How Satisfying Projects Make Me a Happier Retiree


Satisfying projects give my life a lift!

Satisfying projects give my life a lift!

I guess I’m not really a man of leisure, even though I could be. I’m just not cut out for endless bouts of lying on a pool chair or lounging on a porch rocker, with nothing more to do than browse a newspaper or sip a beverage. Like it or not, I need to have something constructive to do to feel good about my day.

And yet…

One of the things I absolutely do NOT miss about the job world is the stress and pressure of deadlines and output quotas. So I’ll be boiled in oil before I let self-imposed performance expectations mess with my head and louse up my retirement days. Yes, I want and need things to do. But I don’t want to HAVE to do them.

And then there’s one more thing…

I have an abhorrence of letting time end up empty when I have planned for that time to be filled with a particular thing to do. But that is just what will and does happen if my motivation wavers – meaning if comfortable laziness takes over me after sitting at lunch or some such. Sure, it feels comfortable in the moment to just sit there watching a movie or listening to a symphony. But I mentally pay for it later with negative feelings regarding wasted time, lack of self-discipline and unachieved productivity.

My answer to the quandary of wanting to have things to do, not wanting to live with the pressure of having to do them, and at the same time avoiding the blight of couch/lounge/chair potato time is… “the satisfying project.” An UNDEADLINED project from a satisfying project menu. With a dedicated daily time block. And backstopped by a personally meaningful non-project activity (such as history reading) that I can default to if I’m not in a project frame of mind on any given day.

Here’s how I am making that work for me.

I have developed a list of satisfying projects, by which I mean closed end activities that will result in concrete outputs. Some projects are going to take me a lot of time to complete (like my planned Retired To Win Financial Independence Workbook). Others may only need a day or two to finish (like the reassembly of a homemade truck bed camping rig for my 1996 Dodge Dakota). Many will be one-time shots (like setting up a backyard astronomical observatory). And others will be recurring (like writing articles such as this one). But all my satisfying projects have two things in common. One: they are all endeavors which I want to pursue because they’ll give me creative fulfillment (like the Workbook), open the way for new or expanded ways for me to have more fun (like the camping rig), or be meaningful to me in some other way (like having a clean roadside.) And two: they all result in a specific product (like a blog article) or outcome (like that clean roadside after I’ve done a trash pickup hike).

I have carved out a dedicated time slot for my satisfying projects in my daily schedule to make sure I am moving forward on one of them . That time block is just 2 hours, so it’s not a big chunk of time. (But, as I wrote earlier, it makes me nuts to have that time go to waste.) Still, it’s enough time to make feel-good progress on one of my satisfying projects. I would prefer to stick to one project until it is completed. But since on any given day my interest and motivation can shift, I may not feel like doing the project I was doing the day before. That’s where having a project menu and no project deadlines come in. On days like that, I can keep myself moving forward by selecting an alternate project to focus on from my menu.

I have designated history reading (which I love) as an acceptable fallback activity if moving ahead on a project is just not in my motivational cards on any given day. For me, the history study is still a constructive and satisfying use of that time. It’s all good, just as long as I don’t slide into lower grade time fillers like watching movies or playing PC strategy games. Not during project time.

All this doesn’t mean I don’t have rest and relaxation downtime. I’ve got plenty of time for that after dinner. I’m just much, much happier if I make hay while the sun shines (so to speak). And that’s why satisfying projects are so important to me and to my enjoyment of a happier day-to-day retirement.

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image courtesy of iosphere at

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