Retirement is often painted as a stereotypical time of endless leisure, where the hardest decision you’ll make is whether or not to take an afternoon nap.
But let’s shatter that myth, shall we?
Yes, you can finally relax without the weight of a career on your shoulders.
But here’s the beautiful part — this stage of your life can also be a time of incredible productivity, accomplishment, and fulfillment.
And in our book, it’s the beginning of a big growth journey.
It’s an opportunity to channel your energy into passions and pursuits that truly matter to you.
Retirement isn’t about choosing between relaxation and productivity, leisure and responsibilities, freedom and structure.
It’s about embracing all of these in a way that enriches your life and brings you deep satisfaction.
Because you CAN have it all…
Are you ready to live a vibrant, purposeful, and yes, leisurely retirement life with freedom, too?
If your answer is a resounding “yes,” then stick around.
We’re going to share why productivity still matters in retirement, how habits form, and top it off with five powerful habits that will help you lead a truly productive life after retirement.
The Traditional vs. Modern Retirement
Traditionally, life is divided into three stages — childhood for education, adulthood for work and family, and old age for relaxation.
It’s a narrative many of us grew up with, a roadmap that guided the typical life journey.
You start as a child, full of wonder and curiosity. Then, you step into the world of adulthood, balancing work, family, and responsibilities. Finally, you reach the golden years of retirement, a time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Sounds familiar, right? But here’s the thing — while this traditional model might have served past generations well, it doesn’t quite capture the richness and diversity of modern life.
Fast forward to today, and the story has changed. Life isn’t just about three stages anymore. It’s more of a cyclical spectrum, a series of transitions and transformations that defy simple categorization.
Today, retirement isn’t about fading into the sunset. It’s about embarking on a new adventure. A time of fresh growth, exploration, and self-discovery. It’s about pursuing passions, realizing new dreams, and making every moment count.
So, where do you fit into this new narrative?
Retirement is a time to redefine yourself, discover new interests, and pursue your passions with gusto — so it’s worth learning, growing, and making a difference. It’s a time to live life on your terms, fueled by a sense of purpose and passion.
And while productivity is often associated only with work, it’s just as important (if not, more so) in retirement. Today, retirement is about maximizing your time and engaging in activities that stimulate your mind and body, and spark your zest for life.
Retirement certainly doesn’t mean you stop being productive. On the contrary, you can channel your energy into pursuits that truly matter to you, where you convert the energy you put into work deadlines into personal goals and aspirations.
And guess what? This productivity fuels a sense of purpose that can make every day feel rewarding (if you don’t believe us, just check the amazing success stories from our community).
The Importance of Productivity in Retirement
At the risk of sounding like a broken record: retirement is no longer synonymous with slowing down.
On the contrary, the modern retirement landscape is all about activity, productivity, and continuous learning.
While relaxation is a big part of retirement, your need to be productive doesn’t just disappear overnight. And actually, intentional relaxation and “scheduled free time” can help you feel productive.
In other words, productivity in retirement doesn’t mean work — it means purposeful activity. It’s about finding joy, fulfillment, and energy in what you do each day.
Essentially, your clarity, intentions, purpose and passions translate into productivity.
Now, you may ask, “Why should I care about staying productive in retirement?”
Well, research suggests that older adults who have a strong sense of purpose tend to lead healthier lives. They are less likely to become physically inactive, develop sleep problems, or have an unhealthy body mass index.
In a nutshell, staying productive isn’t just about keeping busy; it’s about nurturing your physical and mental health, staying socially connected, and maintaining a sense of achievement and self-worth.
Now that we’ve (hopefully) convinced you that it’s not time to throw in the towel, let’s get down to the nitty gritty part of things — actually forming healthy habits.
The Power of Habit Formation
Our lives are shaped by habits. Those little routines we go through every day, often without even realizing it.
Whether it’s that first cup of coffee in the morning, a brisk walk after dinner, or an evening spent with your favorite book, these habits form the rhythm of our lives.
In fact, habits form a staggering 40% of our daily activities.
And guess what? They hold the key to a fulfilling and productive retirement.
In the world of science, habits are like well-trodden paths in your brain. The more you follow a routine, the stronger that path becomes.
And when it comes to traditional ideas of productivity, it’s likely associated with work and family-related goals, which makes retirement productivity even more foreign. We get it — you’ve been conditioned to be the traditional form of productive throughout life, and it’s hard to let it go.
But here’s the exciting part — even as you age, you can still create new paths, all thanks to the power of neuroplasticity.
Just like you can create new neural pathways, you can create new habits — ones that enrich your life.
