There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to building a retirement routine.
For some people, the best way to enjoy their golden years is to keep busy, traveling and socializing with friends. For others, a slower pace is more appealing – spending time reading, taking walks, and relaxing at home.
The key is finding what works for you and building a daily routine that fits your lifestyle.
Even if you want total freedom and spontaneity during retirement, it’s still essential to take the time to figure out what you want your retirement routine to look like and how you can best adjust to this new phase of your life.
Structuring your days with intention, specifically during retirement when there’s no standard formula fit for all, it’s especially important.
That is, if you want to achieve everything you ever dreamed of.
Here are seven tips that will serve as a compass to build a new retirement routine that works specifically for you.
But first, a brief expansion on why you even need a daily routine.
Why You Need a Retirement Routine
Most people look forward to retirement as a time of rest and relaxation. But if you’re not careful, retirement can be just as hectic as your working life was – maybe even more so.
And worse, getting into a habit of reacting to your environment and the life swirling around you can often leave you feeling, well, unfulfilled.
Having a routine in retirement can help keep you active, social, and organized – all essential factors in living a fulfilling life. Don’t just take our word for it. Let’s look at the facts:
- People with routines rate their lives as more meaningful
- Routines help with maintaining a healthy sleep cycle, and having a nighttime routine is essential for good sleep quality
- Maintaining a routine boosts your mental health and lowers stress
- Builds self-discipline
How to Structure Your Day in Retirement
When you retire, it can be a bit of a shock to the system when you realize that your days are no longer structured the way they were when you were working (aka structured for you by society’s norms of working and schooling, etc.).
Which means, suddenly, there are all these hours in the day with no real plan on how to fill them.
According to the 2020 American Time Use Survey, when people reach retirement, they don’t reallocate a significant amount of time to the things they want to do.
Instead, many just spend their newfound time doing chores, running errands, watching TV, or hanging out on social media.
In other words, the norm is to just wing it.
And when you wing it, you wait for yourself to feel like doing something.
(This is the culprit for cementing the terrible habit of procrastinating into your subconscious, but I digress.)
Either way you slice it, too often, this is what we see happening:
Your typical day in retirement might not be dedicated to the things you “want to be” doing, and instead, you find yourself allowing the things you think you “should be” doing to dictate your schedule.
Or even worse, you don’t even have a clue as to what your typical day should look like. If that’s the case, check out our Finding Clarity workbook. It’ll guide you to a solid focal point.
To combat any of the above, keep reading.
7 Tips to Build (and Stick to) a New Retirement Routine
#1 Have an Unfiltered Brainstorm Session
You worked hard all your life, and now it’s time for retirement.
And what does that look like for you? Do you want to travel the world, spend more time with family, or finally take up that new hobby you’ve always been interested in?
There’s no right or wrong answer — it’s all about what makes you happy. And, again, it all starts with finding more clarity.
Dig deep and try to figure out what an ideal average day would look like. Take a piece of paper and a pen and imagine it. The more you let yourself dream BIG, without judgment, the better.
Imagine waking up on your perfect day. Start with the morning and work your way down to bedtime, writing out what happens every step of the way in great detail. Try to be as specific as possible and include answers to these questions:
Our big suggestion here is not to get stuck in the how. Don’t think in terms of your current reality. Just follow the ideas that spark energy and passion in you.
Once you have a clear vision of what an ideal day looks like, the “how” will fall into place. But you need to have the foundation of a clear vision to build your new retirement routine.
#2 Set Small Goals
Small goals make for big success. Instead of being discouraged and unmotivated by setting the bar too high, follow our magic formula for goal setting.
Research shows that modest goals are much easier to follow through on. Our brains prefer to achieve a small goal than to maintain the status quo. The incremental nature of small goals makes them feel more attainable and motivates people to work towards achieving the goal.
In fact, your brain literally receives a dopamine hit every time you achieve a small win, which propels you to achieve more.
For instance, if your goal is to:
- Run 5k – start with half a mile and gradually increase your mileage every day
- Maintain a healthy diet – start by changing only your breakfast or go even smaller and stop sweetening your morning beverage
- Start meditating – meditate for 5 minutes and gradually increase the time every day one single minute at a time
The key is to make your micro-steps so small and manageable that you consistently get it done without needing any motivation or willpower.
(P.S. Here’s a complete guide to setting life goals in retirement)
Routines take more time to establish than habits. And that’s why it’s pertinent to avoid making too many overwhelming adjustments at once because this can be difficult for you and may result in behavior relapse.
