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A workaholic's guide to retirement

retired couple

Retirement is a big moment in all of our lives, but the change in pace is particularly big for the workaholics among us. For those who are addicted to working and structure their entire lives and purpose around their profession, retirement can seem like a daunting and scary prospect. However, with some careful planning and introspection, it certainly doesn’t need to be. Aside from having the right savings in place – perhaps in case installing a stairlift becomes necessary down the road – there are numerous ways you can ensure this next stage of life is enjoyable and rewarding. So, take a look at the tips below and enjoy the wonders of retirement.

Plan your retirement

retired couple with laptop

Planning your retirement is key as this will mean that you are prepared for this big change in your life. Beyond planning financially, planning ahead will also help you look forward to retirement as you can start to think about all the positives. Lisa Phillips, a life coach at Amazing Coaching, shares the following advice:

“Allow yourself to grieve or feel a loss when your working life comes to an end. However, make sure you have something to look forward to after you have retired. In particular, look at what you feel you may miss once you are retired. If it is collaborating with other people, then aim to find a hobby or volunteer activity where you can still collaborate. If it is having a plan or focus when you wake up each day, make sure you incorporate some structure into your day that gives you a reason to get out of bed.”   

Elizabeth Juffs, a professional life coach, recommends asking yourself the following questions when planning ahead: “How do you want to spend your retirement? What would be a great way of using your time and your skills/experience? Can you plan or set up some activities, groups you might join, people and places to visit, into your diary now for after you finish work or as you wind down?”

Sue, from the over 50s blog Sizzling Towards Sixty, has the following advice: “Transition to retirement can be a challenging phase in our lives, especially if we have devoted most of our working life to our job. For many, the prospect of retirement can be a double-edged sword. We look forward to the flexibility and freedom yet feel daunted with the prospect of how we fill in the hours after a long career where our time has been regulated.”

One of the keys to a successful transition is to view retirement as a career change and plan rather than jumping in and hoping for the best.

Make a slow transition

Another thing that will help tremendously will not be abruptly stopping work completely. For workaholics, this sudden change from working obsessively to not working at all can be hard to handle. So, consider making a slow transition into retired life. Lisa Phillips recommends: “If you are still in the planning stage of retirement, you may wish to cut down your hours gradually, rather than stopping working in one go. Also, you may wish to look for a part-time or weekend job.”

Elizabeth Juffs recommends “exploring if there are any part-time opportunities, to ease you into your retirement phase. Going from, say, 40 hours plus per week, to nil overnight, can take a lot of adjustment!”

Sue, from Sizzling Towards Sixty, advises to “transition into retirement by reducing current working hours so you can ‘test the retirement waters’ before actually diving in. Remember you can always change direction; the important thing is to enjoy this new phase of life.”

Re-assess your priorities

grandmother with grandchild

Now that work is no longer the centre of your life, it’s important that you start to re-assess your priorities. This is the advice of life coach Carole Ann Rice of The Real Coach. Speaking to us, Carole has shared her top tips: “Workaholism is an addiction and just like other addictions, it is a way of seeking oblivion and not being present. Retirement needn't mean you grind to a stop but perhaps, finally, it is a time of reassessing life and what is really meaningful other than work and employment status. What gives joy? What might another purpose be? (helping others, volunteering, being a mentor, charity work, hobbies, travel) - this is a time to truly discover who you are without work being a cover for disengagement.”

Lisa Phillips agrees on this point, stressing to us the other areas of life that can now become your focus and also allow you to perhaps make amends for past choices you have come to regret: “Retirement may also allow you to change your priorities. Could you spend more time with family and friends? Spend more time with those you may have neglected while being a workaholic.”

Re-adjust your thinking

Closely related to the above, a re-adjustment in the way you think about yourself and your worth is important for workaholics. This is the key advice of Lisa Phillips: “Often workaholics gain good feelings about themselves while they are working. For example, working hard may give them a feeling of success, achievement or just feeling ‘good enough’. When they finally retire, they may feel that these good feelings disappear as well! Remind yourself that you can feel like a success or good enough even if you are not working. Focus on changing your attitude from ‘I am only a success if I am working’ to ‘I am a success if I am working or not’.”

Find your purpose

Life Coach Directory member Belinda Raitt advises that making sure that your new life has purpose is key for workaholics: “The slower pace of life can be a struggle, the lack of a defined role, of a daily structure, of targets to beat and deadlines to meet.” Belinda says that “The ones who are happiest are the ones who, no matter what they end up doing, have found a purpose; something that still makes them feel valued (we’re not talking money/salary here) and that gives them the drive to get out of bed in the morning.

“Since a sense of purpose is the main ingredient that helps to make retirement go smoothly, taking steps to understand what drives you and motivates you (outside of work) before you retire is crucial. Think about what you are good at, what you enjoy, what others need, and what you need. Understand also the type of person you are, try to work on becoming more self-aware and more in tune with your inner needs, what is it that compels you to be a workaholic. Working with a coach can help you to find the answers to these questions.”

Try and celebrate retirement

Elizabeth Juffs says that being grateful for this period of life and your newfound freedom should also be something to keep in mind: “Being grateful can help your emotional state. Celebrate the fact that you have reached retirement - sadly, some people never get that chance. Recognise what you appreciate in your life - your family, your health, your home or garden, the time to enjoy and achieve things that your previous work perhaps didn’t leave space or energy for. Then choose to notice the things you’re grateful for on a daily basis.”

Try new hobbies and activities

man fishing

In retirement, it’s a great idea that you start to implement some new hobbies and activities in life. Not only to fill the gap where work once existed but to keep your mind and your body developing. Taking up something that interests you, like a sport, craft, or instrument, can help you redirect all that energy and passion somewhere new. Carole Ann advises: “Take time to really get to know yourself - what makes you tick, what interests and engages you and see it as a time of freedom from commitment and a whole new chapter for happiness and peace."

Starting a new project can also be a smart idea. These can be big or small. Perhaps there is something in your garden you’ve always wanted to change? A new space? Remodelling? Building a patio or shed? Have a think and start filling your days with passion projects that will have a definitive outcome while also be enjoyable and fulfilling to undertake.

Lisa Phillips recommends making a list of activities that can bring you joy and look to implement these into daily life: “Make a list of 20 things that make you happy and do one every day. It is important to find other activities that make you feel good now that you have retired. Especially if you are used to getting the majority of your good feelings from working.”

Top retirement tips for workaholics

  • Plan your retirement
  • Make a slow transition
  • Re-assess your priorities
  • Re-adjust your thinking
  • Find your purpose
  • Try and celebrate retirement
  • Try new hobbies and activities

Hopefully, this workaholics guide to retirement has been a useful one. If you are currently retired and are wondering what to do with your newfound freedom, or are perhaps approaching retirement age, the tips above should prove helpful.

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