Over-busy in your retirement? Try these 4 litmus test questions.

Are you one of those who came to the end of fulltime work with a growing list of plans and projects? Who relished the gift of ‘free’ time opening up opportunities for volunteering, family, new hobbies, seeing the world, and more?

But, as time passes, perhaps reality has dawned. Through your mind, and maybe from your lips, run words like –

‘I seem to be busier now than I’ve ever been’.

‘Busy? Tell me about it!’

‘I just don’t know where the time goes. I never seem to stop’.

Somehow an overcrowded life has snuck up and ambushed you. Not exactly how you’d expected life to pan out once you’d packed up the daily grind. But here you are, and, sad to say, ‘busier’ is not necessarily ‘happier’. ‘Busier’ can all too easily lead to stress, burn out, ill health and simply take away the shine of these golden years.

So, what about eliminating some of the things that make our post-work lives over-busy? Or, at least, to consider seriously what that might look like?

Let me pose four questions every over-busy retiree would do well to reflect on.

What ‘must do’ things in your life don’t you enjoy?

Okay, so we have to live with the reality that not everything in life ‘sparks joy’! Like cleaning the oven. And if gardening and maintenance float your boat then fine.

However, what if too many ‘must do’ things are robbing you of precious time to bring enjoyment and meaning to you and to others?

Could you simplify the garden so it’s easier to manage? Be less ambitious about it?

Would downsizing your home crack it – especially if this meant less chores? And the money that’s released could give you a little extra to pay for others to do some of the things that take up your time.

This leads to a very big principle that needs evaluating at this stage of your life. It is the difference between ‘cost’ and ‘convenience’.

Like me, you have probably made ‘cost’ the priority. Chosen to save paying out even if it means having to do the joy yourself. But this might be the moment to look at this differently.

At this stage of life, time is precious and the need to keep costs to a minimum no matter what may be less of an issue. So are there chores you have always done that it would be more convenient and beneficial to pay someone else to do.

In this way, for a small expenditure, you might be able to have others do what you don’t enjoy and have time and energy to invest as a result.

What choices don’t enrich and fulfil your life?

Again, not everything in life can be wonderful. But you should try to make as much of it as possible enriching and fulfilling.

The enemy to this happening may come in the guise of the requests that come because others think you have time available. This all too easily leads to giving up time to serve on committees and rotas that were never on your wish list.

Surprisingly, this can even involve the level of care for grandchildren. Shock horror? Yet I’ve heard too many tales of grandparents feeling trapped because their children assume endless babysitting and day care is the order of the day.

Of course we love the little ones, if we have them. But we also have the right to our own choices regarding when enough is enough.

In which case, and you need an exit strategy to some of your current commitments read the next piece of advice.

What are you doing simply because you should have said ‘no’?

Now is the time to be honest – because none of us like to admit we bottled it when asked to do something we really should have said ‘no’ to.

The problem is that going back now is even harder than saying ‘no’ in the first place! But we’re talking about your over-busy life here. Time to be brave.

Remember, if someone feels they have the right to ask us to do something, we equally have the right to say ‘no’. And we can say no without feeling we need to make excuses, give some kind of justification and take on guilt.

When it comes to fending off initial requests you’ll find a ton of helpful advice on my past blog All You Need to Know About Saying ‘no’.

But what about these existing commitments you’ve already agreed to?

If you genuinely believe you need to carve out some more free time try this –

  • Take a deep breath and gather up inside you an absolute commitment not to fudge the issue.
  • Say something like, ‘I know you may not want to hear this but I’ve become over-committed and need free up some time. This means I’m no longer going to be able to . . . . .’
  • Agree a firm date to bring the commitment to an end.
  • Don’t get into a discussion and be clear that it’s not your responsibility to find someone to replace what you have been doing.
  • Change the conversation or end it. But don’t linger.

Who are the people who dampen your spirit?

One of the marks of a genuine Christian faith is to have a love for people – all people. The lovely and the not-so-lovely. Those who give and those who take. Those who enrich our lives and those capable of sucking us dry.

Nothing I’m about to say changes that. But such love doesn’t mean spending a disproportionate time with those who drag you down. Life is too precious and too short to major on people who have A Levels in whinging, gossiping and complaining.

It’s better to prioritise people with a positive attitude, who enrich your life and are fun to be with. In that way you’ll also have the inner strength, and be more valuable, to support those who are going through tough times.

There’s every reason why the years that lie ahead could be the best of your life. But for that to happen you need to make some wise choices and sometimes some hard decisions.

Have you an experience to share of pruning your after-work life? Please share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s still working part time in his 70s, helping churches and resourcing inter-church initiatives. This is alongside enjoying his eight grandchildren, escaping to Spain and spending his kids’ inheritance.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife