Doing Nothing?

When you do nothing, nothing happens.

The 21st Century Retirement is not about doing nothing. It’s not about sitting on the porch and watching the world go by, although that could be a nice short-term activity. It’s about figuring out what you love to do, and then doing that. Doing, not sitting.

The TIAA Voices of Experience 2016 Survey concludes that the busier you are in retirement, the happier you are! They recommend being involved in 10 activities: socializing with friends, caregiving, sports (active or spectator), working/new career, giving back to community (volunteering), personal interests (hobbies, reading), fitness/exercise, creative pursuits (writing, arts, crafts), teaching/mentoring, travel.

When full-time work stops, suddenly you’ve got no pre-arranged meetings, no full-time commitments, no performance reviews, no project deadlines. That’s all great.  But, there is also a lot of time that is no longer filled. You’ve got the freedom to choose what to do and what not to do. But that can be challenging and scary. So many options can lead to paralysis. It’s time for the creation of new hobbies/activities or the expansion/continuation of old ones. Don’t worry if it’s the right thing to do — try something and if it doesn’t work out, move onto something else!

Tips on getting started that helped me:

  1. Book some classes in what interests you.   On-line classes, local community groups like OLLI, local university adult education, etc.   Pick 5 things you want to learn about (for me that was cognition, writing, astronomy, pottery, and cooking)… then pick 5 more. I am contemplating what will my next 5 be!
  2. Create (or expand) an exercise program. I had to create one – Zumba, Yoga, Walk & Talks are the core of it. This summer I hope to add in SUP.
  3. Join (or create) a club or group. Church, Meet-ups, and volunteering are great sources for this. I created a monthly food club and joined the on-line blogging community. I tried a philanthropic committee but did not find it fulfilling. I’ve still got joining a book club and linking into a birding community on the to-do list!
  4. Plan the travel you’ve wanted to do, whether it’s exploring everything local or becoming a world traveller. Pick 5 places to explore and plan the trips! Our big excursions so far included a long weekend in New Orleans and a 21-day African Safari.
  5. Put focus on (creating and) maintaining relationships, as workplace connections continue to wane. I did this both IRL and virtually with my blogging community.

Be aware of mindless distractions and use them by choice (FB, video games, YouTube or Internet meandering).  Don’t let them use you.

Find a community of like-minded individuals/life travellers to share the ups and downs, provide support and encouragement, or to have fun with along the journey.

The 21st Century Retirement is a about doing what you want, when you want, and with whom you want.   It’s not about doing nothing (just waiting for the end.)

 

Are you involved in 10 different types of activities on a regular basis?

 

Picture Credit: Pixabay

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48 thoughts on “Doing Nothing?

    1. thanks! I have quite a few on-line buddies I wish were closer so we could be IRL friends! I do believe someday I will meet up with some of you-all. Where is home for you BTW?

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      1. El Paso, Texas is where I have lived since 1988. My hub’s family is in Tipp City and Troy so maybe we will meet up one day.

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  1. I am too guilty of allowing those mindless distractions to use me. My encore career often involves waiting for work to come from a client. Filling the wait time has been a big challenge. This post comes at a good time to remind me to apply some discipline and the List of 10 is a big help.

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    1. Leigh, thanks for letting me know! Hopefully you can find some things that match your interests to fill in the time without it being mindless distractions. When I was dealing with lots of waiting time (cancer treatment), I always carried a book with me – either on a topic I was interested in or just one of my relaxing books (romance or mystery) – at least then I got a feeling of accomplishment in finishing a book… better than just another game in Bejeweled. 🙂

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  2. Thanks, Pat, for sharing your tips. I agree early retirement is a great opportunity to be creative with our days. Having a plan to address the non-financial aspects of retirement makes the transition from full-time work to full-time ‘blank canvas’ easier, and likely more satisfying.

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    1. So many folks focus only on the financial part pre-retirement…. I know I did. And while that’s important, the blank-canvas can be daunting! It’s taken me while to fill it and hopefully, I can help others with some how-to’s that worked for me!

