I’m Retired–Do I Throw Away My Alarm Clock?

Which is better:  Following disciplined habits or natural cycles?

Having to get up and get to work on time used to provide discipline in my life.  When I was off for weekends or vacation days, the time I was ready to start my day got later and later.  Every morning I need to shower, exercise, dress, eat breakfast, floss and brush teeth before I’m ready to start my day.  If I get up at 6 AM I can be ready to go by 7:30.  But if I snooze until 7 or 8 AM, my day might not start until 9:30.  This morning, I got up later, and didn’t hit the computer until 9:36.

Now that I’m retired I have a choice to make.  Do I live by the clock or my biology?

[Living against the clock: does loss of daily rhythms cause obesity?]

Sleeping in seems so wasteful.  But is that a false assumption?  Now that I’m retired, does it matter what time I start writing each day?  Would I be more productive if I lived by the clock or learned to adapt to my natural rhythms?

I’ve always assumed discipline is a major virtue.  That we each seek to conquer nature by using willpower to bend our bodies and environment into our control.  Isn’t it everyone’s assumption that we must overcome our animal urges?  However, studies on health and stress show that might not be the best way to live, and that going with the natural flow of things might be healthier.

If you look across the Earth, have we conquered nature, or merely destroyed it?  That’s getting awful philosophical as to whether I should sleep in or get up early.  Can’t I just accept that the early bird gets the worm?  Now that I’m thinking about this question I realize I’m living by a lot of assumptions.  My 9 to 5 work years forced me to get up early, but now I’m free to follow a different path.

Since my health is in decline, it’s more important that I listen to my body than the Clock app on my iPod touch.  Just writing these words shows me I need to do a lot of rethinking of my commonly held assumptions.  And what other assumptions do I need to question about my other daily habits?

How many meals should I eat and when?  Do I need to shower every day?  Does it have to be in the morning?  What time is best to do my exercises?  When is the best time to write, clean house, socialize, watch TV, etc?  What if I follow my circadian rhythms and I no longer track a 24 hour clock?  How do I adapt my freeform schedule to my friends who follow a work schedule? 

There is something to be said for natural sleep . I notice this morning when I woke up at 7:30 that it was just getting light.  I’m wondering if my natural alarm clock is set by the amount of light outside.  The room in which I sleep faces east, and has one long window without curtains  across the east wall.  Maybe I should do a scientific experiment and note when I wake up and when sunrise is for that day, and see if in the course of the year if I follow a natural cycle.

As I’ve been sleeping later, I’ve been wanting to stay up later.  I’ve been retired just six days but I’m already having a hard time remembering what day it is, and I’ve stopped following the clock.  Also, I’m now eating at different times.  I even nap later.

My retirement goal is to write a novel.  I assumed before I retired I needed to stick to a disciplined schedule and work at novel writing just like I worked as a computer programmer.  Now I’m thinking that was a false assumption.  Or is that just a rationalization to sleep later?

The western world changed after the invention of the clock.  Now that I’m retired I realize I’ve left clock time.  Because I don’t have cable TV, I don’t even watch TV to a schedule anymore.  I’m on Netflix time.  Does this mean I’ve been a Morlock all my life and now I’ve become an Eloi?  That might not be good.  Modern sequels recognized the virtues of the hideous Morlocks – they got things done, while noting the Eloi were lazy and wimpy.

Living by the clock is mechanical.  Living by nature is undisciplined.  There’s got to be a happy medium – or is that another false assumption? 

JWH – 10/28/13

14 thoughts on “I’m Retired–Do I Throw Away My Alarm Clock?”

  1. I would try and find a natural rhythm and not have too many rules. Sometimes you will wake early and feel alert and ready to write that novel of yours…other’s you may need more sleep. Light’s good to work to until you reach a season when there’s little light…or do we hibernate?….. Anyway I wouldn’t let your life slip but listen to what your body needs. Try without a clock for a while and see what happens. Good luck!

  2. Jim, I’d say it depends on how productive you want to be.

    Oh, I certainly wouldn’t use an alarm clock. I used to hate hearing that alarm every day. Of course, I worked 12-hour shifts, so it just feels good to be on a more-or-less regular schedule these days. However, I don’t oversleep. I don’t think that will be a problem.

    The problem for me is that I’m slow starting. Since I don’t have to go to work, I take my time with breakfast and… everything else in the morning. So I don’t even get started until afternoon, often enough (at least, if you don’t count browsing the internet, answering emails, blogging, etc.).

    Oh, and taking a nap in the afternoon is a bad habit to start, too. Unless you really enjoy it, in which case, why not? Again, it just depends on how productive you want to be.

  3. When I retired, I stopped wearing a watch. But, I kept the alarm clock. It’s used very infrequently, like when I need to catch a plane.

    Allow time for your brain and body to adjust. Sleep until you wake up *and* feel rested. If you don’t feel rested, you aren’t sleeping enough, so give it time. Sleep is good for you. After some time, you’ll figure out how much sleep you need to feel your best.

  4. Hi Jim

    First, congrats on your retirement (aka regaining full choice each day)!

    Many of the questions you mention are ones faced also (interestingly) by those of us who are self employed and working from home.
    Granted WFH does retain the expectation of income generation (and in my case interacting with clients) but the flexible somewhat vexing formation of a schedule is similar.

    I’ve found (and expect to maintain as I work my way into retirement) that task completion is essential while clock observance matters little to me. I’m far more efficient (and content!) when I adhere to achieving goals for each day but allow flex day to day. When to begin, when to take breaks and when to ‘end the day’ vary. I flex my sched depending upon task, season, personal need for more (or less) sleep etc. I’m more productive waking naturally – earlier or later – and often work later when I begin later. The only unchanging element is that goals are accomplished daily.

    I don’t know what help this may be but it’s been a contented and productive approach for me and one I plan to continue when I have full control and choice of how each day unfolds!

    It’ll be interesting to hear what you eventually find works best for you…

    Best wishes

  5. Like the athiest’s funeral, you’re all dressed up with nowhere to go. Ken is right – if you want to write a novel, then rent desk space and go there and write. Otherwise you’ll never do it. Then one day someone will bring you another cat. You wan’t your life organized by the needs of another frickin cat? Get off your ass and quit feeling sorry for yourself.

    Billy Pilgrim

    1. Um, sorry for himself? Did you read a different post than I did? How did you get feeling sorry for himself out of that?

      I disagree about the need to rent desk space, though it would be helpful to set a routine – both a place and a time – for writing. But there’s no reason that can’t be done at home. Authors do that all the time.

      Oh, and not to be pedantic, but it’s “atheist.” I don’t know why so many people misspell it like that.

      1. Actually, I got up and wrote 1,500 words on my novel this morning, plus had lunch with a friend, went book shopping with another friend, and watched a TV show this evening with a third friend. It was a great day.

      2. To WCG,
        The punctuation and spelling are correct, as in, “that athiest’s opinion”. The athiest, not the funeral was my topic but I could have phrased it better.

    2. Billy, I don’t feel sorry for myself. Somehow you confuse my self-amusing navel gazing as depression. It’s not. I’m just churning though various thoughts about things.

  6. Health is the most important. Having too many rules is the thing that might stress you the most. You might feel you are obligated to live by them but it can be overwhelming everytime you catch yourself doing something your “Book of the rules” doesn´t say. Retirement is here for people to rest and enjoy the life. You should do it too.

    1. Health is an issue for me. I do have heart issues. But I don’t want my retirement just to be a long vacation until I die. I have writing ambitions for my retirement years. I need to balance healthy living versus getting things done. I do think I need to do whatever it takes to follow a low stress lifestyle.

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