The Process of Habit Formation
So, how do you start forming these life-enhancing habits? Let’s break down the process of habit formation on the example of binge-watching TV:
- The cue — you’ve just savored the last bite of your lunch and you’re settling down in your cherished armchair. The remote is right there, within your reach. This moment, the satisfaction from a good meal and the prospect of a leisurely afternoon, is your cue.
- The craving — what you crave now is relaxation, a bit of light entertainment, a way to unwind after your meal. The television has been satisfying this craving for you. It’s become a routine, an afternoon ritual that you look forward to.
- The response — you pick up the remote and flick on the TV. The familiar faces of daytime soap opera characters fill the screen. You sink deeper into the armchair, letting the drama wash over you. This is your response — the action you take in reaction to your craving.
- The reward — the reward is the entertainment, the distraction, the comfort of your favorite chair and familiar storylines. It’s a soothing way to spend the afternoon, at least initially. But as hours slip by, you begin to feel a sense of restlessness, a nagging guilt-ridden feeling of time wasted.
Every habit was once a choice, and every habit can be changed with a new choice. So are you ready to replace those old habits that no longer serve you with new ones?
Breaking Old Habits
The good news is, it’s never too late to change. Just as you can form new habits, you can also break the old ones.
Now, I’m sure many of us have a habit or two we’d like to send packing. Whether it’s that extra cookie after dinner, or the allure of evening television, we’ve all got our Achilles heel.
Start by identifying one habit you’d like to change. Then, replace it with a new, more fulfilling activity.
And here’s the secret sauce — the key to breaking these habits isn’t in changing what you crave, but how we respond to those cravings.
Let’s break it down:
- The cue — the cue is that post-lunch slump. Instead of reaching for the remote, recognize this as the moment when you want some relaxation.
- The craving — You desire entertainment and relaxation, which is currently being fulfilled by watching TV. But could there be a healthier way to satisfy this craving? Absolutely!
- The response — here’s where we switch things up. Instead of sinking further into your chair, try going for a walk
- The reward — the feel-good endorphins from the exercise will leave you feeling refreshed and energized, not to mention the health benefits. Plus, you’ll have broken the cycle of passive TV watching.
Pro tip: think about how you’ll feel after completing the new “replacement” activity and compare that to the feeling after the old undesired habit. Let that override your feeling before the habit.
So now that you’ve broken the old habit loop and formed a new one, guess what? The more you do this, the easier it gets. Repetition is the mother of all skills.
5 Habits for a Productive Life After Retirement
Ready for some inspiration? Here are five healthy habits that’ll make your life after retirement truly productive…
#1 Establish a Morning Routine
A good morning routine starts with waking up early and/or a regular time each day.
For the non-morning people, we totally get it, one of the biggest things you look forward to in retirement is that you don’t have to set an alarm clock anymore.
But consider the idea that people who wake up early and set their intentions very clearly in the morning are the most productive and proactive people retired or not.
If you’re annoyed at the idea of waking up early, start by setting your alarm for just 30 minutes earlier than you normally start your day. By waking up just half an hour earlier each morning you’ll get a whopping extra week every year. And that extra week can do wonders for a more productive life after retirement.
And you can use that time to start a healthy morning routine that sets the tone for the rest of your day and makes you feel good.
It can be as simple as making your bed, writing in your gratitude journal, or going for a morning walk. Whatever it is, staying consistent with it will help you create a good habit and reap the benefits in the long run.
And as tempting as it may be, try to resist the urge to reach for your phone or turn on the news until your morning routine is complete. Research shows that compulsively checking your phone can cause anxiety and affect your productivity throughout the day.
So rise and shine, set your intentions, and tackle your day with purpose.
Which brings us to our second productive habit…
#2 Set a Daily Micro-Step
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by a task and ended up not doing anything at all? It happens to the best of us.
That’s where micro-steps come into play. Think of it as a promise you make to yourself every day, to complete a small, specific task. It doesn’t have to be done in your morning routine, but it’s important to write it down and make the commitment to yourself.
And if it’s too big to do in 1 day then your micro-step is not micro enough and you need to break it up even more.
For example, Steve is someone I’ve worked with for years to accomplish greater and greater goals, one of which was to climb Mt. Shasta on his 70th birthday, which ended up being Mt Lassen due to the crazy conditions on the mountain.
But Steve’s micro-step varied from walking X amount of steps at elevation, per day, to X sets of pushups in the morning, to walking with his dog Zeke in the neighborhood.
In Steve’s words:
“I can see how this is going to be a huge impact on the rest of my life.“
The powerful tools I learned in the program help me get through life’s challenges. You can pretty well get through everything if you use the tools.
