Sunday, January 3, 2010

I’ve never played the New Year’s resolution game, but this year I came to the conclusion that I need that kind of to-do list

I’ve never played the New Year’s resolution game, but this year I came to the conclusion that I need that kind of to-do list. One of the great rewards of retirement—all that unstructured time-- is also one of the great dangers.

My husband I have developed the delightful habit of having 2 hour breakfasts drinking tea, reading newspapers and trying to catching up on the ever-growing pile of unread periodicals. We really like print and resist getting all our info on line.

Much as I enjoy our 2 hour breakfasts, I must manage to get some work done each day. I’ve got to finish my history of second wave feminism in Philadelphia while I have (I think) full possession of my faculties. I’m sitting on a treasure trove of archival material that a graduate student in history would die for. I’ve promised those who gave me this material that I would tell their story.

A friend suggested that I commit to 15 minutes a day. Now at that rate I’ll never finish, but I am going to try for 2 hours a day. I’m keeping track of how much I’ve done each day. On Jan. 2, I managed to do one hour—-but then I was cleaning up after our NY’s party. Without that 2 hour resolution hanging over my head, I’m sure I wouldn’t have done any work on this project.

I decided to apply my friend’s a few minutes a day principle to my other resolutions:

1) Each day I will spend 30 minutes reading books/articles in Spanish. We booked a trip to Peru in early Spring, so I have an incentive to focus on Spanish. On Jan. 2, I actually managed 30 minutes.

2) Each day I will spend at least 20 minutes a day cleaning cabinets and emptying drawers filled with junk, tackling the dumping ground in our attic and the filth in our dungeon like basement. I didn’t manage to do this on Jan. 2 despite the modest 20 minute goal. This is going to be the tough one.

3) Each day I will swim or walk briskly for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week. If we are ever to manage Macchu Picchu, we need to be in better shape. No progress here on Jan 2.

Well, we’ll see if this keeps me more focused on how I’m spending my time.

If anyone has any suggestions, for sticking to one’s New Year’s resolutions, please share.


  1. Personally, I love timing things. I'm trying to jam on the last stretch of my novel. I work well for an hour at a time, but that's all I can manage unless I work up to it like it's exercise.

    I can only do the dishes for 15 minutes at a time. Otherwise I feel like some kind of domestic hostage.

    Here's a new one for me: 15 minutes a day on sorting clothes in the bedroom. It's a disaster area right now. Many of said clothes need to just GO.

    (This is Julie, by the way. I started a new blog if you want to check it out:

  2. If it provides any inspiration/incentive, my 2 hours of organizing in my basement this afternoon seems to have doubled my storage space. I also love my little label maker, which is fun to use and just as handy as a Sharpie...

  3. I think new year's resolutions don't stick if the motivation is not really strong. About seven years ago I made resolution that I must work out because if I did not I would be a very weak old lady. I have kept my workouts at the gym faithfully for the past years and actually enjoy them. I am stronger and know that the serotonin boost helps me also. My i pod gives me the extra fun that I need to work out.

  4. Julie,
    I love your blog!

    I'll be checking into your blog to see how you're doing and to see if I can pick up any pointers on dealing with writers' block.

    Is there any way to subscribe so I know when you've updated?

  5. Erin, I'm impressed--2 hours organizing your basement!

    I could not make myself go down to my dungeon/ basement today.

  6. Karen,
    I think that I see alot of myself in you -- My tendency is to store endless "to do" and mental guilt lists. What I'm trying to learn is to trust my mind and body - savor those breakfasts - give yourself a break. When you feel truly refreshed, you'll naturally turn to those things you really want to do and some things may fall by the wayside as other emerge. Trust yourself to take care of what you need. Resolve to laugh more every day at your to do list!

  7. Kathy,
    That’s exactly what Rick tells me: give yourself a break...Resolve to laugh more every day at your to do list!

  8. I love the idea of a few minutes a day for important things. I keep trying to set goals that are a bit too big (like spending 3 hours/day at the gym) so I think I'll move on and try your approach. Let's see:
    - 30 minutes each day to just sit quietly and read a novel
    - 30 minutes each day to clean a closet or cupboard or other mess
    - 1 hour/day of exercise
    - 1 hour/day to write my blog, respond to comments, and seek out other interesting blogs on women and retirement
    - 30 min/day to meditate

    Okay, I'd best stop now right? Let's see how I do with this list for a week.

  9. I join the chorus urging you to show yourself some compassion, Karen. You manage to get a lot done whether or not it's via resolutions!

  10. Work on that book so I can read it, please!

    Two years into retirement from a private psychotherapy practice, I find that my days dissolve on me quickly, too. I make short daily to-do lists that include a couple of things I Want to do (blog, exercise), a couple I Could do (dust, return a call that can wait), and a couple of things I Must do (pay bills, clean garage for 1 hour). I label each item as W, C, or M. At the end of the day, if I checked off the W's and the M's, it was a good day. Some of the C's move into the M slot the next day.

    I'll be following your progress and glad to have found you...feels right at home, here.

  11. I've just retired too and I'm going through h***. I miss working and I also miss the idea of having a profession. It's tough. I think having a to do list every day is good, yet I've had a "to do" list for so long I'm not sure I want that. I'm going to blog follow to see how you do. I'm documenting my retirement journey too.

  12. Nance,
    Thanks for your suggestions! This is one of the great challenges of retirement—providing our own structure now that we no longer have the structure of work.

    Mary, I think we still have our careers even in retirement.

    Ellen Goodman’s final column beautifully summed up for me the relationship between retirement and one’s work life:

    "It's hard to learn that we don't leave the best parts of ourselves behind, back in the dugout or the office. We own what we learned back there. The experiences and the growth are grafted onto our lives. And when we exit, we can take ourselves along -- quite gracefully."

    I’ve had similar thoughts but have never been able to express them so well.


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