I’ve been feeling wrong for having put structure into place in my retirement – my need for daily and weekly routines, having things planned, keeping track of experiences..Maybe I perceive expectations or critiques that are not there, but too often I’m hearing that structure or planning is the wrong thing in retirement. (Yes, I am once again hearing expectations that I am not fulfilling.) I hear, “Retirement is about leaving behind a work-driven structure.” I hear, “You need to just go with the flow.” I feel I am supposed to just be spontaneous, not have expectations, let life happen.
All the articles I’ve read (of course I researched the topic!) indicate that completely unstructured time is more detrimental than positive. Structure is not a bad thing, if it is set up based on your values, interests – a desire for healthy living, activating a retirement lifestyle vision.
Reading up on the pros and cons of structure, it was nice to read there are many pros to having structure. Structure includes habits, routines, rituals, systems, and planning. A positive life-enhancing structure introduces a sense of rhythm into daily living, creates healthy habits, and actually can allow mind-space for more important things. Planning gives you a stable foundation on which to adapt to change and it helps you focus on the positives and find flow. Planning, when put down on paper, can remove endless, distracting scenario planning.
A totality of unstructured time can lead to unhealthy patterns – avoidance of tasks known need to be done, lack of connecting with others, feeling overwhelmed with massive to do lists, and even binging or other additive behaviors.
While I like quite a bit of structure, I realized there is a continuum of structure. And there are many folks in retirement more structured than me! I know of retired folks who walk 4-5 miles EVERY DAY without fail, have Tuesday as a MUST laundry day, golf ALWAYS on Friday, or MUST have their happy hour beer/cocktail at 5. I believe I go with the flow a bit more. Yes, I do try and have my daily morning journal time and I am trying to add in more regular exercise (really enjoying new cardio drumming classes), but I’ve been known to skip anything if something else of more interest pops up.
I do like a plan although I hope I’m not rigid. I’m trying to reduce expectations (and then being disappointed), but I do like to have a sense of what to expect if something is new. There is definitely a balance of anticipatory excitement and then something not living up to the hype in the reviews.
Looking into structure, I realized that even people who claim to have no structure probably do have some. There are lots of structural habits – bedtime and wakeup time, walking the dog, morning coffee, exercising a few days a week, setting aside creative time, and even brushing teeth before bed. I don’t think I know anyone who has completely unstructured time!
Structure doesn’t need to be over-planned, overwhelming, constricting, or busy. Structure can be slow and relaxed and even have some unstructured “free” time allotted. Having some unstructured time can be viewed as an opportunity for spontaneity and exploration.
I do think retirement is finding your own “right” structure – not one driven by work or other outside demands. Hopefully this review will alleviate my feeling wrong in having a structure (and doing the planning) that helps me activate my retirement lifestyle vision.
Do you feel like you have a structured or unstructured retirement? How do you balance anticipatory excitement and then something not living up to the hype in the reviews?
Picture: My dog Taylor, just because.