Creating good routines in retirement (or any time)

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Are you struggling to find the best ways to spend your time?

Do you find it difficult to get up and get going in the morning, whether to a job or to some other destination?

Are you newly retired and don’t know what to do with yourself now that you’re not working?

Have you been retired for a while, but are feeling aimless and lost?

Well, have I got a deal for you!  Routines!  Creating good routines in retirement (or any time) can help you recover your enthusiasm for living each day to the fullest.

Good, well-designed daily and weekly routines may be just what you need.

In this article, I’m going to tell you how to design daily and weekly routines that can work for you.

First, let’s take a look at the benefits of routines.


Untitled design(1)The benefits of routines – for anyone


  • Routines help us stay productive and get things done.

When you have a well-established habit – something that we can identify as a routine – the actions of the habit become so automatic that you don’t have to think about them.  You simply begin the habit and the work gets done.

Think about something like washing dishes.  You’ve done it a million times.  You don’t have to think about each aspect of it.  You turn on the water, add dish detergent, place the dishes in the hot water, etc.  Your routine of dishwashing takes over and the dishes get washed.

  • Routines can increase feelings of happiness and well-being.

Unlike what some of us once believed, having a routine does not bring boredom or monotony. Instead, writes mental health counselor Michelle Happe, “It brings pleasure and a sense of safety. One of the most important parts of our routine should be rest time and play time, especially if we are adults. We avoid quiet time because we fear ourselves.”

“Learning that there is nothing to fear and that it is much more benign than we thought, sitting alone with ourselves, brings tremendous benefits and awareness. Sitting with ourselves in the quiet is a way to refuel and prepare for our Western busy-ness that inevitably comes,” writes Michelle Happe in her blog at

  • Routines save time and energy.

“Routines are like mental butlers,” says Michael McCullough, a professor of psychology at the University of Miami. “Once you have a routine in place, then the mental processes that make the behavior happen take place automatically.”

“They save time in the short run by removing the need to deliberate, and time in the long run because they automate these actions,” writes Elizabeth Larkin, a personal organizing expert.


  • Routines reduce stress.

Routines let you get directly into getting a task done. “Instead of creating each day from scratch, routines create a framework of small decisions you no longer have to make—so you have more time to devote to things that matter,” writes Pittaway.

Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, a social scientist and expert on success  explained, “Routines remove the need to deliberate over what you should do when (which takes time and energy), because once you’ve established a routine you’ve already made those decisions.”

Routines make actions automatic.  “Routines can become so automatic that we start performing them without realizing it,” says Grant Halvorson, “so we get done what needs to get done, even when our minds are preoccupied with other things.”

Anything that reduces stress is a good thing!


  • Routines create a stable foundation that helps you cope with an unpredictable world, writes Pittaway.

“The modern world is chaotic, and many things are beyond our control,” says Dr. Sian Rawkins, head of ambulatory psychiatry at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital.  Routines help you cope.

“If you’re not worrying… , you have more resources—brainpower, emotional and physical energy—to deal with whatever else life may throw at you, explains Pittaway.

“In families, routines have been shown to increase health and psychological well-being,” says Rawkins.

“I realized that when I have a routine, even as simple as that morning cup of coffee and a check on Facebook, the news, and my favorite blogs I receive immense pleasure and a sense of peace. It also helps me to feel grateful and relaxed” writes mental health counselor Michelle Happe  in her blog

So are you convinced yet?  Will you agree that routines are useful?

OK, let’s see how you can establish good routines – – whether as a retired person or as someone who is still working.


How to Establish Daily and Weekly Routines

What is a routine?

Here are some definitions.

A routine is –

  • A sequence of actions regularly followed (Google)
  • A regular procedure (
  • A regular way of doing things in a particular order (Merriam-Webster Dict.)

Here are four examples of routines you may have:

1) Get up in the morning, do exercises, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth.

2) Get in the car, put on your seatbelt, check the rearview mirror, start the car, look both ways, exit the garage or parking place, drive on.

