Make a list and…

3 1/2 years ago I finally achieved a goal I had dreamed about since I started work 49 years before.

I RETIRED… from paid work.

NB Very Important – the second part of that statement is critical.

Most of us probably think when we retire that’s it, game over! This is undoubtedly one of the reasons many men used to pass away within 18 months of retirement. In all probability, they had worked throughout their life with a view to retire at the end of that working life ….with nothing beyond that time. Their main goal was to work… until they retired.

Then what? Maybe they had some vague generalised idea on what to do in retirement.

Maybe not!

One thing life has taught me is if I don’t have a goal that is specific, measurable and time-bound, what I will achieve is… nothing!

I think about all of those people who had long productive working lives but on retirement, their internal clock started running down and eventually… they died.

The realisation is we will all die eventually. The challenge for all of us is to delay the inevitable as long as possible.

What helps is to set personal and achievable goals and, really important, – continually work on them.

So 3 ½ years ago on the Monday following my retirement [from paid work], I sat down with my wife Robyn with a blank pad and a pencil. Interestingly we deliberately set the time of 8.30am on that Monday morning. I was on Day 1 of my new job – living a satisfying life in the Golden Age.

Together, we made a list of everything we wanted to do or achieve going forward. Be it digging over the vegetable plot, editing 20+ years of family videos, 49 years of family photos, developing a well-documented Family Tree or enjoying an Alaskan Cruise, we wrote them all down.

Whilst assembling the list we also walked around our house and section, identifying those little and big jobs I had previously convinced myself to tackle – in retirement.

By lunchtime, we had 128 items on the list. I had a sneaking feeling that wouldn’t be the end of the items on the list.

Next step was to categorise the list into “A’s” [must do’s], “B’s” [need to do’s], and “C’s” [nice to do]. Then together we put them in priority order under each category.

Finally, the total handwritten list was entered into a spreadsheet on our PC so the sort by category and then priority was done simply.

Needless to say, when I looked at the list I was sorely tempted to reprioritise some of the tasks. That was a signal to me I was about to procrastinate about the more difficult tasks we had identified. Small wonder those jobs never got done pre-retirement!

So there we were. Day 1 of retirement and by days end I had enough jobs to do, discounting the travel, to keep me busy for the next 12 months PLUS.

And that’s what I did.

I made sure to tick each of those tasks off as the year progressed and I moved down the list.

It’s been very satisfying.

A critical part of the process was making sure the completed tasks stayed on the list suitably identified. Nothing like giving yourself a mental ‘pat on the back’ each time the ‘jobs done’ are reviewed.

I used to scoff at people who once retired said: “I’m so busy I don’t know how I had enough time for work!” Thanks to that list I now echo those words.

I need to give credit though to my wife Robyn. It certainly helped having my own personal ‘facilitator’ who kept me honest and frequently reminded me not to procrastinate.

What does that list look like now?

In the first 12 months, 87 items were ticked off. Further, it hasn’t shrunk!

I neglected to mention regular reviews of the list has had more priorities being added. It is still over 100 tasks long, although quite a few “C’s” are climbing up the list.

My advice is to make the list AFTER you retire from paid work. It means:

  • No distractions.
  • No ‘other agendas’
  • No procrastinating.

Just a personal and meaningful list to add more structure to my “Golden Age”.


By Alex Sharp

Look out for Alex’s next post next week. In the mean-time read more by Alex on GrownUps here.