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  3. When I first read this, I thought, “Ten activities! Holy Cow, that’s a lot!” And then I started counting my own. And I agree with the other Bobs. I can easily tick of ten items on my fingers, without even thinking too hard. And like Bob said, it’s about doing things in my own way, on my own schedule. Great post, Pat! ~ Lynn

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    1. Lynn, I know… I felt the same way until I started counting! I talked with a couple of folks this past week who were so worried about retirement because they didn’t know what they would do. With one guy, I was able to get him to recall out a put-away dream that was totally feasible in about 5 minutes of talking! (that was pretty cool… he was “wow, I could see that happening”). I think for some folks it’s hard to figure out how to fill the time and then for others, it’s hard to figure out how to slow down and enjoy the stillness of being. And both are important I think – being engaged in life and also finding time to just be! The comments have been interesting on this one!

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  4. Ten activities? I have never counted but, like the other Bob above, I think I have exceeded my target number. Of course, it does fluctuate, but 10 seems about right.

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    1. Hi Bob, I was actually surprised when I counted my own. The past 2 months I was feeling more like I was “living the life I wanted” and when I counted, I did exceed the 10. I viewed the 10 less as a target and more as a concept of being involved in a multitude of things that engage you mentally, physically and socially. Not every day; maybe not even every week. Good to hear from a longer-term “Satisfied” retiree that it’s real!

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    1. Thanks Mary Lou! Living each moment is exactly how I am approaching each day. Sometimes it’s a learning process to appreciate it all… the idea of a multitude of activities to fill those moments helps me.

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  5. I agree retirement isn’t a time to sit on the porch (or verandah as we call them in Australia) but I don’t think we need to fill every day with lots of activities either, we do still need some time to sit and contemplate. I am also vehemently opposed to the concept that all retirees should be volunteering as part of their fulfilment/contribution. It isn’t for everyone. Having said that it is a time for re-wirement and seeking out new opportunities, I am all for that. Sharing this.

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    1. Jan, it’s surprising to me how many folks took the list as a check list and the number as every day! As I’ve said to some others, the list for me was options to engage you mentally, physically and socially. I will never play sports…and have found volunteer work less than fulfilling. And sitting still, watching a sunset, doing self reflection is a great activity to add to your multitude of things to do. Personally, I used a month for thinking about my number…which exceeded 10 easily. And yes, there were a few days where writing and reading were the only activities! Even my FitBit couldn’t get me off the couch those days.

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  6. Retirement is not a one size fits all. I feel that I am not really busy but I am quite content with what I am doing. We like to travel and spend time with family plus we have friends we spend time with. Husbands cancer diagnosis has changed some of our plans but we try to keep things interesting.

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    1. Victoria, Agree one size does not fit all. And yes, challenges like major illness can really shift things. I hope your “keeping things interesting” brings you peace and happy moments thorough the challenge of cancer care.

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  7. I have always maintained that retirement isn’t for the faint hearted. There is a huge responsibility in managing the time that freedom from formal employment offers. The list of 10 is fairly concise and many are “two fors,” i.e. socialize while exercising, taking in a sporting event, mentoring, volunteering, etc. I always had a full life. Paid employment afforded me many opportunities for extra-curricular activities. Now I have more time, less money (that’s all relative). I socialize much more in retirement than I did previously b/c I have more time. Each day I strive to do something that needs doing and something that wants doing.

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    1. Mona, I like the two-fors! I’m a big believer of walk & talks with friends.

      I also like the idea of everyday doing something you need and something you want. I’ll have to see if that holds true in my normal living. Thanks for the idea.

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  8. I had to learn to slow down after retirement and it took about 3 years, and getting cancer, to realise NOTHING is also OK. I have been task driven but I am slowly doing things and enjoying the mindfulness of them more. I do an art project each day, go out in nature somewhere, dress for the day in nice clothes and go out for a coffee. I enjoy chatting to people and I love the connections made via blogging. Denyse #MLTSL

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    1. I do agree, sometimes doing nothing is OK, but doing nothing all the time… not so much.

      But then you list 4 things you do everyday! Wonderful things – art project and in nature. When I thought about listing my activities, I looked more monthly, as some things I do are monthly activities. And yes, I listed sitting on the beach watching the waves this month as an activity!

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  9. Still working full-time but a corner of my brain is already working on what I will be doing in retirement. This post reinforces what I already suspected – it’s good to be have a plan to get involved in many different things – all the things you wanted to do while working but never had the time/energy to make happen!!! Gonna start emptying out my brain onto paper, after work tonight. The retirement activity goal list begins…Thanks, Pat!

