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  • Writer's pictureDonna Gerard

The Perpetual Rotation Schedule

Perfect for Anyone Who Has Lots of Irons On the Fire!

There’s a problem with retirement. There’s so much time, yet not enough of it. I’m learning that it’s extremely easy to fill up a whole life with whatever is happening at the moment.

What I envisioned as a huge expanse of time to use in any way I wanted quickly got claimed by a constantly changing parade of responsibilities, cares, and opportunities. I have things I want to do, as we all do. Then there’s the other stuff, both good and bad.

I am finishing a 15-day stint of driving my husband for therapy.

One of my daughters is pregnant and moving, and I would like to lend a hand to her and her wife. There are social engagements that I look forward to. Also, I will freely admit that I have learned not to say no to an opportunity. So if someone, family or friend, calls and asks to go to dinner, or hang out, or some on a shopping trip, my default answer is yes.

I’m a planner with way too many goals, none of which I apologize for. I have an impossibly long things-to-do list. I have tried saying I’m going to get up every morning at seven and hit the floor running. But sometimes I have trouble sleeping and I need more rest. If I tie myself to being dressed by 7:20 and out the door for my 20-minute walk by 7:35, not getting the sleep I need will derail my day from the start.

If I say I’m going to write from 10:00–11:30, then do my housework, what happens when my 9:00 errand run takes until 10:45?

How do I keep to my proposed schedule if my sister calls and we chat for an hour. I’m sure not telling her I can’t talk because I’m vacuuming the bedroom. If I dedicate my time to housework and writing, when to I find time to assemble the model globe that I got as a Christmas present, watch movies, or read magazines? No, real life gets in the way of block scheduling more times than not and makes me feel like I’m falling off the treadmill. And since this is my retirement, I don’t even want to be on a treadmill.

I have an idea. I’m calling it my Perpetual Rotation Schedule. I started it a week ago, and although it’s a bit slow moving in times of competing miscellaneous events, it is spurring me on to tackle my diverse list of interests. On days when there is nothing special going on, I feel like I am conquering the world.

Everyone’s Perpetual Rotation Schedule will look different, so I’ll just illustrate with the things I want in my life at this time. Notice that there are times next to each item. These are approximations of the time I will spend on each activity, but if I’m done sooner I move on, and if I’m almost done, I can either finish up or decide to continue on my next rotation. The whole rotation takes a day (about 13 hours) if I were to do nothing else. But somewhere in there I have to cook and eat, and we like to spend the evening watching TV together.

Here are my normal activities:

  • keep a personal journal — 20 minutes

  • do routine housework- 30 minutes

  • keep on top of both personal and business email accounts, and make phone calls- 45 minutes

  • sit myself down and write- 90 minutes

  • coax a few vegetables out of the garden, prevent the pool from turning green, and keep the yard looking decent- 30 minutes

  • walk-20 minutes

  • read other people’s writing on Medium. Comment, clap, follow! 45 minutes

  • get projects done around the house in this lifetime- 60 minutes

  • learn Italian by my trip in mid-November-60 minutes

  • run my errands

  • play chess well enough to play in Central Park, and last more than three heartbeats- 60 minutes

  • short walk -20 minutes

  • watch the news and lift light weights- 30 minutes

  • escape with a good book- 60 minutes

  • relax by playing games online (Ticket To Ride and Backgammon are my favorites)-60 minutes

At this point you have to be thinking that accomplishing a list like that is impossible. So far it has been.

Life gets in the way. There’s always a doctor’s appointment, a friend calling, and unexpected circumstances of every imaginable variety.

Sometimes unexpected circumstances are really good. Not long ago, a bunch of friends got together at a pottery studio. How do you turn that down? Your daughter wants to hang out. The grandkids want to come over to swim. The new vacuum arrives and you have to put it together. It’s your anniversary and you’re going out to dinner. These interruptions are the stuff that life is made of and I would never recommend giving up making memories for keeping to your schedule. But, these things really do wreak havoc on any schedule you had in mind.

Here’s how to set up the Perpetual Rotation Schedule.

1. Determine a morning routine of things to do at the beginning of every day. For me this means getting up and dressed, stretching, feeding the dog, taking my medications and vitamins, and walking (or doing a 20 minute exercise video).

