So, you’re retired, or about to retire. Now what? In addition to having a solid financial plan, a solid day-to-day lifestyle plan could be as important. That’s because, for many individuals, retirement means going from a hectic, schedule-driven routine, to suddenly having more free time. The loss of a daily routine can be a double-edged sword: numerous health studies draw direct links between routine (or the lack thereof) and good (or poor) mental health.1
Here are some tips to help maintain an effective routine in retirement.
Managing your mornings
Having a solid morning routine can help shape the rest of your day, giving you an opportunity to set your levels of energy, mood and productivity.2
- Keep using your alarm clock: Even without the constraint of work schedules and deadlines, you can still maintain a regular wake-up time. A regular wake-up time helps make it easier to maintain a routine.
- Exercise: Any form of exercise, mild or vigorous, can give you higher energy levels throughout the day.2 Even a stroll around the block counts.
Your day planner
For many retirees, not having a paid job doesn’t necessarily mean not having tasks to fulfill or milestones to meet. An effective daytime routine can help you complete these tasks without being overwhelmed.
- Schedule: You can take advantage of your freedom to set your own deadlines by allotting time during the day for all your activities. Slot in time for everything from learning and personal development to screen time.3
- Friendly faces: Social interaction is important. Try to schedule activities, or create activities for yourself, that involve you interacting with other people outside of the people you live with. Community facilities (libraries, exercise programs, classes) or local businesses are excellent places to develop new networks.1
- “Casual Friday” every day: Maintaining some of the trappings of work can be a way of maintaining a routine. Dressing as if you’re headed to work, with a more relaxed dress code, can help you keep on schedule and maintain a constructive mood.4
- Revisit the workplace: If it’s feasible, don’t be afraid to reconnect with your former workplace. You might consider doing occasional or casual work for your former employer, informally mentoring individuals with a job similar to your former function or maintaining social contact with your former coworkers with lunch meetings or staying engaged in team events (e.g., online office pools).
Maximizing sleep effectiveness
One of the most fundamental building blocks of health is sleep. Effective sleep patterns are often something we ignore or take shortcuts with during our working years. You can use your retirement to develop healthier sleep patterns that can benefit your physical and mental health.
- Monitor your hours, sleep patterns: There is a common misconception that seniors need less sleep. In fact, in most cases seniors need the same amount of sleep as they did in their 20s. Furthermore, seniors can be at increased risk for some kinds of sleep disorders, from insomnia to abnormal heart rhythms. The hours of sleep you need vary from person to person, but make sure you’re still getting them, and report any concerning sleep disturbances to your family physician.5
- Good sleep habits: An effective pattern of behaviour to enhance the quality of your sleep is called “sleep hygiene.” This can include habits such as: not viewing any electronic screen devices 30–120 minutes before bedtime (the light from such devices can disturb your body’s inner clock6), maintaining a regular sleeping hour and engaging in relaxing activities, such as reading a book or listening to soft music, shortly before bedtime.7
A solid routine can be key to a healthy and active retirement. With the number of retirees in Canada increasing, there is a wealth of resources online to help you develop a daily plan for yourself. You can use the tips here as a starting point to build an effective routine that works for you.
1. Mariana Plata, “The Power of Routines in Your Mental Health,” Psychology Today Canada, October 4, 2018.
2. Cynthia Meyer, “6 Reasons Why Your Morning Routine Is Everything,” Second Wind Movement, August 13, 2018.
3. Dr. Rin Porter, “Creating Good Routines in Retirement (Or Any Time),” Thingscouldbeworse.org, July 17, 2015.
4. Patricia Corrigan, “4 Essential Style Tips for Retired Women,” nextavenue, October 12, 2015.
5. Jennifer Dixon, “Do Seniors Need Less Sleep?” WebMD, July 22, 2018.
6. National Sleep Foundation, “Why Electronics May Stimulate You Before Bed.”
7. Sleep.org, “How to Sleep Well During Retirement.”