever we wish on a given day. We’ve got the relaxed part down pretty well and the free to do whatever part is coming along. But those things alone would get hollow fast if we weren’t also living with purpose.
(If you haven’t already figured out what your purpose is, I recommend doing this exercise. Mark and I are lucky that ours overlap so solidly, though he’s definitely heavier on the adventure side, and I’m heavier on creative stuff.)
And one thing that we aspire to get better at in this purpose-filled life we’re working toward is living slowly. Peeling away all those bad habits from a life lived constantly on the go. Those habits took time to form, they were with us for many years and it turns out they’re hard to break.
Or, maybe it isn’t about habits as much as we just don’t know how to live slowly.
So that’s what we’re focusing on now. Learning how to live differently. More deliberately. Learning how not to be in a hurry, a feeling that has become unfortunately foreign to me over the last decade.
Not just embracing the idea of a slow life, but building the skills to really live it.
A few weeks back, I wrote about simple living, or what we really think of as simpler living. Just being able to streamline a few decisions, rather than seeking some endpoint of perfection, is already helping us feel more grounded and rooted in our new life. Simpler living and slower living are closely related, but to me they feel slightly different. Simpler living is about the choices we make, and attempting to keep our lives less cluttered, both physically and metaphorically. Slower living feels much more a feeling and a mindset, and achieving it will require us to rewire our brains a bit.
At this point in my life, after years of gold star seeking and commitment to do whatever is necessary for the job, I’m wired to hurry. So many things have been so urgent for so long that that feeling of urgency just transcended everything. I’d rush down the airport concourse, even if I was super early for my flight. I’d feel impatient at the grocery checkout even when I had plenty of time. Hurrying became my mental script, and it was hard to shut it off.
Of course, I caught myself doing these things, and I’d slow down, for a moment anyway. But as soon as my attention was elsewhere, the force of habit took back over. And so that’s where I am now, trying hard to break that impulse to walk faster than necessary, to feel urgency for no reason, to constantly wonder what deadline I’m forgetting about. I’m sure this description makes me sound neurotic, but it’s not that. It’s just how my brain coped with having an on-call-at-all-hours client-serving job. And now I’m unlearning all of that and being intentional about the way I want my brain wired.
This post is definitely not a how-to, by the way. I’m brand new to this slower life thing, and I fully expect to need some time to get this new wiring in place. So consider the post fifty percent sharing what I and we have been doing so far, and fifty percent call for ideas, because I believe in the wisdom of the crowd, or at least the wisdom of this crowd. ;-) So please chime in in the comments and share what works for you to help you mentally slow down, or what you could imagine yourself doing when you’re ready to live more slowly.
Our Slow Life Training Regimen
Perhaps I’ve seen too many of those ads for brain training for folks as we age, but I’ve been thinking about the new things I’m doing as my brain training. And I do feel it working, though I still have some way to go!
Adopt a New Mantra – I went for some yoga inspiration on this one (I taught it for 10 years, after all), and decided to start using a mantra to shift my focus whenever I find myself wanting to rush, or just in moments that make sense. The idea with a mantra is to put your mental focus where you want it, and by doing that, to change some aspect of how you think or how you feel. Or, put another way, you are what you think. The simplest example would be to imagine walking around all day saying to yourself, “Everything sucks.” If that’s what you’re saying to yourself, that becomes like a self-fulfilling prophecy, and you’re going to see things through that negative lens. If, instead, you walk around saying to yourself, “What a beautiful day!” you will surely see and interpret things that you encounter more positively. My new mantra: “I got nowhere to be.” (It’s even grammatically incorrect! See how far I’ve come!) And I will confess: I love saying it. I say it out loud, I say it to myself, and each time I get the thrill of remembering that holy crap, we actually did it. But more importantly, it’s an ongoing reminder that there is no longer any need to hurry.
Keep Most Days Blank – A few days ago, I mentioned our “one appointment per day, max” rule. And I think that’s been a great rule! If I feel like things are coming up, my mind is on the calendar, and thinking about time and schedules is a sure-fire way to get my brain into hurry mode. So I’ve decided that one appointment per day is still too many. I need whole blank days, preferably a few in a row. It doesn’t mean I won’t get anything done those days, but just that there’s nothing scheduled that I must remember not to miss. I’m not putting a number on it, but I have felt most connected to a sense of slowness when I’ve had three appointments or fewer per week, leaving at least four days completely unscheduled.
