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Early retirement: avoiding laziness and boredom


Early retirement: avoiding laziness and boredom
I'm allowed to be lazy, but only on the weekend

Six years ago, I was trying to figure out if early retirement might be a good idea, and whether I'd be bored was one of the things I worried about. On top of that, I wondered whether retirement might be the start of a slide into laziness, and I'm sure I could be quite good at lazy if I didn't guard against it.


I'm fortunate that I could retire early, and to be bored would be rather sad and to be idle does not seem a good way to spend this new free time that I'm lucky to have. So, from day one of my early retirement, I set about ensuring I was neither bored nor lazy by:


  1. Setting myself some targets each year, and checking my progress once a month

  2. Making myself some rules

  3. Deliberately forming routines and habits

  4. Making lists

  5. Thinking of new things to do and occasionally getting out of my comfort zone

  6. Keeping an eye out for other things that might help


As I typed this list, I thought I'd written them in order of importance but, in fact, one doesn't rank above any other, and they are often interlinked. For example, thinking of a new thing to do might tie in with stepping outside of my comfort zone, and that idea might then make its way onto my targets list.

Looking at each of these in a little more detail:


Target setting

Two important aspects are that I write my targets down and then I check in on them at least once a month. My targets generally include a mix of things that will stretch me, things I want to do, as well as some chores that I need to get done. I enjoy sitting down in December to think about what I want to do in the coming year, just as I also enjoy checking whether I'm on track. If there's a day when I'm lost for something to do, I know that I can look at my targets and spend some time making progress on one or more of them. Below are the targets that I've set myself for this year.

My early retirement targets for 2023

Rules

I don't have a ton of rules, but an example of one is that from Monday to Friday, I don't allow myself to watch television or YouTube etc between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Another is that I start my day's activity by 9am, so I must get up and have finished my breakfast ready to go by then. These little rules help stop me wasting my days/being lazy.

Routines and habits

Routines might not be right for everyone, but they can be a useful tool. In reality, we all use routines to some extent, even if it's just to ensure we brush our teeth each morning and night. It might sound boring, but instead I see routines as a way to ensure I get to do the things I really want to do. As I said earlier, several of the techniques that I use to avoid laziness and boredom are linked, so my rule of starting my day's activities by 9am has effectively become my routine, something I do without having to think about it. Running is another routine/habit, which makes it easier to turn the doorknob to start my run even when the weather isn't nice and it's tempting to stay home where it's warm and dry. Because I've formed that habit, I run because that's just what I do, and I'm always happy that I did.


Lists

Lists are just handy things to keep. Written on my phone, I have a blog post ideas list, a to do list, a big ideas/adventures list and a bucket list. If an idea pops into my mind, I try to write it down. Probably, most of them go nowhere and get discarded somewhere down the line, but some might make it onto my targets list or simply become something that I might do one day. On the rare occasions that I'm feeling a little bored or I'm being a bit too lazy, I can look at my lists and see if there's something on them that I can do.


New things to do and stepping outside of my comfort zone

In many ways, I'm quite content with doing the same thing again and again - when I worked as an accountant, there was a lot of repetition of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual tasks and processes, and once they were done, it was time to start doing them again. And if I cook a big pot of curry or a large lasagna, I have no problem eating the same meal three days running until it's finished. Although much of what I do might remain the same, I also know that introducing a new activity or interest keeps things fresh. As to getting outside of my comfort zone, it's, well, uncomfortable, but I'm certain it's healthy to stretch myself in this way, and it most definitely isn't boring when I do so.


Other things

I know the way my mind works, knowing that routines, rules, targets and to do lists help to keep me busy and away from boredom or laziness. And every now and then, I find a new way to keep me on track. A recent example is my renewed effort to learn French - I found an online tuition provider where I pay a subscription at the start of the month and can then have an unlimited number of lessons for the price of that subscription. If I have just one lesson, it works out to be a very expensive lesson, if I have seven or eight lessons, it's about the same cost as I'd pay for individual lessons, but if I have more than eight lessons then the effective cost per lesson goes down and I feel like I'm getting a good deal. This appeals to my sense of value, I pay my subscription, and I know I'll try hard to have at least eight lessons. In month one I had 11 lessons and in month two I had 10 lessons. Paying up front is certainly helping me not be lazy with my French lessons, something I haven't always been able to say in the past.


So, these are some of the tools I've used to avoid boredom and laziness in my early retirement. For me, they work, I'm most definitely not bored, and I'm fairly confident that I'm not lazy. In fact, I often find there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything. Some of these tools might work for you, or you might have other strategies that suit your personality.

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