3) Decide on a menu, get the ingredients together, cook the meal, set the table, serve the meal, eat, clear the table, load the dishwasher or wash the dishes or rinse and stack the dishes.

4) Go to the gym, change clothes, do stretching, do cardio, do weights, do more cardio, cool down, shower, dress, go to next place.


But where did you get these routines?  Maybe you observed someone who was doing them.  Or were you taught to do them?  If so, someone had to teach them to you.  Or maybe you established them for yourself.


Parents or other caregivers may have showed you how to set the table, and how to fold your laundry when you were a child.

But now you are an adult.  To create a new routine, you have to work at it.  There are four steps:  First you plan, then you practice, then you evaluate, then you implement your new routine.

It takes time.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.  But you can do it.  You can establish new behavior.

How do I create a new routine?

The first thing we have to do when we want to establish new routines is to figure out what we are already doing. Then we find out what we need to do to change some aspect of it.

At work, we might call this an audit or a needs assessment.

This is going to require you to make some lists.  I know you may hate that, but it works.  Hear me out.

Here’s how things worked out when I decided to create some new routines.  Here are the steps I followed:

1.  Make a list of everything you do to get through your day.

Gather information on what you do daily.  Write it down.  All of it.  You will be amazed.

For me, it’s feeding, walking, and caring for my pets; fixing and eating meals, bathing and dressing, washing dishes, weeding the garden and picking what’s ripe (in spring, summer, and fall), clearing snow and carrying wood (in winter), straightening up the house and putting things away, going online to check email and social media, and correspond with friends, reading, watching TV, writing, and preparing for bedtime.

2.  Next, make a list of the tasks you do a couple of times a week or just once a week.

Here’s my list:

Drive to medical appointments, go grocery shopping, take out the garbage, wash and dry laundry, sweep porch, sweep kitchen and laundry room, mow the lawn, apply makeup, attend a meeting and write a newspaper article about it, pay bills, check bank account online, write and edit this blog, email friends and relatives, take out the garbage, and do paperwork.

3.  Finally,  make a list of the things you most enjoy doing.

For me: my favorite activities are being outdoors in nature, traveling, reading, listening to music, spending time with my daughter, eating great food, attending the theatre, playing cards or other table games with friends, watching favorite TV programs, and shopping.

4.  Now, take your three lists, and look them over.

See if you forgot anything.  If so, add it.

Then make a spreadsheet by taping three pieces of lined paper together side by side.  With a ruler, make 8 columns.  Label the first seven with the days of the week, and the last column “Notes”.

5. Fill in a spreadsheet with the things you have to do daily, and then the things you have to do one or more times per week.

Hand with penStarting with Monday, pencil in the daily and weekly activities you have on your list.  Write down the time each one requires.

Each day is 24 hours. We spend 6 to 9 hours sleeping, and the rest of the time is open to us to fill as we wish: 15 to 18 hours.

6.  Take a look at your completed spreadsheet.

When I filled out my spreadsheet, I discovered that I was spending 18 to 22 hours per day doing ordinary tasks and sleeping.  This left me only 2 to 6 hours per day to do the things that I really enjoy.

Some of my favorite activities did not even appear on the spreadsheet!  I had not allotted any time for them!

That was an eye-opener for me!

Was it for you?

When I realized that I had not scheduled ANY time for some of my favorite activities, I wanted to take action.

I wanted to decrease the time I spent in ordinary activities of daily living, and increase the time I spent doing what I want to do.  But how was I going to do that?

I decided to make doing my favorite things a priority.  I made a new spreadsheet and filled it out in a different way.

7.  Make a new spreadsheet.  Put in your favorite things first, then the ordinary activities of daily and weekly living.

When I started with my favorite things and put them in first, I was making sure that I would have the time I need to enjoy these activities.

Then I added sleeping time. I decided to get up 15 minutes earlier each day.  That adds 75 minutes to my available weekly time.

Third, I put in the time I needed for bathing, dressing, walking the dog, and feeding the pets.  Next, I added meal preparation and eating time.