Think of the To Do List Differently – Similar to having to be at set appointments, Mark and I both feel aware when we have things to do, even if they don’t need doing that day. It’s not stress exactly, but just a small back-of-the-mind reminder that if we go ski powder today or sleep in instead of taking care of that thing, we’re only making things pile up on the to do list. Except that’s just the bad brain wiring, because our to do lists are much more manageable these days, and we truly can put things off a few days with no problem. So instead of writing out lists of tasks by day (or entering them into Asana by day, as I do), we’re writing them by week or even month. This approach might end up making us feel like we’re scrambling at the end of the week or month, but so far it’s given us some relief from the mental list-keeping and allowed days to truly feel open.
Set Big Picture Goals – I’ve realized that one of the reasons I feel hurried is a bit of personal FOMO, like I’m going to spend all my time ticking things off my to do list but not actually doing anything big, anything I’d feel proud of or that would connect to my purpose. So even though it sounds like the antithesis of slow living to spend time thinking about goals, I think they actually go together perfectly. We’ve started taking time to ask each other what we want to accomplish by the end of the winter (the ski season definition, not the technical one), what we want to accomplish this summer and what we want to have done by the end of the year. Actually having a few things set in each category provides some relief and reminds us that it’s all completely manageable and doable, so there’s no need to rush or feel impatient to make any of it happen.
Making Peace with the Phone on the Nightstand — For years I have aspired to get our phones out of the bedroom, and we’re not there yet. And we may never be! Because we’ve both realized that we feel much more comfortable taking the morning slowly when we know what’s going on in the world. That could just be our old work selves still talking, and it could certainly change, but right now I enjoy the feeling of being able to check in on world events and email without having to stand up and go to a device. Some mornings we read news for an hour or more before one of us feels inspired to get up and make coffee, and some days we even go back to sleep after doing a quick scan, something that would be impossible once I’m upright. So, in a plot twist we didn’t see coming, we think the phones in bed are helping us stay out of the hurried mindset. Weird, right?! But hey, go with what works. (And then ignore the phones as much as possible throughout the rest of the day.) ;-)
Help Us Get Better at Slow Living!
Your turn, friends! Please share your best ideas or things you’ve learned in the comments so we can all load up on ideas for slowing down and training our brains to follow. Thanks in advance! :-)
P.S. I’ve updated last week’s post and the resources page to reflect this, but so many of you suggested in response to my affiliate link policy that, instead of removing the affiliate links if that income covers all my blog expenses in a year, I give any overage to charity – and I love that idea. See? Wisdom of crowds! Thank you to everyone who suggested it!
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Categories: post-retirement process
I so love the “one thing a day, max!” rule! It seems like such a great way to keep schedules in check and enjoy life at the same time.
Your purpose chart looks so amazing, can’t wait to keep seeing all the adventures you’ll have! :)
Slow living is something we need to work at too. We’ve noticed that since we are trying to get sidehustles off the ground, we are mostly wanting to cram work in anywhere and everywhere, almost to the point where we don’t really know how to relax except for that stupid-box in the evening. Definitely not sustainable in the long run, and something we need to work on!
This post reminded me of the concept of being institutionalized. Prisoners who are released after decades inside and just aren’t equipped to function on the outside.
Seems like it’s a good thing you got out of the rat race when you did. Imagine how hard it would be to slow down after 4 decades of a fast paced life?
First time commenter (is that a word?) here. Love your site and how positive it is. Way too much negative in the world, the press, on TV, etc., nice to read about things I’m interested in that are presented in such a positive way. Keep it up! We are I guess kind of trial running the retired lifestyle…sort of. We both work from home so have a great deal of freedom to come and go. We’re beach people, not mountains and snow people, and where we are (SW Florida, gulf coast) and our situation with work allows us to visit the beach at least a couple times a week. Don’t get me wrong, we both work full time and don’t short change our employer on our time, we are just able to parse out our hours so we can enjoy a nice morning stroll on the beach if we want to. We’re just a couple years from calling it a career. Have been FI for years, just not ready to walk away yet. Looking forward to it, but also wonder how the transition will be. That’s the biggest reason I have lurked on this site for a while, love to read what others who are retired, semi-retired have to say…that and I’m sort of a finance geek, and like I said, I like the very positive vibe here. Cheers all!
