Sunday, May 5, 2013

Personal Days

Recently I met up with a retired college administrator. When I asked her how she likes retirement she said, “I love retirement! Everyday is like Saturday and Sunday.” Retirement communities that advertise, “Living here is like having a 365-day vacation” promote this same outlook on retirement.

Maybe there is something wrong with me, but neither of these options sounds appealing.

If every day is a weekend, then where is the sweetness of Friday evening? It’s the contrast between challenging work and time off that make Saturday and Sunday so special. I have to earn the weekend for these days to be special.

I’m also not interested in every day being a vacation day. I know from research (and from my own experience) that I can achieve more lasting satisfaction from the challenges of work than from lying on the beach day after day.

So, is there another way to view this next stage of life as more than a weekend or one long vacation?

I found an answer to this question when I was at Barnes & Noble last week and ran into a former colleague. When I asked if she had the day off from work, she said, “I’m taking a personal day. I really need it.”

Interestingly I noticed that she was spending her personal day (PD) the same way I was spending my “retirement day.”  We were both enjoying a good cup of coffee (mocha light for me), reading an inspiring book, researching a future business idea, and overall—savoring the day. This is when I got the idea that instead of viewing retirement as one long weekend or vacation, I want to regard retirement days as personal days.

Consider the factors that set PDs apart from another workday, or vacation and weekend.

PDs are usually limited—if you’re lucky, your employer grants you three PDs each year, and you use them or lose them. This creates a sense of value for these days.

PDs may be for relaxation, but they’re also used to pursue future opportunities or goals. Throughout my career I’ve used PDs to go to job interviews, to present a keynote speech for my emerging consulting business, and to run a marathon.

How have you used your PDs? Take out a piece of paper and make a list. Notice the diverse ways in which you’ve spent this limited resource—it’s usually more than an ordinary weekend event or one of many vacation days.

We might not think of our days as “use them or lose them” but in truth, this is the case. If you’re not attracted to a lifetime of weekends or vacation days, then view every day as a “Personal Day” and see how richly rewarding your retirement years can be.