Fourth, I put in a weekly block of time for paying bills, checking online banks, and processing mail.  I used to do this daily, and it got to be a time-waster.

Fifth, I put in a block of time on Sunday for meal planning.  Then I added time to plan my wardrobe for the week and put the outfits I planned to wear on a garment rack. I had done this for years when I was working, but let it go when I retired.

Sixth, I put in a block of time on Saturday for home maintenance:  dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, floorwashing, etc., plus unpleasant tasks like cleaning the cat box and taking out the garbage. This is a new routine for me.

Seventh, I added daily time online to check email, correspond with friends, check social media, and write this blog.

By creating blocks of time for ordinary tasks, I reduced the time I spent on them and organized myself more efficiently.

By creating new routines for laundry and home maintenance, I simplified and grouped  the tasks I have to do, reduced the time I spent on them, and freed up more time for my favorite things.

8.  Check over your new spreadsheet and see what you may have left out.

I left out shopping and spending time with my daughter.  I also left out TV time.

I watch a lot of daily news programs, mostly while eating meals.  During the months of September through April, I watch TV dramas in the evenings.  But in the summer months, TV is mostly reruns, so I don’t watch TV then.  Instead, I spend the evenings reading and listening to Classical Public Radio.

I enjoy shopping and spending time with my daughter who lives in a big city.  But we live 150 miles apart, so it is not a simple thing to schedule time together, and we don’t do it weekly or even monthly.

at Como Orchid Show 2014
at Como Orchid Show 2014

We have orchestra season tickets in the big city.  We spend six weekends a year attending concerts and having a day of shopping and museums.  Another weekend is for her birthday, and another for attending a special flower show that we enjoy.  Those eight weekends are irregularly spaced, so they don’t appear on my daily and weekly spreadsheet.  Instead, I have them on my computer, iPod, and pocket calendars.

When those weekends approach, I have to revise my daily and weekly calendars to allow the tasks I would normally do on Saturdays and Sundays to be done on Fridays or Mondays.  Since I am mostly retired, my time is my own to schedule as I see fit.

If you have work commitments, you may need to make time for special trips and events in the same way that I did, by rearranging your daily and weekly schedules.

I also left out travel – another of my favorite things.  During the past 10 years, I have taken two trips each winter to warm climates for two weeks each, and taken a two-week European tour every two years.  These trips can’t go on a weekly or daily schedule, so they go on my computer, iPod, and pocket calendars.

Although I love traveling, my budget does not permit me to go away as often as I’d like.  No amount of schedule juggling will change this, so I just accept it.

Did you leave anything out?  Anything that occurs monthly, seasonally, or annually?  Just note it in your calendars, and when the time comes, work it into your daily and weekly routines.

Start doing your new routines

If you’ve followed the steps, you now have a spreadsheet of your daily and weekly activities that includes YOUR FAVORITE THINGS!  This means you will be spending as much time as possible doing what you want.

You have succeeded in creating good routines in retirement or any time to allow this to happen.

Now you have to start doing your new routines.  Start slowly and enjoy yourself.

If you’re newly retired, your sudden bonanza of free time may have seemed overwhelming.  But by creating good routines in retirement, you can begin to manage time in the way that’s best for you.

If you’ve been retired for a while, then this activity inventory process may have helped you reset your activities and schedule so that they are more rewarding for you.  I hope so!

If you’re not yet retired, then the making of the spreadsheets may have taught you a new skill – one that will be valuable to you now and in the years ahead.

Regardless of where you are on life’s journey, I hope that doing what you love to do according to the new spreadsheet will bring you joy.

We only have one chance to live each day.  Let’s make each day as great as it can possibly be!

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2015 Laurinda Porter
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26 thoughts on “Creating good routines in retirement (or any time)”

  1. I think routine is important regardless of what stage you are at in life. If you lead a busy life, it keeps you focused and on top of things. If you are retired/have less time on your hands, it brings a sense of structure to the day. I used to wonder why I saw so many retired people popping to the newsagents early in the morning to buy a paper. They need to be doing something.