Some mornings we read news for an hour or more before one of us feels inspired to get up and make coffee
I’m struggling with slowing down in my semi-retirement, and my first recco would be to bring your news-reading down. A lot. There’s just too much hate and toxicity all around in the news, and can’t do anything about the vast majority of news anyway, it just creates stress. I used to be a voracious news consumer and after much advice from smart and still well-informed folks on the internet (Happy Philosopher being one), I went on a massive diet and am WAY WAY happier and less stressed. You don’t however, want to be ignorant. What I do is pick two trusted news sources and only read the big events of the world from them. Unfortunately these days there are ZERO news sources who aren’t heavily biased one way or another, so I pick one from each side and read about major events in the US & world.
I still do follow news about professional cycling races and famous mountain climbers though. Those don’t cause stress and only inspire me :)
And your comments about how fast you walk are very pertinent. I remember reading an article a good while ago about how waling speed in day to day activity is linked to stress, self-importance, anxiety, and a bunch of other things. I’ve been purposely trying to slow down mine. I think just the act of walking slower sends a message to the brain that “you’ll get there, things are gonna be alright. Just chill”.
I second the low-information diet. I’m much happier reading way less about politics and being unaware of the latest pop culture “scandal”. As for avoiding bias, I would disagree that all sources are “heavily” biased. But I feel like Americans are pretty parochial, so I go to the BBC for world news headlines and a totally different perspective.
I also recommend watching more cute animal videos. :-)
I third this! Since leaving journalism, I consume minimal news and I really don’t miss it.
Love this!! I have actually been thinking about the live slow part of the equation a lot recently. I find myself frustrated and rushed to get things done, even things I enjoy. What I have found that helps when I’m feeling that way during a task is to ask myself – what could be more important right now than _________? For example, preparing a healthy dinner for my family, exercising to improve my health, reading to open my mind, etc. Bonus points, it also gets me to look at the positive side of something. It also helps me realize what my priorities are – if I can actually truthfully answer the question it’s a good sign that my actions don’t reflect my priorities.
It doesn’t necessarily make me happy about mundane tasks like getting your oil changed or folding laundry. But it’s a start.
I’ve been thinking about the actual how-to of slow living lately, so I love this post. It’s Iike you can read my mind. I especially love your new mantra (the yogi in me can’t help it). I actually say I’ve got nowhere to be all the time. Just as a reminder. I often see people rushing all over the place- even when we were on vacation! I like to give myself the reminder that I don’t often have anywhere else I need to be at any given moment, it just feels that way sometimes.
I think we get so used to patterns and routines. That’s the hardest thing that I can imagine for myself, when my early retirement arrives. I can imagine a lack of structure being difficult after a month or so (after the typical vacation plus phase?)
This post is really good food for thought. You can plan ahead and try to be prepared, but you might be surprised by how the simple effect of no structure has you working to adapt. Looks like you guys are doing a fine job of figuring it out as you go. But the phone by the bedside? That has to go!
-Professor Feng Shui
One thing I found about retirement was, like it or not, there are certain minimum requirements for upkeep and maintenance I was never good at keeping up with because my life as a scientist was so insanely crazy. Being retired simply meant I procrastinated more. I went back to an old fashioned job jar. I have all those chores on individual pieces of paper. I pull out and do one each weekday, If I absolutely can’t stand the chore I pulled I put it back and pull another. It’s a silly little ritual for me but it works. Today’s chore is to fix the loose door on the fridge.
Hmmm. I’ve never considered looking at purpose in regards to how it overlaps with my husband. I can see why that would be good to know, though. And I have to set myself alarms or I still forget things like the garbage 😉
I feel your pain. While I’m even newer to this retirement thing than you and Mark, I have the need for some rewiring and slowing down as well. I love the institutionalized comment from My Son’s Father about being ill equipped to function on the outside. Since being retired I have had an 8 a.m. golf tee time when 9 or 10 would have been just as nice. I have just gotten back from my 5:30 walk with Tucker (our dog) so I could get to my 7 a.m. car maintenance appointment – something that could have been done at any time up to 7 pm today (I had a coupon :) ).
