Want to do well in the transition out of fulltime work? Here’s the 5 key steps.

The transition from fulltime work is like moving to a country you have never visited. With the changes involved likely to be far greater than you could ever imagine.

In theory, every day becomes a Saturday. But such unstructured time, with seemingly endless opportunities, is not as easy to navigate as you might imagine.

So if you are heading towards the world of no longer working fulltime, or are already there, here are 5 key steps to keep in mind.

1.Take a breather

This is something I wish I’d done. It was so easy to slip from a demanding work environment into an almost equally busy existence – with not enough thought as to what was going on.

Like many others, I soon found myself thinking, ‘I’m busier now than when I was working’. But is that really a good thing to just drift into?

Perhaps the biblical idea of ‘Jubilee’ has something to teach us. One year in fifty is a fallow year (Leviticus 25:11). We may not all be farmers but we will have worked for close to fifty years. So taking a year out – or even a few months – would seem a sensible way to recharge, process the change and define what you are and what you do.

But this kind of Jubilee ought to involve much more than watching endless daytime TV? A good start may be to pray – to thank God for your working years, however hard they may have been. And asking him to guide you into and through the next phase of life.

2.Make an inventory

As the dust settles on the old start listing down –

  • The things you’ll miss from the past
  • Things you always wanted to do but work got in the way
  • Dreams you might now be able to fulfil
  • Your bucket list
  • The expectations others may have for you that will impact your decisions
  • The kind of legacy you want to leave behind
  • The abilities, expertise and wisdom you now have to offer

If you’ve never done some kind of gift analysis – exploring what you have to offer – this might be a good time to do one. An example is the Shape Test which will help you identify what your passions and gifts.

Sometimes this confirms what someone already knows. And sometimes it can produce a surprise or two.

3.See where you can be used

Without being presumptuous, it is likely that you will have some 10 years of active retirement to enjoy and invest. That will match around 20 per cent of what has been your working life. This may be longer than you ever spent in one particular job. So it is worth getting it right.”

Then it’s time begin exploring some opportunities that seem to match your gifts and passions. Keep in mind that you’ll be needing to replace the companionship you had in your fulltime working days. And also the fact that you had somewhere you were needed.

But commit to absolutely nothing until you’ve had a good look around. It’s easy to end up responding to every demand made of you. Now you have time there may be plenty of people who assume you now have time for what they have in mind. So, at the very least, make sure your passions and gifts are a good match for their requests.

For example, an accountant doesn’t now have to be either an auditor or a treasurer for every charity in their county. I had a friend who longed to dump many of his financial responsibilities. On the other hand you may want to use your professional skills in retirement years.

Don’t be too restrictive or humble about what you could do. Our church recently sent an 85 year old to visit an African hospital he had supported and prayed for over the years. He’d longed to visit but caring for his sick wife made it impossible.

However, when she died he was free to go and was so blessed by the new experience. So were we by his passion for mission when he returned.

4.Be available

Before your transition into ‘after-work’ your life was crowded and demanding – it had to be that way. But you now have space and time. Not least to be more available to God and to strengthen your relationship with him. Including, perhaps, reading books or listening to podcasts you never had time for.

Such availability need not be all God-centred. When a friend asked me what I was in to at the moment. I gave some good holy answers. But he challenged me to say something about an issue I was interested in. With my passion in military history I confessed I was looking into ‘luck’ in war. I’m still researching.

Being available, includes being available to others. If you have carved out time for reading and reflection then be prepared ‘sacrifice’ some of it for drop of the hat helping out moments. Your availability could be exactly what someone needs.

5.Consider your community

In the process of reviewing where your passions and abilities could be invested, do consider your community. Especially as so many social services have been cut, leaving many people vulnerable. It’s impossible for me to be prescriptive here but a look at the local Citizens Advice may show you something that needs doing and is a good match.

Or maybe, just call in on a lonely person down your street from time to time. To lift their spirits and remind them they are not forgotten.

Whatever you do, remember each of us – at work and in the years that follow – you Christ’s ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20). And the words of Jesus remain true, ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did it for me’ (Matthew 25:40).

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Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife