An all-too-common question for retirees is ‘what do you do all day?’ And there is the occasional day I think ‘what did I do today?” But those are infrequent, because I’ve learned that my days need structure, and the discipline to keep to that structure.
Self-regulation isn’t a strong point for me, or didn’t used to be. Now, I’m fairly good at it. That is in part what this blog is about; by writing it every morning just after I get up, it focuses me on the things that matter to me, and reminds me why I do some of the things I do. I guess, in a way, it makes me more accountable to myself. And I love getting out of bed, making coffee, doing some stretches (often while emptying the dishwasher – dishes are good light weights), and then settling down with a mug of coffee to write for a while.
There are four things I expect of myself every day: eat properly, stay hydrated, exercise, spend time with BD. Food shopping and preparation, and exercise, take up about three hours each day. Time with BD is variable; occasionally there are days when it’s just mealtimes; other days we’ll spend all day together. Then there are the high-priority daily activities: the on-going house renovations; writing – not just this blog but also work on Empire’s Hostage; the necessary work of daily living – the budget, housework, lawn care, laundry.
I have stopped multi-tasking, except for listening to music while I drive or cook. I’m far more productive this way, giving my whole mind to what I’m doing. I try to structure my time in roughly one-hour chunks, alternating as best I can between a sedentary activity – writing, doing the accounts, watching a game with BD, playing Scrabble – and active ones, mindful of the studies of the negative effects of sitting too long on our health. So, each morning, generally after I write the post for Two Simple Lives, I map out my day – not just what I want to accomplish, but when. Do I always stick to it? No. Sometimes the piece of the house renovation project turns out to need longer that day. Sometimes errands take longer than I scheduled; sometimes I walk or bike longer than an hour just because the day is so beautiful. Sometimes BD suggests something to do together over breakfast. The code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules*.
Once self-discipline is in place in one area of your life, it’s easier to extend it: it becomes a habit. It makes the goals of mindfulness, of sustainable practice and of frugal living easier. The map of my day doesn’t restrict me – I can change it at any time – but it does provide check-in points, times to look at what I’ve accomplished and what I haven’t, and review why. It also helps me not overdo something – I may want to keep writing, or keep walking – but should I? I know there are limits on both my creativity and my energy at any given time. Going beyond those limits generally isn’t wise. It’s a bit like coffee – I may want that third cup, but it’s going to make me jittery, and less productive. So two cups, and I’m done.
It’s a rare day I get to bedtime and aren’t satisfied with how I’ve spent the day. And sometimes, all my day plan says is ‘read, relax, have a glass of wine.” We all need those days, too.
* my favourite line from the Pirates of the Caribbean series.