One of the first things I’m working on is sleep. Not catching up on it per se, but training myself to sleep longer and better. For my 35+ year career I only got 5 hours of sleep a night. I would typically wake up at 5 and go to bed at 12 when in the US. I travelled extensively around the globe so that was even harder on my sleep. For the past month I have been getting to bed by 10 but I wake up at 3 a.m. after my 5 hours of sleep. I’m afraid that this one is going to take some time to fix.
I like the mantra concept. After I became FI but was still working mine was “they can’t hurt me”. When things got a bit out of hand with work (too much work, very demanding customers, difficulties with projects, budgets, technology), I would say to myself “they can’t hurt me” as I was no longer working for money or fear of losing my job. It gave me peace and allowed me to quickly focus on what had to be done vs. getting distracted with any craziness.
I’m a Seven Habits guy so I have goals for each of these areas. It was fun to eliminate work (took up two roles – employee and boss) from my seven roles. I have goal and have kept them big and broad but do put a lot of smaller tasks into my “Todoist” app. I guess that I’m scheduling things mostly monthly as I put the “due date” for most tasks for the end of the month or the end of a quarter.
It will be fun to see how my struggles, successes and learnings from retirement align with yours and Marks.
You and I could be the same person! I am now on my fourth week of retirement at 52 and I traveled all over the world (about 6 million miles in 25 years) and spent decades on 5 hours of sleep. For the past 3 weeks I have been purposeful about using my Fitbit to track my sleep. I am now up to 6+ hours a night with a goal to get to between 7 and 8 regularly
I have also tried not to schedule things in the morning but my wife had me at the Mazda dealer at 8 am today for some service appointment. I am finding that my desire to slow down after decades of the hectic and hurried and packed solid days of working doesn’t align welll with her eexpectations of my now being home full time so we are adjusting still (to say the least)
Bottle m line it’s a process and I like the advice from Tanja and Mark on this subject. It took me two weeks to forget all the projects I had at work and to STOP worrying about whether or not they were finished or on track. While I don’t feel like the prisoner example above, it is a huge shift in how I function and it does come with the classic withdrawal symptoms
Best of luck (I have made all my tee times for 1:30 pm to force me NOT to make them at 8 am)
I am also looking forward to more Cubs games (as a season ticket holder I should use them more)
I have 7 million miles…ugh…too dang much travel for the both of us. You are getting your sleep back much quicker than I am but I will continue to work on it.
I grew up on the south side of Chicago but was a Cubbies fan my whole life…Can still name the 69 line up as announced by Jack Brickhouse…Santo, Kessinger, Beckert, Banks, the infield 3rd to first…
I am trying to integrate some slow living techniques while still working, and the calendar is a big one. Previously, as soon as I stirred awake, there was a flood of “hurry” (sometimes anxiety) and I immediately thought through my calendar for the day. Now, I block my calendar for portions of the day where I don’t take meetings to give myself time for walking, meditation, staring out the window (sounds silly, but a short screen break can go a long way) and generative work. I do acknowledge that this is easier as an independent worker and not consulting (when my downtime wasn’t “schedule-able” :) ).
Props to being able to start your day with the news! I cannot think of a worse way to kick off my day, haha. My morning RE dream is to wake up early, meditate, drink a glass of water/tea and go for a long luxurious walk or bike ride as the city starts to stir. You’ll get the hang of it, can’t wait to hear what all these free days bring about.
I love your quote on how if we can master something easily it may not even be worth it. That’s so true!
One thing that helps me to slow time down is simply having new experiences. Whether that be taking a different route to work, walking a new path, brushing my teeth with opposite hand, etc. when you are learning something new or doing something differently the brain has to take more time to process it which can give you the perception that time is going slower!
Just an idea that I recently tried out myself….take something away for a day. This might sound odd until you realize it shows you don’t need something as much as you thought you did. For example, if you are obsessed with being on time or looking at the clock then take away all the clocks in the house for a day. Remember that time still goes on without a clock. Before clock time we had event based time (ie: breakfast comes after waking up) and it is still there if you let it. My personal experiment was no screens for a day…so no phone, no tablet, no computer and no TV for 24 hours. Why? Because I’m used to using these all the time from my job and it was good to remind myself I don’t actually need them in retirement. Besides I got a lot of cooking and reading done when I took those away for a day. Best of luck.
