By the end of the first week of retirement I was totally exhausted. Exhausted and frazzled. Seems that mostly what I was doing was rushing, rushing, rushing … and sometimes crying. I thought I hadn’t set myself up to do very much and then there was last Saturday. I woke around 5 a.m. and just couldn’t fall back asleep as thoughts of how little I’d achieved during the week spun around in my overactive head. My home office was still a wreck. The backyard was still a wreck. My downstairs book-cases were just as over-stuffed as they’d been the week before. My kayak still hung unprotected from the ravages of winter. How could I have accomplished so little? I went into clear over-drive and by the end of the day there were 9 big green garbage bags full of books on the floor in the downstairs bedroom (do drop by and select books you’d like to take some home!), the front and back yards were cleaned up, leaves blown into garbage bags (muchos gracias to sweet David for his part in this), the kayak was washed down and wrapped up in a big blue tarp and hanging safely from the fence protected from the ravages of winter, almost all of the boxes I’d brought home from work had been unpacked, my desk was clear, and I’d prepared dinner for guests from Argentina who were coming over to give us an introduction to Buenos Aires. Oh yeah – and in between I’d replaced the hooks on the back of the bathroom door and bought some much-needed batteries.
Here’s the thing though. I felt crabby and exhausted. I’d crossed lots and lots of things off my “to-do” list but didn’t have that nice warm glow that usually comes with accomplishing numerous tasks. I was truly lost in trying to understand where my plan had gone wrong. And then on Sunday morning, while having breakfast with my son Motti (a lovely pattern we’ve established) he told me about the time he was standing in a supermarket in Tel Aviv buying some cookies for Shabbat treats; he was overwhelmed with the huge assortment of cookies and couldn’t make a decision … getting more and more nervous about the whole endeavour. And then he realized that what he was facing was a choice among all good things; any of those cookies would be great treats to bring home. His gentle story gave me the insight that I needed to start to unravel my scheduling disaster.
As a working woman the large “chunk” of each day was already filled in – from the time I woke up until about 6 in the evening my time was accounted for. That gave me only the evening hours to schedule myself and by the time David picked me up from work, we bought a few groceries on our way home, went through the day’s mail, prepared dinner, ate … well, it was likely 8 p.m. and that gave me a couple of hours to prepare lecture notes or do some other writing and it was time to snuggle up to the Daily Show and a restful night. So one of the big things that’s changed is now I start with a calendar that has only the time of my aquafit class scheduled in and I have all of those other hours to do all of the things I want to do.
Which brings me to problem #2. There are too many things I want to do. Every day. You see, when I worked I could fill my work calendar – had to really – with multiple things back to back. A teleconference from 8 to 9, preparing briefing materials from 9 to 10, a meeting from 10 to 12, quick run to the Y for a workout, another meeting from 1:30 to 3, and then answer voice mail and e-mails until my final meeting of the day at 4:30 and then I’d spend the rest of the work day doing the notes and follow-up items that had come up during the day. Jumping from one thing to another was status quo; travel time from one activity to another was minimal and the biggest challenge was being able to switch thinking from one thing to another as the day unfolded. I was still trying to schedule in the same way – with one thing after another all day – and clearly that doesn’t work. How to change style though?
My mother gave me a very good idea. She suggested that I go back to last week’s calendar and review all of the things on it and see which things I didn’t really need to do at all, which things I could have done more effeciently by combining tasks, and which things I just wish I hadn’t done. That kind of analysis after-the-fact sounds like a great idea. I think I’ll try it just as soon as I finish my tasks for today!