    When on maternity leave, I added structure to my day. I planned which days I would take the baby out and when at home, what I would do each day.

    1. Hi Phoenicia, you are so right – routine is important at every stage. Some of the retired people I know just act so lost, and don’t know what to do with all their time, and end up watching TV all day. Structure and routine are the keys. I never thought about how this affects maternity leave – thank you for mentioning your experience with it. Food for thought!

  2. Hi Rin,
    Wonderful blog and really good post! This is a great post for the newly retired or those contemplating retirement! Routines make life more interesting and engaging. I would love to incorporate this article (with full credit of course), into my non-financial blog – or have you as a guest blogger. Please let me know the best way to contact you to discuss.

    1. Hi Alyce,
      Thanks for your comment! I appreciate the kind words about this particular post. I think this article would fit well with your blog. I’d be glad to have you republish it. I’m not quite sure how we go about that, but I will contact you privately so we can discuss it!

    1. Hi Kathleen,
      Thanks for reading the article and leaving a comment! It makes me happy to know when readers have liked one of my posts and found ideas they could use. If you’re new to retirement, then you’ll find there’s a lot to learn about navigating through this stage of life. Most of us don’t get any kind of training about how to face the end of a job and the beginning of a lot of unfilled time. Good luck to you! I hope you’ll find some other posts in my website that will help ease the journey for you.


      1. I retired April 29, 2016. I so needed some information on adjusting, I think your article will be of great help. Glad I found it.

        1. Hi Sue,
          I’m glad you found my blog. I am writing it to help people like you who are newly retired, getting ready to retire, or already retired but needing some encouragement and new ideas. Let me know how things go for you, and what routines you decide on as you get started in retirement!

  3. After enjoying a 16 day travelling holiday I have returned home wondering how I will manage to do everything that I have let slide.
    Having routines will reduce this stress and hopefully I won’t waste so much time each day deliberating about what I should be doing.
    Thank you for this well written advice.
    Regards The wandering Starrs

    1. Hello Wandering Starrs,
      Thanks for stopping at my blog and commenting on the routines post. I am glad that your re-entry after holiday will be eased by some of the ideas I wrote about. It makes me happy to know that I am helping readers. Thank you for your comment.


  4. Oh how I wish I had found your blog when I retired May 2012! I was googling for “Structuring your day” and found your article “Creating Good Routines in Retirement (or any time)”. I have bookmarked it so that I won’t lose your brilliant instructions to create a routine. I too am a Baby Boomer born in 1953. I too felt that I was defined by my “job” and felt lonely, even though my husband at home, as no longer meeting colleagues. I will be able to read more from your blog and hopefully begin to get to live a better retirement.
    Thank you for all of your articles and your blog.

    1. Christine,
      It does my heart good to hear from you! Thank you for writing! You are just the person that my blog is written for – someone who wants and needs ideas and/or advice about retirement issues. I hope you will subscribe to my blog so that you receive the new posts as soon as they are published. I’m hoping you will begin to feel more positive when you try some of the suggestions I’ve collected and put on the blog. Please write again. I’d love to hear how you’re doing!

  5. Having been retired for over a year now I was starting to struggle with the fact I did not have a routine and felt that this was silly – after years of not being happy with my strict work routine. But I felt I needed a structure to my day. Reading your article made me realise that it is important to have a structure and I was not mad for feeling I had to write everything down (rather than just relaxing as some friends said). I think routine is important and am so glad to know this is a normal feeling how I feel right not in terms of adjusting. Thanks for a great article.

  6. 7Just want to let you know how much I needed to read this blog this morning. I had googled ‘retirement routine’ and your blog came up. I have been retired since April 2015 and often suffer from anxiety because I am so unfocused and undisciplined. I’m hoping this will help. You have some very good suggestions and I have subscribed! Thank you.

    1. Pat,
      I just found your comment. It had gone to the spam file. I don’t know why – it is certainly not spam. Thank you for letting me know that this post on routines was helpful. Thank you for subscribing. Let me know whether the suggestions for routines are working for you.


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