2. What are my special events or timed activities? Yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment that I had to leave for at 11:00. I would make and eat a meal when I got back. At 3:30 I was expecting a phone call from my daughter. At 7:30 we were going to a friend’s house. Think of these events as centerpieces of the day. Everything else would happen around them.

3. Go to your rotating things to do list. I keep this list on my phone and check them off as I go. When I get to the end of the list, whether I get to everything in a day or in three days or a week, I uncheck everything and start again. It doesn’t matter what time of day you do these things, or how many days it takes to get to everything. The point is that you will get to all your items as soon as possible.

4. Clean up before moving on. This makes life so much easier. When I finish a task, I take a few minutes to put everything away, clean my work surface, or put clothes away if I needed to change between activities. This really reduces the amount of time I spend on routine housework. This is also a good time to switch the laundry, write down anything you’ve recently thought of, or return a phone call that you chose not to take while you were in the middle of your activity.

5. Predetermine what time your day will end and your evening routine begins. For me, it’s 5:30. That’s time to cook and eat dinner, clean up, finish up my 10,000 steps if I need to, take a shower, spend a little time on my Duolingo app if I didn’t get to my hour of Italian, and then watch some TV.

6. 10:00 begins my bedtime ritual. I set up my planner app (Microsoft To Do) for the next day. I brush and floss, take out my contacts, moisturize, and read until I fall asleep.

Day 1: I woke up just past 7 and blasted my way through my morning routine. Then I started my Perpetual Rotation List.

  • I journaled for 20 minutes on Penzu, a journaling website that I’ve used for years.

  • Then moved on to my routine housework. I cleaned my kitchen, sort of. I really needed to clean the main part of the counter and my stove, but I knew I’d be cooking pretty soon and mess it up. So I cleaned the part of the counter with the toaster oven and coffee machine. Then I did something really novel- I cleaned the cabinet under the sink. I do not use vegetable scrub, but somehow I had two bottles of the stuff. I gave it to a friend last night. I switched out the kitchen towels, refilled the sugar bowl, and cleaned the corner of the counter that I have trouble reaching. I got a lot done in those 30 minutes!

Now it was time to leave for my appointment, my “special event”, and I left feeling like I had already accomplished something. I knew I would have a significant wait, so I brought a book with me. I’m reading The Dutch House by Ann Patchett and I’m really into it.

When I got home it was time for another “special event”, dinner. Even though we eat a main meal every day, I consider it a special event because it’s something that has to be done at a particular time. I made chicken with broccoli and cashews on rice. There is something to be said for eating the main meal early in the day. No dinner to worry about later on. After eating I cleaned up and tackled the stove. I was bringing watermelon to our friend’s house and decided to cut it up now rather than dirty the counter later.

At this point my younger daughter called and we chatted while she drove home from work. This is also a scheduled event because she calls at this time every day and we talk for half an hour. On this particular day she came for a visit. We hung out in the yard for a short while. Then I went back to hacking up the watermelon, followed by cleaning the kitchen counter.

  • Going back to my rotation list, it’s time to check both of my email accounts and take care of business.

  • Now I really wanted to chill out, but I followed through on my commitment to tend the yard for half an hour. I didn’t have to water because it had rained the day before and this morning. But I did get to pick a fair number of cherry tomatoes and three cucumbers. When it comes to gardening, I’m a pretender. My cucumber plants are limping to the end of the season. The tomatoes seem to stay green for a crazy long time, except for the third plant that just maintains itself without yielding tomatoes. The zucchini died a couple of weeks ago for no reason that I can determine, and the green beans never went beyond week 2 of their existence. The rabbit says she loved the leaves. I clipped the zinnias and added chlorine tabs to the pool. I rescued the vacuum bot from the drain twice in the short time I was out there. The drain is the most cleaned part of the pool.

  • After coming in from the humidity, I perched myself comfortably on my office couch and basked in air conditioning as I started writing. I had about an hour before going out for the evening. So I used the time to write and the next day I would start my rotation with half an hour of writing.

At this point it was time to go out for the evening so I considered the day to be done. When I came home I followed my bedtime routine and read until I fell asleep.

Feedback time! What do you think of my time management plan? Please follow me for updates. I promise not to go into so much detail.

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