In the beer and peanuts scheme, purpose means having something to do. Every human seems to have a need to do something every day. In fact, a lack of desire to accomplish things is a sign of a disorder: depression. The need to do something is so strong that in the absence of structure, trivial tasks expand to fill your day. You may have heard retired people say, “I’m so busy now that I don’t know how I got anything done when I was working.”
Surely there are activities that the retiree didn’t have time for while working that will get attention after retirement day. Many people want to help with grandkids, volunteer, or get involved with social groups but simply can’t manage to with a full time job. Retirement means having flexibility and freedom to do these important and satisfying things. Flexibility is a key reason people want to retire. They want to travel more than their limited vacation time allowed for. They want to sleep in once in a while! They want to exercise more, garden, pursue hobbies or just be on their own schedule. These are great reasons to retire.
What are you actually accomplishing?
We have noticed a challenge, though. “I don’t know how I got anything done” is a symptom of not having enough important things to do. If you were able to get everything done while holding down a full time job, how did running the house become a full time job? Mowing the grass, grocery shopping, laundry and paying the bills need to be done. But in the absence of other meaningful activities, they fill all the time. Everyone spends all 168 hours each week. If we don’t have something more important to do, our need to do something all the time will cause grass mowing to take 6 hours. When we worked, it was a 90 minute job, but since there aren’t any other pressures on the time, the trivial tasks swell. They are like a sponge, soaking up time. While working, the sponge is constrained, and grass can only soak up 90 minutes. When the constraints come off, it will absorb hours and hours. This is the tyranny of the trivial.
If having an awesome lawn and garden is important to you, it is fine to spend lots of time on it. But let’s not pretend that you are busy when minor tasks take up your whole day by default. A successful retirement should involve planned, structured time so that important things get done. Your life shouldn’t be subject to the tyranny of the trivial.