by James Wallace Harris, Sunday, March 26, 2017
I don’t have the time to do everything I want – and I’m retired! I assume everyone gets up daily hoping to do more than they do because I’m constantly seeing time task management advice on the web.
Time is never on our side.
If I could distill all that web advice it would be: Focus on the fewest goals, avoid distractions, start your day early, stick to what’s important. Of course these advice lists are aimed at people who want to make it big. What if you’re less ambitious? What if the only person you have to please is yourself?
This got me to thinking about retirement and goals. There’s nothing stopping me from being completely whim driven. The other day I got a jury duty summons. It made me realize I had my first work schedule in years. Except for doctor and dental appointments I seldom punch a clock. My main time pressure is to finish essays, but even then I don’t have actual deadlines.
Does a retired person need to worry about time management skills? That depends on how productive retirees want to be. I’ve decided there’s a hierarchy of using time productively.
- Ambitions. If you want to be successful at anything then you have to put in the time. Generally, your ambitions are your major goals in life. And it really helps to only have one at a time. Everything else is subordinate. The most successful people can focus so intensely on their ambition that it becomes their life. Few people go that far.
- Hobbies. It’s possible to have multiple hobbies, and even get pretty good at several of them. Just putting in 30-60 minutes a day can lead to remarkable results.
- Skills. Over our lifetime we develop various skills. Whether it’s chopping vegetables or fixing computers, skills come with practice, but we don’t routinely focus on them like hobbies.
- Chores. Chores are like skills, but we don’t even think about how good we are at doing them. Doing the dishes or grocery shopping are just things that have to get done.
- Pastimes. Watching TV can be mindless but fun. We often fill up our life with activities that are pleasant, but we don’t think about improving our pastime abilities. Watching basketball on TV is a pastime. You can make playing basketball into a skill, hobby or even ambition, but most people don’t.
- Interests. There are topics you enjoy talking about at parties but on subjects you’d never study. Watching the news might be a pastime, and sometimes it covers your interests. Our interests are our least active pursuit. We waste time thinking and talking about them, but we don’t work at become specialists. We’d probably do poorly if we were tested on our interests because we treat them so haphazardly.
If your goal is to be the best at something, than spending time on activities 2-6 are detrimental to your ambition. Few people are that driven. Most of us don’t even have hobbies we systematically work at. Probably the average person is content with skills, chores, pastimes and interests.
I came across a video yesterday that perfectly illustrates what applying an hour a day can achieve. It shows the progress of a young woman learning to play the violin from week 1 to 2 years. In a separate video she explains how much she practices. I don’t know if this means anyone could learn the violin, or if this woman had music ability that made her more suited to the hobby. She does claim the violin is her first instrument, and she started playing in her twenties.
In recent years, whenever I needed a new skill, from opening a mango to repairing a toilet, I’ve learned from YouTube. That suggests we can learn almost anything if we try. The above video is proof we could get good at a hobby if we spent 30-60 minutes a day working at it. Which means even employed people have time for one or two hobbies.
My problem is I have too many interests that I want to develop into pastimes, skills and hobbies. Right now writing essays is my main hobby. It’s not even an ambition – yet – because I haven’t dedicated myself to it. If I wanted to be a great essayist, I’d need to ignore casual interests, abandon hobbies, and only pursue skills that related to writing.
I’m not that focused or disciplined. I wish I was, but I’m not. I do wish I could get good at a second hobby. I’m hitting a wall that might be age related. I seem to have only so much activity energy to apply at learning each day. Once it’s used up I fall back to pleasant pastimes and interests. I haven’t figure out if active pursuits are like muscles which can be built up, or like chemical energy, which is consumed.
Off hand, I’d say being active in the above pursuits is related to health and age, which means our time on target dwindles as we get older. I’ve recently got much better at crosswords, so that was encouraging about being an old dog learning new tricks. But then I read “Here Are the Age You Peak at Everything Throughout Life” and saw that 71 was when we peaked at vocabulary. Unfortunately, they didn’t mention essay writing, photography, drawing, and other skills I’d like pursuing. I am past the age for peak arithmetic skills – 50, which might explain my trouble with relearning 6th grade math.
JWH – Happy 39th Anniversary Susan