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Four keys to your late-career working life

Imagine your retirement. What are you doing? Traveling around and hanging out with grandchildren?

Sounds boring to me.

Sure, after the end of a frenetic work life, it sounds attractive to have few actual responsibilities. You can think of it as a longer vacation. But people who are active workers, thinkers, and problem-solvers aren’t likely to be satisfied with doing nothing. A lot of retired people want more.

A better career endpoint

In 2015, at age 56, I left my last full-time job.

I didn’t stop working. But I didn’t book myself back-to-back either.

Instead I found a new career as a writer, editor, coach, and trainer.

There were four keys to making that career fulfilling and pleasant for me:

  1. Cut way back on the to-do list. I am not working with a dozen clients at once. On any given day, I have three or four things to accomplish — and that includes this daily blog post. A smaller to-do list allows me to focus, feel less stress, and cut back on task switching. My days are not filled with meetings, which is awesome.
  2. Do more of what I love. I love writing. I love editing. Now I spend a much higher proportion of my day working on those.
  3. Avoid toxic people. When I was in a job, I had to deal with whatever clients and coworkers came with the job. In this new role, I can just say “no thank you” to assholes — and with lots of experience, I can often spot them in time to avoid them.
  4. Don’t delegate much. This one is counterintuitive. Shouldn’t delegating free up more of your time? But every time you hire someone and delegate, you’ve got a person and a job to supervise — and a risk that they won’t do things the way you want. I don’t delegate writing, leads, marketing, billing, or accounting. I do delegate tasks that require skills I don’t have: building my web site, doing my taxes, managing my investments, and repairing and improving my house. Doing stuff myself that I could theoretically delegate actually makes me more secure and happier.

A different mindset

The mindset of the early- and mid-career working person is: Which of these many tasks are the most important, and which can I put off? Which can I delegate to someone else? How should I communicate what I’m doing and collaborate better? What tasks will help me to get ahead? Where is my valuable time best spent?

My late-career mindset is different. What time can I block off to concentrate on fulfilling work? Can I knock off early, or help out my family? What other tasks can I complete now so I don’t have to delegate? What sort of fun is in my future, and how can I maximize it?

Freeing yourself from ambition — except for the ambition to do great and fulfilling work — is awesome.

I’m still driven to be great. I’m just having a lot better time doing it now.

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  1. You made me smile. I have a similar story, moving from a high pressure role to my version of retirement which also involved a pivot to writing and editing.

    However, there was a middle period of panic and stress when I doubted my mental health. I was retired. What now? Not a golfer, not a lawn bowler, dislike shopping. What to do with all this free time? I lost the prestige and identity that come with having an occupation. I was invisible.

    My new ‘job’ became working out how I could be successfully retired. Long story…but in short, I chased opportunities that cropped up and am now working, doing what I love, at a pace that suits me, and with people I choose to spend time with. I am visible again, I am occupied, I am happy.

    Thanks again for your piece.