I have just recently been trying to get back in to meditating. I am finding it very helpful to remind me to slow down and relax. Trying it for 10 minutes a day before I start my work day. We’ll see if I can stick with it, but I find that my mind is calmer and more peaceful.
One think I am wondering about a lot lately is the purpose side. I think your blog and Fairer Cents gives you some purpose, but I wonder about your non-profit work. I anticipate that combining significant travel with purposeful non-profit work is routine problem for the early retiree, and would love to hear more about how you intend to tackle it!
Second the interest in discussion of how to combine significant travel with purposeful non-profit work! As I approach RE, I am baffled about how I can dig deep into volunteering for some of my favorite orgs, but also be able to take off for a couple months at a time or even just a couple days but at the last minute! Both are important to me in early retirement, but they seem…if not mutually exclusive, just as frustrating (and guilt-inducing) to try to balance as my life is currently!
What an awesome food for thought post… Hubs and I talk about this all the time, re: what is our purpose and what would we actually use our time for if/when we FIRE. I think he would have no problem slowing right down and pursuing passion projects, whereas I struggle even on the weekends… like 48 whole hours with no objective to complete? After I read for 8 hours, and cook a lot… then what? I’m bored and feel guilty for being ‘lazy’. Haha, clearly I need to try some of your tricks to ease off the “I need to prove I was productive today” mindset.
Today marks TWO full years of early retirement for us. I think it is amazing how our relationship with time has changed. Instead of squeezing every minute for productivity, we have learned to soak time in and enjoy it – like a kid does on summer vacation. It’s really a second childhood in the best possible way.
I’m a SAHM for 22yrs so I’m very comfortable with slowly organizing my daily schedule. The reading phones first thing in the morning is interesting as my husband does that too. He walks fast, drives fast, reads fast… I get up, make coffee, read the NEWSPAPER, make lunches, workout, eat breakfast then check my phone. Interesting, I’ve never considered it could be work related phenom. You will find your “sweet spot”, give it time! Btw, when people ask me if I’m bored not working, I have always told them how could I be bored when everyday I have no boss and I organize my day as I like. I can’t imagine working and others telling me what to do all day long.
It sounds like you’re well on your way to slowing down. Maybe in addition to paring down the to do list, also think more mindfully about the fewer things you are doing. Let yourself connect smaller actions to your greater sense of purpose. For me, that means it’s ok to spread out my errands in a less efficient way if it lets me buy locally instead of one trip to the big box store. Chopping and prepping for dinner? Yes, I like the rhythm of getting organized and the ritual of cooking and feeding my loved ones. Washing dishes by hand? Um, no. That’s what my dishwasher is for (I have my limits).
Also, I think it’s fine for the fast-paced and slow-paced parts of you to coexist peacefully. It all feeds into the same purpose. We all contain multitudes, right? (To poorly quote Whitman.) Though I admit I am not the most obejctive person on this point, as my username implies.
I’m seeing so much self betterment going on through the process of you writing these thoughts down. Well done for the both of you on your next step of the path to the new life you are shaping for yourself.
Many years ago, I worked in the hotel industry and I was always surprised by how many retirees came back to work part time or full time. Now, these weren’t younger retirees like Mark and Tanja but men and women in their early to mid 60s and older. I would ask why they would come back to work instead of enjoying retirement. And they all said basically the same thing. They were getting bored and wanted something else to do. It was never a financial decision. At this point, as a person in my late 40s, nearing the potential for an early retirement, I can’t imagine being bored as I have quite a few things I’d like to do. But after talking to those folks that came back to work, I wonder if at some point, you don’t start to get bored.
Thanks for mentioning this. Yes, it’s quite likely that one’s perspective on this will change over a few years. There are some interesting FIRE bloggers who are writing more about their decision to go back to work after a year or so of early retirement. Reaching FI is fabulous, but–after a good bit of time relaxing and reveling in the time off–it’s possible that work might look more appealing. It might come down to whether we just have a series of one-off activities planned or guided by a purpose-driven future.
Hooray for slow living. Love that framing, Tanja.
Two things I recently did that are helping: one, I deleted the Twitter app from my phone and set a “Stayfocusd” chrome app limit of 1 hour per day on that site. I’m already seeing a benefit on that one.
I also am using the ‘nuclear option’ on Stayfocusd to block all internet usage for a period of time (with some exceptions like Gmail or Blogger, which nudges me to write rather than browse sites for hours).