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    1. Definitely, please make sure you’ve written down all those thing you wanted to do while working but didn’t have time/energy. That’s the beginning of your possibilities list and a great starter list for creating the retirement plan. Not the financial plan…. the life plan!

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  10. Thanks for this post! I was not aware of this survey. Looking at all this data reminded me of work! When I first saw the number 10, I thought it was ridiculous and too high. Then I read the survey and counted my own activities (which quickly exceeded 10.) It’s not clear to me that they are recommending any particular number, rather just reporting the data. But they clearly recommend staying active to be happy. I noticed the highest scoring question was spending time alone with personal interests. I say relaxing on the porch doing nothing fits in that category!

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    1. Tracey, LOL. I agree with relaxing and doing nothing can be one of the activities. Not just the only one. And yes, my own list quickly exceeded 10 as well, recently. I felt the number was more about thinking multitude, not a specific target. I think we need to continue to break the old images of retirees….today, more and more, we are very active … the number 10 shouldn’t be considered ridiculous, but more “of course”!

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  11. I thought 10 things sounded like a ridiculously large number Pat – then realized (when I saw what they were) that I can tick most of them off and I’m still working part-time. The travel one is on hold a bit atm and I like how our blogging community links into the picture too. I totally agree that it’s not about sitting around waiting to die – or waiting to be entertained – or waiting for the children to visit – life would be pretty dull indeed if that were the case 🙂

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    1. Leanne, Yes, when you take a step back and start thinking about the various things you are engaged in mentally, physically, and socially…. the numbers can go up pretty quickly! If you’re not engaging in all 3 spaces, then hopefully you can find inspiration to start. You, even still working part time, are probably engaging in all 3 already. It’s not necessary to tick off all the boxes in the list…. I personally will never be playing a sport. But I will be active physically in other ways. 🙂

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  12. Ha ha. Ten different activities would be a small number! My head spins from everything I’ve got going on. It ranges from setting up businesses for my wife and me, travel, building stuff in my shop, cooking, roasting coffee, smoking meats, singing in a choir, organizing home improvement projects, collecting wine, reading, working out……..whew! But, am I happy? Yes. I am doing what I want, when I want, with whom I want. You can’t ask for much more.

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    1. Bob, Of course that number is low for you. You’re an outlier. But I think the 10 is really more about doing a multitude of activities that engage you mentally, physically, and socially. I also started counting myself and when I hit 14, stopped counting! The past few months a lot of new things were added and yes, I’m happier than ever. LOL.

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  13. I guess I was fortunate to find my writing side career for retirement. Between research, writing, editing, marketing, blogging, social media, I have to find time for the rest of my life. LOL!

    #MLSTL visitor (shared on SM)

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    1. So agree Molly. I keep wondering when the stereotype of the old retirement will go away. So often, I talk to folks coming close to retirement and they wonder “what will I do all day? I can’t just sit around.” While I don’t think the “10” is absolute, the idea happy retirement is being engaged in a multitude of things is the message folks need to hear!

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  14. I totally agree Pat. I struggled when I first retired as working full time had pretty much taken up my life. I’m still a WIP but have my running, yoga and workouts, time with my grandsons, travelling with my husband and have now started working through Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way – It’s Never Too Late’, thanks to you and Molly. I find my group is my ST60 & Beyond FB group and love the community of bloggers. Retirement is so much different to anytime before and we are certainly making the most of it. I would add though that we shouldn’t feel guilty for taking time out to do nothing. Sometimes, I just need to chill out and do nothing for any afternoon just to rebalance myself. Have a beautiful week and thanks for joining us at #MLSTL.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

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    1. Sue, I agree that sometimes doing nothing is absolutely critical! But it’s also critical to not just sit back and assume things will happen after you retire. Often while working, so many things happen to you (meetings, deadlines), but now, you need to be actively engaged to make things happen…plan your running, travels, blogging time, even personal development. I’m a planner, but even I struggled a bit with getting things going. And yes, I’ve been happier with the range of activities I’m engaged in… including downtime and doing nothing sometimes.

