Wednesday, April 19, 2017

All work and no play

As I listened to the participant in my workshop talk about how important it was for us as we retire to pass on our wisdom to younger workers, I remembered this saying, All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. When I went home, I looked up some variations on this theme and here are a few I like:
      • As if a man's soul were not too small, to begin with, they have dwarfed and narrowed theirs by a life of all work and no play; until here they are at forty, with a listless attention, a mind vacant of all material of amusement, and not one thought to rub against another, while they wait for the train. Robert Louis Stevenson
      • There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life. Alain de Botton
      • You may try your experiment for a week and see how you like it. I think by Saturday night you will find that all play and no work is as bad as all work and no play Louisa May Alcott
      • It is better to rise from life as from a banquet - neither thirsty nor drunken. Aristotle
      • A time for everything: A time to relax and a time to be busy, a time to frolic and a time to labour, a time to receive and a time to give, a time to begin and a time to finish. Jonathan Lockwood Huie
If you are thinking of retiring, in 10 years, 5 years, or 1 year, the time is now to consider whether there is balance in your life between work and leisure. Developing a healthy balance between work and leisure before you get to that point will position you to enjoy your post-retirement days and may even make your work years more enjoyable and productive
For many works is what they do for money, I was lucky, I did what I loved and I was paid and I was able to live within my needs. For most people, the economic reality is they NEED money to survive, to live and to have some fun. When we are paid, that paycheque is used to balance between living for the now and providing for your future.
Since many of us do not look very far ahead, (economist calls this our time horizons), if we have a short time horizon (which most of us do), we think about providing our future in short-terms such as a week or six months. However, as we get older a change happens for most of us so about 10 to 15 years before we retire, we start to consider our future after work.
For many playing is what is done outside of work. In a traditional working environment, it’s what you do in the evenings, weekends and on your vacation time. Play can be interpreted as anything you want, it may be about sports, travel, hobbies, socialisation, meditation, self-actualization, the list is endless and personal.
We see retirement as a time when we are playing more than working (that’s the traditional retirement concept). But before we can get there, we had to work first and we had to put money aside so we could live and afford to play. Retirement used to be an ‘off the cliff’ event where you worked and then you retired. Today, more and more people are experiencing a transitional or phased retirement where they make keep working but they may work less and play more.
This idea of a phased retirement is important because as I have said, we do not know how to transition from work to retirement. So how do we start? While here are a few ideas:
  • Start introducing "time outs" into your schedule. This may begin with lunch out of the office. This sounds simple, but you need to take time away from the office, with no work multi-tasking. Join a gym or a team or a club and make time to go.
  • Make "dates" with your spouse or significant other. Begin the discussion of what you want your retirement to be. You may have different ideas, but when you talk, you can work out a plan so each of you has the retirement you want.
  • Set boundaries. With the prevalence of smartphone and instant internet, you can always be on duty unless you turn off your phone and ignore messages at night or when you are busy.
  • Find something you want to try, explore it, and enjoy it - without making it a job. It is never too late to develop a new hobby or change your ways, but if you are obsessive about work, you may approach hobbies the same way to become a fishing or photography zealot. You need to work to change your patterns.
  • Take vacations, starting with some long weekends, where you leave your job behind. Remember, when you retire, the company/job will continue without you. No matter what your job, you are able to be replaced.
    • Many of us do not like that idea but it is very true. Good planning can help make this work. When you return to work and find the place still standing, you will build the courage to take more time off - and leave the office behind when you shut out the lights.
All your working life, you worked smarter, lived better, played harder, and worked hard. As you retire, you have to learn to let that life go and find new adventures, new goals, new dreams. I recommend that you start this transition about 10 years before you retire so that retirement transition is smooth for you. It may not be what you want to hear but it’s my truth.

I have been lucky and I have met a lot of successful people in my time and I can’t think of one that got to where they are without working hard.  The lucky ones found their passion and do not see what they are doing as hard work.  But for many of us, life was about hard work. We believed that life is about paying our dues and we also believe that we all have to pay our dues.  We all have to contribute by working to make a better world. 

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