In both cases, setting up a wall to troublesome technology has helped me focus on other things: my wife, our dogs, whatever I’m doing at the moment. Like you, I’m still figuring this stuff out.
I think we may borrow your approach to the to-do list, as well. As you noted in your goal setting podcast, we need to be careful with the way we set goals, especially if not achieving them comes with guilt/shame, or as you wrote in this post, just is creating a too-fast lifestyle that isn’t as enjoyable.
Love the Slow Life Training Regimen. In my transition from fast-paced NYC agency life to small ski town pace, I have enjoyed the art of slowing down. The biggest change has been trading efficiency for peace. I no longer look for the most efficient way to accomplish tasks. I now focus on having a great day and getting a few things accomplished along the way. My morning routine is about learning and creating which sets the tone for prioritizing fulfillment versus the to do list.
hit your phone with a hammer and don’t look back. it was made by el diablo. we use a painted chalk board on the kitchen wall for our little “do” list. there’s something appealing about analog that takes us back to a simpler and more relaxed time, like childhood.
Hahahaaha. Not going to happen! So long as we’re reaching for our phones less, we’re happy. Which might very well be more phone time than others feel good about, but that’s for each of us to figure out on our own. (P.S. Your comment was marked spam, but I cleared it. Hoping that won’t happen again, but if it does, I’ll clear it again.) ;-)
I wonder if your colleague’s comment alluded to something else too. Namely, the tendency we all seem to share of always needing something to do, something to entertain us, or something to keep our minds busy. What will you do if your mind isn’t consumed by work or a to do list? Going even further, what would we do if we weren’t so distracted by social media, TV or whatever we give our spare time to. I’ve had that feeling too – always needing to be busy with something. It’s easier to be busy than to spend time really thinking deeply about what you want, where you are, who you are or what creative road you would like to explore. In my opinion, having the time to think about living is one of the main benefits of simple and slow living. Opening up the opportunity to rest and think rather than going and doing is so important to happiness. Sometimes, doing nothing accomplishes so much more than doing all the somethings.
I was talking about this with Mrs. SSC this past weekend when we were house hunting and “town-scoping.” Several times she was like, “Um, you can still go before that car gets here.” I was like, “Meh, we’re in no hurry. We’ve got time.” It was a nice feeling to be able to “just be” and not feel rushed.
I’m excited to be able to slow down and am starting working on some things this week like working meditation back into my schedule. I figure if I can make it a habit now, it won’t be difficult when life gets more hectic in another 2-3 months and I’m trying to figure out a whole new schedule.
I like the mantra idea. I’ll have to adapt that one for myself. There are some good ideas up there in the comments. :)
I use music to set my pace for the day. Not that I have a soundtrack for my life, though that would be cool, but I do use music to set the tone for different activities. Having some acoustic guitar or classical or even Kenny Chesney streaming in the background of your day may help to mentally pace you.
I also like to do things that intentionally take time, like bake bread or knit or put coats of polyurethane on furniture. It’s a forced slowness that requires mental engagement. That way I’m slowing down while still feeling productive. And I’m getting used to it being productive enough. I didn’t do 5 things today, I did this one and it was enough. And because it took all day, I worked on enjoying the process.
Like you and Mark, we also set an annual horizon for projects. It helps us space them out financially and also helps keep the pressure off. Ours our mostly house based, but by setting one big project and 5 or 6 smaller projects for the year, it allows us to do them when it’s convenient rather than on a set, deadline based schedule.
We were feeling somewhat guilty that we were still checking our bedside phones for the morning news headlines before walking our dog and starting our coffee. It’s somewhat reassuring to discover that other people are experiencing similar withdrawal issues…
We took all of 2017 off for a mostly fun and activity-filled “gap” year: multiple cross-country car trips, coast-to-coast bike ride (just my husband, not me!), trying to learn a foreign language, etc. Starting in early 2018, we started to dig deeper into what our “purpose” is, whether we are really ready to adapt to a slower pace of life, etc. It sounds like you two got to that stage a full year before we did, and we’re curious to see what you think about this, going forward. Thanks for your thoughts on the subject.
