Ordinary Thoughts, Essays and Short Stories

“Should” Doesn’t Equal Productivity

Since retiring, the term “being productive” has come to mean something entirely different to me than it did when I was still a member of the workforce.

Back then, it meant successfully dealing with phone calls, emails, reports, and deadlines. It meant handling whatever issues popped up at any given moment. And it meant dragging myself out of bed every workday before the sun came up just so I could show up at the office and do it all over again.

Nowadays, “being productive” means sitting in the car waiting for a pick-up order from Walmart, hitting the pharmacy drive-thru for a prescription (or two…or four), and physically shopping inside a store. I truly believe that last one deserves some sort of award. I mean, I actually have to dress enough to be presentable, and I have to continually put one foot in front of the other until I get back to my car.

Other productive days involve out-of-town trips to the doctor, and those most likely include stopping at Meijer somewhere along the way because we don’t have one here in Bloomington. (Off-topic: That’s a subject my husband would really like to take up with the city powers that be.)

Not only do the aforementioned scenarios not sound all that productive, but they happen only occasionally. They’re peppered in among what I’ve come to think of as my typical, not-so-productive days. Those are the days when I don’t roll out of bed until after 10:00 am, I may or may not change out of my nightclothes, and the farthest I venture is the length of the driveway to collect the mail. And, yeah…that’s often while I’m still in my jammies.

In my mind, those not-so-productive days tend to equate to little more than wasted time. And dwelling on the amount of time I waste never fails to send me on a trip to the Land of Should. I sit on a bench just inside its town limits and mentally flog myself for not filling my days with all the things I think I should be doing. I even feel guilty for not doing what I believe other people think I should be doing.

Has anyone ever sat me down, furrowed their brow, and admonished me for not doing all the things I should since I retired? No. Have they accused me of passively living what should be the most unencumbered years of my life? No. Have they given me a list of everything I should be devoting my time to? Again…no. As with most things that chip away at my sense of self-worth, it’s all in my head. I’m an absolute pro when it comes to should-ing all over myself.

While there’s no question that I could be doing a lot more when it comes to being a productive individual, that’s no reason to discount the decades when I was up and out and working for a living day after day after day. I spent years looking forward to the day when my time would finally be my own to do with as I pleased, and I did everything required to earn that privilege. Yet, ever since that day arrived, I’ve had this judgy little pissant lurking in the back of my mind. It gets a real kick out of railing at me about how my life can’t possibly be fulfilling because it doesn’t mirror the lives of other retirees. You know…the ones who travel and take up new hobbies and play pickleball. I compare myself to them and feel somewhat deficient. The fact that I’ve never felt drawn to any of those activities doesn’t matter. I tell myself I should be drawn to them or, at the very least, to something similar.

It’s times like this – when I’m reflecting on my perceived shortcomings – that I settle myself in for a Come-to-Jesus talk to try and gain a better perspective. I’d like to say I’m a worthy opponent, but history has shown that my opinion never wins out after one of those little tête-a-têtes. Let’s face it…Jesus just always has the better argument. Like, when it comes to this particular subject. I spend a lot of energy assuming I’m mishandling my schedule-less schedule, and any moment now, the Productivity Police are going to knock down my door and take away my retirement card. That’s crazy, of course. As this most recent Come-to-Jesus talk has shown me, it makes no difference what anyone else thinks about the way I spend my time. I mean, it literally is my time, after all. I just have to stop feeling guilty about what I do with it.

Easier said than done. I waste tons of that precious time worrying about the opinions of others. It’s been one of my biggest flaws for as long as I can remember. And what makes the whole thing almost comical is the fact that, truth be told, it’s highly unlikely that anybody cares one way or the other about what I’m doing on any given day. They have their own lives to think about. Regardless of what my massive ego may claim…it isn’t always about me.

My guess is I’m not alone when I question whether I’m taking advantage of my golden years the way I should. I figure there’s a fair number of retirees out there who wonder about their own productivity. For their sake, I just hope they don’t go as far as I do when it comes to worrying about what others think. It’s not only pointless, it’s exhausting. Honestly, the concept of “should” has no right to rent space in anybody’s head.

So, I’m putting a stop to it. The worry, I mean. I still believe it’s important to be productive, and I’ll still do the things that must be done. But I’ll also do the things I want to do regardless of how it might look to someone else. Besides, it’s pretty much been established that the “someone else” I worry about probably doesn’t even exist.

On my productive days, I’ll continue to bask in the feeling of accomplishment after taking care of the essential To-Do’s. And I’ll keep in mind that productivity isn’t limited to the things that must be done. It includes things I want to do…like tending to my Bucket List, such as it is. When I was dreaming of retirement, I placed only two things in that bucket, and those were to finish and publish the books I first drafted many years ago. One is almost to the finish line, and while the process hasn’t been what I expected, the result will be the same. It soon will be out there in the world for all to see – good, bad, or ugly. The second book is in the editing stage. A stage, I might add, that is absolutely no fun and seems to take for-bloody-ever. Still, it’s part of the process and definitely falls into the category of productivity.

On my not-so-productive days – which I’ve decided to affectionately rename “Sloth Days” – I’ll unapologetically enjoy soaking up the decadence of having nothing in particular that must be done. I’ll stop worrying about whether or not I’m being productive. And I’ll shovel the should off my path and be grateful for the opportunity to simply be.

This may be taking me a lot longer than it does others, but I am eventually going to get the hang of this whole retirement gig.

Care to Share?


  1. Pamela Binge

    Loved this!! I am looking forward to those retirement days!

    • Virginia Boshears

      You’ll love retirement. It’s pretty great. 😊

Leave a Reply

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