Retirement Redesigned

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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Retirement Redesigned

HomeProductivityHabitsThe Power of Habits in Later Life

The Power of Habits in Later Life

Small changes can make a big difference in your life

A note from Johann

Often, when we set out to make changes to our lifestyle, our ambitions can lead us astray. Not because the changes aren’t warranted, but because we can take on too much at once and sabotage our efforts. Plans to change eating habits and start new exercise regimes can come undone if they are unrealistic or impractical.

James Clear wrote the authoritative book on habits ‘Atomic Habits; An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones’. He says that we must start small by making minor adjustments that are practical and can give an immediate measure of satisfaction. They are then more likely to be maintained. We must, in a way, bluff ourselves into the new habit. Instead of promising to exercise 5 days a week, start with 3 days. Once you’ve done this for a while, and more importantly, see the benefits, you can decide to increase your regimen. A slow rate of change is less reliant on discipline and more likely to convert into an enduring habit.

Bluffing and playing games with yourself can bring some fun into the business of your habits. You can give yourself an undertaking to hold off on some reward until you have achieved a set goal. I gave up drinking any alcohol during the week and reward myself with a nice wine or whiskey only over weekends. I don’t allow myself to relax and watch television until a specific work assignment has been completed. It may sound silly, but it works.

I’ve also seen relationships affected by habits, both positively and negatively. Sometimes we get stuck in relationships loops because we repeat negative responses in conversations and in behavior. We tell ourselves that ‘we just don’t get along’, but sometimes the relationship itself is the victim of bad habits and these can be changed for the better.

The small-change mantra can apply to any other area of life we want to work on. Small adjustments over time will do it.


We’re looking at the power of habits and how they can help us in retirement. Why are habits so important? We know that staying mentally and physically active is imperative to avoid atrophy and decline after leaving full-time work and we believe that focusing on our habits, whether breaking old ones or building new ones, is a great way of effectively managing our free time and ensuring a productive third chapter.

Our top 3 article picks this week:

The Seven Habits That Lead To Happiness in Old Age

Your well-being is like a retirement account: The sooner you invest, the greater your returns will be.

Image of a smiling woman to symbolize happiness

Our take:
Along with some well-known pieces of health advice, this article also touches on three 3 very important elements of psychosocial health heading into older age. This piqued our interest. Well worth the read.

Article excerpt:
“Each of us has something like a “Happiness 401(k)” that we invest in when we are young, and that we get to enjoy when we are old. And just as financial planners advise their clients to engage in specific behaviors—make your saving automatic; think twice before buying that boat—we can all teach ourselves to do some very specific things at any age to make our last decades much, much happier.

…The best way to maximize your chances of happiness in your 70s is to pursue all seven of these goals with fervor, sort of like balancing your 401(k). But if you can choose only one to pour your heart into, let it be the last. According to the Harvard study, the single most important trait of happy-well elders is healthy relationships. As Robert Waldinger, who currently directs the study, told me in an email, “Well-being can be built—and the best building blocks are good, warm relationships.”

The seven funds of happiness are all based on population averages, which means, as they say in the commercials, your results may differ. Maybe, for example, you just can’t quit smoking. You won’t necessarily be doomed to misery in your 70s, but you’ll be better off if you can bolster your happiness through one of your other investments—say, by finding meaning and community in your faith.”
Click here to read the full article on

The Not-To-Do List: 9 Things You Need to Stop Doing

Image of ticking off a to-do list

Our take:
Habits go hand in hand with health and productivity and so often this means a long to-do list. Here is a different angle which argues for the not-to-do list as a way of sticking to what’s really important and not getting distracted, but all the little things that try to grab our attention.

Article excerpt:
“We’ve all familiar with creating a to-do list to increase our productivity. Another list which can jumpstart our productivity is the not-do list – things we shouldn’t do. By being conscious of what to avoid, it’ll automatically channel our energy into things that we want to do.

  1. Trying to do everything
    Keep only the absolute important things and let go of the rest.
  2. Thinking you have to do everything immediately
    Apart from my to-do list and not-do list, I also have a do-later list.
  3. Being hung up over details
    Being detail oriented is good. I’m a very detail oriented person myself. However, don’t be so obsessed with details that it holds you back.
  4. Not having clear goals
    Do you know your goals for this month? How about your goals for this year? And the next year? If you can answer these 3 questions with absolute certainty and conciseness, then you’re good to go. Otherwise, perhaps it’s good to spend some time to think over them. “
    Click here to read the full list and article on

How to Use Quick, Easy Habits to Create and Maintain Outer Order

Image of an organized desk

Our take:
Gretchen Rubin is known for her books on habits, happiness, and human nature. This piece talks about habits, but focuses on how to implement them in your home. The idea is that outer order helps create inner calm.

Article excerpt:
“Easy, quick, regular habits make it possible to manage possessions before they accumulate into clutter. (I)t’s far easier to keep up than to catch up, and with the right habits, clutter never accumulates.

To use habits to help maintain order, try these popular strategies:

The Strategy of Convenience: Make it as easy as possible to maintain order.
The Strategy of Clarity: Know exactly what you expect.
The Strategy of Scheduling: Set aside time to create order.
The Strategy of the Clean Slate: Take advantage of new beginnings to foster outer order.
The Strategy of Loophole-Spotting: Watch out for the ten categories of loopholes that can lead to clutter.

What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while, so creating regular habits that shape our daily lives makes it far easier to keep disorder at bay.”
Click here to read the details for each strategy in the full article on

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Other highlights for the week:

Most Popular Daily Thought

Good habits give structure to the time you gain after leaving full-time work. Well-structured time sets you up to thrive in retirement.

Retirees can gain up to 8 hours of leisure time per day after leaving full-time work. Sounds blissful, right? The reality is that many retirees don’t make provision for filling this time with meaningful activities. One example of this pitfall is the steep increase in time spent watching TV witnessed among retirees. Though initially entertaining, hours spent watching TV contribute to a sedentary lifestyle and even increase a sense of isolation and loneliness. Time is a gift, and it becomes more precious in our third chapter. One way we can ensure that we spend it well is by choosing generative habits that help us stay active.

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Quote by Reset – Good habits give structure to the time you gain after leaving full-time work. Well-structured time sets you up to thrive in retirement.

Weekly Question

Last week’s question:
Share a daily habit that you are most proud of building.

• Walking outside every day of the year at least two miles no matter the weather.
• Breathing exercises.
• Praying for 30 minutes in the evening.
• Get up and get moving! The best thing ever.
• Learning to let go of things I cannot control.
• Reading daily.
• Walking 8km a day.
• The morning pages and walking every morning.

This week’s question:
Which scent, flavour or sound evokes some of your favourite memories?
Click here to answer the question in our Facebook group


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Johann is the founding partner of Reset Retirement where we focus on assisting people with planning for the non-financial aspects of their lives after full-time work. He had a long career in executive search and leadership as the founding partner and chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in South Africa where he was the head of the company’s board practice.