I’m also in the learning phase of retirement…. I like how you’ve posed it as something new to learn and I hadn’t thought of it that way! I’ve undertaken a few personal challenges to help me have something longer term to focus on – a 30 day yoga challenge – I did it strictly too, 1 class a day for 30 days (no doubling up and taking 2 in one day and off another), 60 days no alcohol (that’s not really that difficult but I find it good to practice doing social things without it) and walking to and from school every school day with the kiddo (that’s been fun – our streak is not broken even when we have had a tiny bit of weather and I feel like we are on the home stretch now). I have a lot of space in my days and try not to commit or schedule too much because as we all know, the space allows us to be more creative and sort of allows for things to happen. We have also gotten several house projects knocked out and I’ve been able to be more involved and a better helper than I ever had previously and because of that, the project has gotten done quicker!
I’ve been experimenting with writing out a weekly list of stuff to accomplish to again, give me some, but not too much focus but mostly I’ve been trying to have lots of unstructured time. Here’s some cool stuff that has shaken out – been able to help a couple friends who were in a bind – since I’m retired, they didn’t feel guilt about calling to get help with something that they needed help with…. and I was sooo happy to help and sooo grateful to be retired to have the time and space to be there when a friend needed it. Also, we have been able to be more social and have friends and family over more frequently. My partner loves to cook and when I look back on the past 3-4 months, I want to say that 2 out of 4 weekends we are connecting with friends and family in meaningful, laid back and wallet-friendly ways by entertaining and feeding people in our home/yard. We were doing that before, but it’s happening on a more regular basis and it really makes me happy. I’ve been contributing to the meals in more ways than cleaning, making a killer salad and homemade salad dressing, even. I’m becoming known for my dessert making prowess – everything from scratch, of course, and I had no idea that would be part of the plan. It’s been fun. I held back on that stuff in my working days because I needed time to recharge on the weekends so that I could be super social, professional, locked in and always on for work. And the next day cleanup sort of stressed me out too…. now, it’s no big deal.
Ok, on the phone… I like my phone for my alarm because my alarm clock scares the crap out of me (the days when I need to set an alarm). My partner and I both experimented with regular alarm clocks for awhile but both went back to the phone; however, we have it on airplane in the bedroom and only tend to break that rule when the other is not home or in bed yet. :) It sounds like you are detoxing slowly from the phone and that’s ok. Just remember that it is a soul-sucking device and that moderation is important – I’m sure you have that in mind so I’m not too worried about ya.
I really like these posts about adjusting to life after hectic, demanding work. My husband is experiencing this with a new job. He resigned from a high stress job/career a couple of months ago. It was affecting his health and I was tired of hearing about how awful it was day after day. He found another job (too quickly) but had a 6 week break. He’s making substantially less but still over what we each need to make, amazing holiday schedule and PTO. He’s so surprised at how laid back his new firm is and he’s afraid he’ll be bored.I tell him this is a great exercise for him to ease into retirement in 4 years. I would love to have a less stressful job but can/will hang in there. 4 years isn’t that far off, right? 😂
Positive self-talk always works for me. I used to be in a hurry trying to accomplish too many things using so little time. With self-talk, I can remind myself to drive slowly, eat slowly and take short breaks. I also learn that doing a few things that will relax my mind like gardening or simply being in the backyard (deck area) help me manage my mind better. I always remind myself that there is no rush, that traffic and waiting should not bother me. The fact that there is really no emergency. Try self-talk, and you will be surprised as to how this can positively affect the way you deal with your daily life.
Embrace the bed-side phone! If it makes you feel more relaxed starting your day then that’s the right way to go for you two. This wouldn’t be for everyone but I totally get it. I went one step further and moved the coffee maker to the bed-side too!
Great post. We are almost one year into retirement now and still learning! The first few months were tough to slow down, as we had our daughter’s wedding to plan. But we are definitely in a more slow paced rythem now. Funny…when we first retired, we’d go on long walks on a trail near our home, and I’d zone out for most of the walk. I was still thinking about stressful stuff, and missing the beauty all around me. My wife would often snap me back and say things like, “did you even see those blue flowers we just passed?” “Try to stay more in the moment. Enjoy the now.” It was hard at first. Fast forward 10 months, and now we spend time (almost) daily walking and noticing the tiny changes of the trees and flowers. It takes time. We are still getting there, and loving every minute of it!