They’re now a part of my everyday life.”
Similarly, Paulett had a vision of launching her online yoga business, but she didn’t send her progress to a screeching halt because of procrastination.
Instead, she set achievable micro-steps every day, like working on her website for 20 minutes or adding photos to it. With time, those small steps led to big milestones, and now her yoga business is thriving.
As Paulett put it:
“If you look back and see all the things I’ve done, it’s really amazing.
I was a person who would dream of all these things, but the action was keeping me from doing it. I wasn’t sure at first, but once I got into the program, I was really pleased with the whole experience.
I’m more self-confident, calm, consistent, and a more positive person. I’ve even improved my relationship with my husband. I loved it.”
All in all, the magic is in setting a daily micro-step because it gives you focus and keeps you moving forward on your bigger goals, and it keeps you from getting overwhelmed, which is the reason why people start and stop projects.
And let’s not forget — consistency over everything, one single daily micro-step is the way to make that magic happen.
#3 Get Physical
Too often when people retire, their health deteriorates because they don’t have the same level of activity. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a staggering 31 million older Americans are considered inactive.
And it only gets worse with age, as about 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 women over the age of 75 engage in no physical activity at all.
It’s easy to fall into a rut and let barriers to exercise, such as lack of clarity and motivation, get in the way.
But a solid antidote to this typical sedentary lifestyle is to just move and find ways to stay active, whether it’s walking, biking, hiking or literally any other form of exercise.
Studies have shown that people who incorporate physical activity into their daily routine are 72% more productive.
Moving not only makes you physically fit but also boosts your energy and mood, and allows mental clarity to enter in. And when you have mental clarity, you have a clear vision of the next steps, making it easier to live a productive life after retirement.
#4 Schedule Distraction-Free Time
With all the supposed free time that retirement affords you, it’s deceptively easy to fill your day with mindless activities like screen time, watching TV, reading the news, scrolling Facebook, getting back to people or bills or responsibilities – or just browsing the internet.
In fact, according to Pew Research, older adults spend more than half of their daily leisure time in front of screens (4 hours and 16 minutes to be exact). And that number only increases with age.
But for a productive life after retirement, you need to focus at least some of your daily time on activities that are meaningful to you.
That’s where our signature Rewire My Retirement program plays a pivotal role. With clarity and a series of bite-sized, manageable micro-steps, you’ll identify what truly motivates and inspires you — and take action towards living your best retired life.
#5 Build Positive Relationships
Boosting your productivity might mean penciling in more social time. Sounds counterintuitive?
Well, when you’re with the right crowd — those who cheer on your accomplishments and goals — it can make all the difference.
As Jim Rohn said:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
The people you surround yourself with heavily influence your thoughts, actions, and attitudes. So, it’s worth choosing wisely. If you want to live a productive life after retirement, spend time with people in your Circle of Influence – those who are also motivated to live their best lives.
Find a group of friends or colleagues who are working on similar goals as you. Or join a club or organization that aligns with your interests and encourages your own growth.
What we always recommend is to group your social life into your Circle of Influence vs. your Circle of Concern, if you really want to lead a more productive life after retirement.
The Circle of Influence? That’s your cheer squad. Those are the people who root for your dreams and celebrate your victories. They’re all about growth and positivity.
Then there’s the Circle of Concern. These folks tend to dwell on the negatives. They resist change, trade in gossip, and often radiate fear-based thinking and over-watch the news.
We’ve all got both circles in our lives, so just be aware of your circles and try to shift it to the positive side. The trick is to recognize them and intentionally spend more time with your Circle of Influence and less time in your Circle of Concern.
Ignite Your Retirement with Productive Habits
You’ve earned it, and now it’s time to make the most of it. It’s not about slowing down, it’s about shifting gears into your newfound sense of productivity.
To recap our five habits for a productive life after retirement:
- #1 Establish a morning routine — start your day with purpose, clarity, and intention
- #2 Commit to a daily micro-step — small actions lead to big results over time with consistency
- #3 Get physical & move your body — embrace physical activity that keeps both your body and mind sharp
- #4 Schedule distraction-free time — focus on what matters most to you and eliminate pesky distractions
- #5 Focus on positive relationships — surrounding yourself with good company is a surefire way to boost your productivity and growth
Retirement is more than just stepping away from work. It’s about stepping into a life filled with opportunities for growth and fulfillment. And these habits can help you keep your days productive and meaningful.
So, what’s your next micro-step going to be?
Every day brings new chances to learn, create, and contribute. Embrace these habits and watch your retirement bloom into a period of newly definted activity and achievement.