The Art of Doing Nothing in Retirement

Bucket List

Instead of scheduling every moment of retirement, learn how to relax.  THE EXPERTS ARE NEVER shy about telling retirees to go out and volunteer for a worthy cause, take a part-time job, attend a class, babysit grandchildren or otherwise check off some item on a bucket list. Retirees are often advised to stay busy and do something meaningful.

For the most part this is good advice. No one wants to feel bored and useless in retirement. But sometimes it’s nice to just relax and do absolutely nothing. Here’s how to adjust to a relaxing pace of life in retirement.

Let Go of the Guilt

You’ve been working for 30, 40 or even 50 years. You’ve made your contribution to society and to your family. Now, whether you’re ready or not, it’s time to let someone else step up and shoulder the burdens of the world. Think of it this way: By retiring you’re giving a younger person the opportunity to take on more responsibility, earn a promotion and make more money for his or her own family. Retirement is an act of generosity. Don’t feel guilty about it.

There’s a Period of Adjustment

You’re used to getting up early, wolfing down breakfast, rushing to work and then jumping into the fray. You work hard, stay late to finish projects and skip vacations in order to be more productive. You’ve been following a frantic routine for years. Now you wake up in the morning with nothing to do and no place to go. It will take some time to adjust to a new life, appreciate the slower pace and find things that you want to do. You will need to establish a new routine to fit your more relaxed lifestyle.

Welcome the Lower Stress Levels


There are good and bad types of stress. Bad stress comes when you’re following someone else’s schedule and marching to someone else’s orders. Good stress comes when you set your own priorities and follow through to complete them, which might involve working on your golf game, running after grandchildren or taking care of yourself by exercising regularly, cooking healthy meals and making new friends. Learn to enjoy the luxury of not living by the clock, not having to watch traffic reports to see if there’s a delay on your commute and not having to field work emails when you’re home on the weekends.

You’re the Master of Your Own Life

More than anything else, retirees appreciate the opportunity to do what they want, when they want. You no longer answer to a boss or have to live up to someone else’s expectations. If you’re ambitious you can certainly find a volunteer position, get a part-time job, take a class or learn a language, but you don’t have to. In fact, many people are perfectly happy puttering around the yard, watching old movies or reading the newspaper. You may eventually realize that it’s sometimes more satisfying to skip the bike ride or concert and just grab a beer, sit in the living room and reminisce with family or friends.

You Don’t Need a Lot of Money

You don’t have to cruise the Baltic or vacation in Belize. Plenty of leisure activities are inexpensive or completely free. You can play games at the community center, attend classes at a public college or go to lectures at the library. You can plant a vegetable garden, go fishing or take a hike in a state park. Many communities also offer free meals at the senior center, free bus rides to public events and free tours of cultural or historic sites.

Do What You Want

What would you do if you won the lottery? You might take a big vacation, move to where you really want to live or go to lots of restaurants. Perhaps you would learn to play the guitar, go camping, hang out at the local coffee emporium and catch up on all those classic books you never read. Whatever it is, now that you’re retired, you’ve won the lottery. You can finally begin to live the life you dreamed about.

Just Enjoy Being Alive


Retirement is an opportunity to spend more time in the moment and become more aware of the present. Instead of rushing through the day, you can walk slowly and appreciate the wonders of the world. Stop and smell the flowers, watch the sunset, ponder the seashore and appreciate the wildlife. A day you enjoyed is not a waste of time.

Tom Sightings is the author.