In my life, slow living doesn’t mean moving slower or doing less, it is my call to pay attention to NOW and not think about NEXT. I too still plan for the month. It’s nice to use my paper planner to review longer term dreams and goals and choose which to nurture. I also use my planner to write the daily things I do, and not what I plan to finish. The phone is my reminder device for things on an irregular schedule, like the trash you mentioned (every second week for us), or changing the furnace filter.
Noticing and appreciating everything has changed my pace a bit, but it has also improved performance on each thing I do. I do less and do it well.
I have also found that a routine is necessary for me. I sleep better when I have a consistent wake and bed time for example.
If you really want decelerate, consider doing something boring everyday, like a puzzle or a word search (not sodoku or crosswords or other quiz type things). There is something about doing boring things that screams I’ve got nowhere to be.
“So, in a plot twist we didn’t see coming, we think the phones in bed are helping us stay out of the hurried mindset.”
I wouldn’t have guessed it for y’all but I know that’s totally the case for me. I check messages but I only scan work emails for urgent things and don’t open anything that doesn’t look critical. Some days, I don’t open any work emails, and only open a few blog emails instead. If it weren’t for the kids (human AND canine), I’d go back to sleep too given the option ;D
OK, now I have the hang of this, LOL. First time commenter (is that a word?) here. Love your site and how positive it is. Way too much negative in the world, the press, on TV, etc., nice to read about things I’m interested in that are presented in such a positive way. Keep it up! We are I guess kind of trial running the retired lifestyle…sort of. We both work from home so have a great deal of freedom to come and go. We’re beach people, not mountains and snow people, and where we are (SW Florida, gulf coast) and our situation with work allows us to visit the beach at least a couple times a week. Don’t get me wrong, we both work full time and don’t short change our employer on our time, we are just able to parse out our hours so we can enjoy a nice morning stroll on the beach if we want to. We’re just a couple years from calling it a career. Have been FI for years, just not ready to walk away yet. Looking forward to it, but also wonder how the transition will be. That’s the biggest reason I have lurked on this site for a while, love to read what others who are retired, semi-retired have to say…that and I’m sort of a finance geek, and like I said, I like the very positive vibe here. Cheers all!
I’m so glad you’ve already learned that everything worth doing is worth practicing! So many new slow-skills to develop!
Just learning to sleep…
I can completely relate, its taken at least eighteen months to take the foot off the accelerator at work, knowing the retirement date is fine and having outside life stuff going on. I’m only now noticing still being able to sleep through the night and not care as much about work things that would bother the heck out of me.
I love posts like these on your blog that are basically previews for me of what I will be doing and thinking this time next year. I am super worried about learning to get good at early retirement, worried that I’ll be bad at it, and I hadn’t articulated it the way you did but now I love your framing of it. That it’s ok that it takes work and time to learn to be good at it, just like learning to be good at your regular job or at anything else in life. I like the permission it gives me to not be comfortable at first and not be completely blissfully happy. I think my mantra will be something like that – about how I’m just practicing and I have time to learn to get better!
So in fact, I was so worried about being bad at retirement (and so impatient to actually retire – huh, that’s sort of a weird paradox) that I decided one productive way to pass the time was to start seeing a coach (aka counselor) to help me figure out how to think about certain aspects of retirement. Relevant to this post, one issue I wanted to address is the push-pull between wanting to continue to be productive and have structured time, and really not wanting any of that AT ALL. I don’t know if it’s better to give in to my concerns and keep scheduling things and goals and to-dos as a way of easing in to retirement, or if I should try instead to reframe everything completely – that those were old coping mechanisms in my old life and I shouldn’t use them anymore. I suspect it will be a combo/balance of the two, but that’s a less easy answer in practice. My coach and I haven’t gotten to this question yet, but she’s such a creative thinker I am confident that we will discuss great ways to approach this.
Honestly I need more of all of this in my life (especially since this has been A Week). I’m horrible about always needing to feel productive and feeling guilty if I dare “waste” a weekend day doing nothing. I’ve never thought about “being good at retirement” being a skill but I definitely see it. We’ve spent our whole lives learning how to be busy and productive so it makes sense that we’d need to spend time and effort learning to be a different way.
I like how you framed it as learning something new: learn to become good at retirement. This helps to keep your priorities straight, relieves the guilt of not being busy all the time and helps your mind focus on practicing so that you become better at it.
Slow life makes us aware of what’s happening in our lives.