Speaking of building consistency, look to our next essential ingredient.
#3 Be As Consistent As Possible
When it comes to building a routine, consistency is vital. If you can stick to a schedule, it’ll be easier to get into the swing of things and make routine behavior automatic.
And consistency is even more important than intensity. Case in point: which one of these sounds more effective?
- Learning a language for three hours (and then not doing anything for two weeks)
- Or dedicating 10 minutes every day
According to our muscle memory, option B is more sustainable — and effective.
A study found that consistency and repetition are the key factors in forming automatic habits and routines. At first, you need sheer willpower to implement a new behavior, but over time it becomes as routine as brushing your teeth.
By the way, if you’re really having trouble with consistency, try strengthening your new habit in the morning. You have the most willpower in the morning, and it depletes throughout the day.
All in all, don’t rely on motivation or waiting to feel like doing something (that time may never come). Instead, commit to new behaviors consistently and start noticing massive changes over time.
#4 Be Prepared
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Old habits die hard.”
But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a change. In fact, according to research on the psychology of habits, by being prepared and removing any obstacles, you can build a new habit (aka retirement routine) with ease.
If you anticipate what obstacles might stand in your way and remove them, it will be easier to tackle them and, hence, stick to your routine.
For example, if you want to:
- Start going to the gym regularly – make sure you have all of your workout clothes and equipment ready to go, so there’s no excuse not to go
- Read more – set a book next to your bed and an alarm clock to remind you
- Spend less time on social media – delete the apps from your phone
Whatever behavior you want to introduce, just ask yourself how to make it as effortless as possible. And vice versa — if you want to reduce a behavior, make it as hard as possible.
By the way, we highly recommend removing any temptations physically from your space. This will help you focus on the task at hand and avoid the infamous lull of distractions.
#5 Reward Yourself Frequently
A great way to start building a routine is by rewarding yourself for sticking to it. Give yourself a pat on the back every time you hit your goals, no matter how small they may seem.
According to a recent study by Cornell researchers, people who get immediate, frequent rewards for completing small tasks report more interest and enjoyment than those whose gratification comes at the end of longer goals.
If you’re wondering how to reward yourself, consider:
- Giving yourself permission to take a break and intentionally relax
- Go for a walk in the woods
- Do something that naturally brings you joy
- Call a friend and share your win or simply socialize for fun
In a nutshell, celebrate your progress along the way, and before you know it, you’ll have formed a retirement routine that will keep you feeling great.
#6 Track and Adjust
When it comes to creating new routines, progress tracking can be beneficial in making sure you’re on the right track. It can be easy to get discouraged if we don’t see results immediately, but we can stay motivated and excited about what we’re doing by tracking our progress.
And more importantly, by noting how your new retirement routine impacts how you feel, you can make the necessary adjustments.
Studies suggest that frequently tracking progress toward goals increases the chances of success. And monitoring progress had an even greater effect if the information was physically recorded or publicly reported.
This goes back to our favorite topic of focusing on daily micro-steps.
So track your progress and shout it from the rooftops for a greater chance of sticking with your new retirement routine.
#7 Be Patient
And finally, any long-term change will take time (especially the good kind that you want to stick around).
It can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form new routines and habits.
Just be patient and don’t beat yourself up if you fail. Instead of striving for instant perfection, strive to be gradually better every single day — consistently.
If you ever get overwhelmed or fall off your new path, just hop back on a single day at a time. Keep the same steady cadence of taking one daily micro-step, of course.
A Typical Day in Retirement
So many of the pre-retirees and retirees in our community come to us struggling with the idea of what a typical day in retirement should look like.
There’s no denying that retirement is a huge change – it marks the end of one chapter in life that’s completely structured for you and the beginning of another that’s the opposite. You have the freedom to structure your days however you like.
And this can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time.
It may sound a bit counter-intuitive, but if you want true freedom in retirement, structuring your days with a fulfilling retirement routine can help you get there.
It puts you in the driver’s seat, it gives you the chance to be intentional with your time and energy, and it makes the transition into retirement a smoother journey.
Whether you want to travel, spend time with family and friends, or take up a new hobby, having a plan in place will help you stay on track — and give you the freedom to have it all.
So don’t wait – start planning your retirement routine today.
Here’s to achieving all of your retirement dreams and leading a purposeful life after retirement.