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  15. I think it’s important to stay engaged (I purposely didn’t say “busy”) in retirement. I agree with Karen that a seemingly arbitrary number like “10” activities sounds a bit silly. Do what interests you and makes you happy… if it’s just a few activities or many. Your list sounds great. I especially like how you also included “or create” in the club or group category. I know you’ve been proactive doing that and I think it’s a good reminder that sometimes we can take the lead (even if it’s outside of our comfort zone).

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    1. Janis, totally arbitrary. Years ago, I helped create the “7 signs of aging” Olay Campaign. The idea behind the 7 was that it was a litany, and each individual item wasn’t really that critical. To me, the 10 is more about the diversity of things, versus just moving into a second career, and staying being a workaholic focused on one thing. It indicated having lots of passion-ettes! And I just started counting the activities I engage in regularly (monthly) and stopped counting at 14….and there are so many things still on my possibilities list.

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  16. Hi Pat,
    I’m all for the intention behind the Voices of Experience survey results and agree that doing nothing in retirement is an easy way to die while still breathing. I’m also a big fan of some items on their list like continuing to learn and creative pursuits. But their urging of TEN different kinds of activities on a regular basis leaves me cold. I’ve been overcommitted for forty years. The very last thing I want to do in retirement is stay overcommitted. Where’s the mindfulness that we now have time to enjoy? the slow, easy days without appointments and without guilt? The massive amounts of time that are required if, for example, we pursue a creative activity like writing a book that won’t ever get written if it has to be squeezed in between mentoring, caregiving, and sports.

    Your plan makes sense to me. Their ten activities doesn’t. Whew – I had no idea I felt this strongly. Thanks for posting this Pat. It was helpful to me in clarifying how I’m feeling about commitments!

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    1. Hi Karen (and Pat), I had a similar reaction as yours. After 36 years of deadlines, todo lists, responsibilities to others, I am working on stillness in retirement. I’m learning to be ok with not ‘doing’ and that has been a challenge. Drinking my morning coffee while gazing out from my porch hasn’t been easy but has been necessary. There are times that just ‘being’ really makes me happy in a way that I never had space and time to feel when working. Taking time to learn about me and my wants and desires has been a day to day process. There are many things I want to do and bit by bit I am beginning to do them. I appreciated your comment, it made me feel less alone. Carol

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      1. Hi Carol, it’s always interesting when something I write creates controversy in comments. I actually agree about learning to just be at times. It’s been hard for me – yoga and mediation have helped, but I still find challenge in stillness. I’m glad you’ve found the joy of stillness!

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      2. Hi Carol, I just took a look at your website and will be back to visit more often. We share a common work background. I know what you mean about the day to day process of learning about ourselves. It’s exhilarating after all of these years of deadlines and doing for others to finally have the time to just ‘be’.
        Keep going with the morning coffee on the porch, Carol. I’m rooting for you. Karen

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    2. Karen, I felt a bit different with the list…more that they were options. I’m not ever going to be doing sports – never have and never will! What I did like was the inclusion of personal interests. For me, a personal interest is mindfulness! And I also didn’t take it as 10 activities in a day… the “ten” to me was more about diversity of activity versus doing one thing… like being a second career, workaholic again.

      I’m also more about not over committing …. and yet, over the course of a month, I actually do multiple things. I haven’t counted to see if it’s ten…hmmm.

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      1. Hi Pat,
        I hope you didn’t feel that I was taking aim at you in my rant about the survey results. I’ve just published my metaphorical road trip post and it’s all about going within and getting still – for a long time. Encouragement from the survey people to do the opposite is, for me right now, like waving my very favourite sugary dessert in front of my sugar-deprived self. It would be so very easy to stay busy. It’s what I know. It’s what I’m good at. It’s also exactly the wrong thing for me right now. If I were in a different place, I’m sure I’d have the same positive response to the survey that you did.

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  17. Hi Pat! I’m not actually retired just yet…but everything I read about retirement reinforces what you’ve stated. We all need meaning and purpose throughout our lives. Even though it might sound attractive to do absolutely nothing, having some direction and filling our days with activities that matter is sure to add to our happiness AND our longevity. Good for you for having such a great plan! ~Kathy

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    1. I was intrigued with the idea of “10 activities” especially as they talked about the range of things it included. And if one of those things is some time doing nothing, that is good too! I’ve talked with many soon-to-be retirees who worry about what to do, so this was a fun way to lead into some how-to’s.

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