6 Enriching Projects to Take On To Improve Your Time Well Spent

Problem: you want to take action now on big things to lay the foundation for a smooth life or business transition.  Here are 6 projects (they're meant to be longer term!) you can get working on now, with the long term in mind, to begin cultivating a support network and lifestyle for the transition into your Next Callings.

  1. Build a support network.  This means people, organizations, and activities outside the context of your current work or business.  Many studies like the one found here describe the shock and long term impacts of losing the social engagement you once had in work and business.  It's important to have a strong social network to stay engaged with, to draw on if needed, and to celebrate life's joys with.  You may have a strong network already outside of work but it can never hurt to cultivate it more - broaden it, deepen it, etc.. This goes for any time in life but PARTICULARLY before, during, and after transitioning into retirement.  I suggest even going so far as integrating a relationship with a therapist or other mental health practitioner into your support network.  No, I'm not suggesting retirement will make you experience dyer mental health issues but there is a lot of research to suggest retirement can have a host of positive but also negative effects on your health.  Having a relationship already established with a mental health practitioner will help avoid unintended side effects of retirement but also will help to maximize your enjoyment in ways you might not expect.
  2. Make Big Plans and Start the Pieces Moving.  While there is plenty of relaxation, leisure, and vegging out to be had (and earned!) when you retire, having big plans that either have recurring commitments or require a long term amount of effort, can help to engage all those skills you spent honing and improving for 20+ years.  Skills and faculties like problem solving, analysis, thinking on your feet, communication, negotiation, designing, building, etc. ought to be put to use to ease you into your new life and ensure the "cold turkey" effects of one day no longer using them don't happen.  Things like planning to build your new home, refurbishing an old wooden boat, creating that community quilting guild, or finally supporting getting that YMCA into your hometown, are examples of worthy endeavors and will benefit you post transition in a variety of ways.
  3. Become a Mentor (Link).  I'm a huge proponent of a traditional mentoring relationship.  One that is long term, built on knowledge transfer, is mutually beneficial and rewarding, and is one of trust.  A focused exchange and relationship between a mentor and mentee is like no other in my opinion.  Cultivating one or several mentoring relationships early before you transition will ensure an easy transfer of that relationship beyond your transition and into your next stage.  Business owners and professional folks having worked for 20-30 years and beyond have a wealth of experience that's proven valuable and it's value can be vastly multiplied if shared and experienced in a mentoring relationship.  There are numerous avenues to engage potential mentees if you don't have access to them, contact me directly and I'll help.
  4. Get involved in service. This could be local or global in reach (an organization like Rotary International focuses on each) but aside from the obvious benefits of helping your fellow humans, the social benefits as well as the engagement of your skills can help to really cultivating a thriving next stage in life.  This could grow to a true Next Callings in which you devote a good amount of your time and energy to worthy causes that you've found inspire you and you have unique value to provide.
  5. Design a Future Lifestyle. Being creative, inspiring, and experimental with the ideas about your future can be quite powerful in a whole multitude of ways.  Specifically, these sorts of exercises leverage the brains Reticular Activating System (RAS) (I've mentioned this in other posts), which has a variety of purposes, but one of them can be described by an example.  Say you're interested in Red Volkswagen Beetles and you're doing research to find out about purchasing one.  After a few days of research, you start to really notice these Beetles almost EVERYWHERE you go!  What's happening is your brain has always been filtering, disregarding, and discarding useless information that has come its way and in the past, these Red Beetles fit that category.  Now, however, that you're paying attention and signaling the brain that this sort of information is now worth retaining and paying attention to, voila, you see these Beetles everywhere!  Now, from a future vision standpoint, the idea is to explore your desired future, in a variety of expansive and deep ways.  The more you do so, the more exciting it can become, the more momentum you'll generate, and you'll engage the RAS to absorb and pay attention to information and signals that relate to this vision.  I personally believe this is where what some people call "serendipity" starts.  There are a variety of exercises to explore your future vision but common ones are things like making a future vision collage out of old magazines, writing a vision out in words, or exploring a variety of dimensions of your life like family, friends, finances, environment, etc. and what you wish these things to be like in your future.  The Next Callings Experience is architected in several ways to create this new future lifestyle vision (among other things) and I highly recommend we talk more if you're interested in engaging this kind of work.
  6. Construct a backlog of exciting and engaging experiences. Like creative work in Project 5, this too can be exciting and energizing.  This is one of the most obvious things people do when planning for retirement or taking extended time off from a work life. This can also happen when time is freed up after your kids leave the house.  However, I'd like to take it a few steps further than a mere list of things you'd like to do. The purpose of doing this is to reduce the planning and decision fatigue that can result from the new found abundance of "free time".  Many people either get burned out quickly from choice overwhelm or they fill up their time with "busy-ness" of life starting to happen TO them and consequently they don't have time for the things they wanted to enjoy.  This project is to go as far as you can to lock in a series of enjoying experiences before, during, and after you transition.  I suggest making the list of various things you like to do.  Perhaps pencil in the next column, why you like to do them (so you know when to take other opportunities that might come your way and when you shouldn't!).  The next step is put some skin in the game by perhaps purchasing tickets (like airlines, hotels, a guide service for the safari, that cooking class, etc.), scheduling them on the calendar, and engaging your spouse and support network to participate (this keeps you accountable and couples it with the social pressure not to bail!).  I'm not suggesting filling up all your time with a bunch of activities, leave your comfort level of room for leisure and other less active activities.  I DO suggest doing this in rolling waves of scheduling.  Pencil in the next 3 months every couple of months to keep a stack of activities ahead of you.  This is most important, I believe, within the first year of retiring but also in that 3-5 year mark.  It's about that time, according to several studies, that people tend to "wind down" off of the initial high's of retiring and so ensuring you have a thriving new lifestyle filled with a variety of Time Well Spent will ensure your ultimate success!
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