Running fast to slow down.
It seems an oxymoron, but it’s a reality that many of us face at various seasons in our life.
Seasons such as…
- …cramming for Final Exams to enjoy the summer break.
- …working nights and weekends on that MBA so you can earn that promotion.
- …saving hard so we can cross “The Starting Line” of retirement.
Somehow, I expected this phenomenon would stop in retirement.
I was wrong.
It turns out retirement can also be a time of running fast to slow down. Life has gotten busier in retirement than I expected. It’s all good, and it’s stuff I love to do, but it’s getting out of hand.
The good news: in retirement, how we choose to dedicate our time is something that is more within our control than it was in our working years. If we don’t like something, we have the freedom to change it.
I’m doing exactly that right now.
Like other unexpected realities I’ve faced, it’s time to make an adjustment.
It’s time to run fast…
…so I can slow down.Retirement is full of unexpected adjustments. I'm making one now. I'm running fast so I can slow down. Click To Tweet
Running Fast To Slow Down
I read somewhere that retirees most enjoying retirement are the ones who keep busy. The ones who…
- …are fortunate enough to find several things that provide Purpose.
- …have a reason to get out of bed every morning.
- …feel the energy of a life spent making a difference.
I proudly count myself in that camp.
But I’ve not read much on those retirees who unexpectedly find themselves TOO busy. Busy to the point where it…
- ….starts to create time pressure.
- …starts to create conflicting priorities.
- …starts to interfere with the life you imagined in your retirement years.
I not so proudly count myself in that camp.
The beautiful thing about retirement is that our decisions on how to use our time are largely within our control. If I don’t have time to sit at my keyboard, I can decide to write less often. Minor tweaks are fun, and I’ve enjoyed the process of refining my retirement to mold it into what I want it to be.
Sometimes, however, the changes required to make a sustainable adjustment are bigger than that. Big enough that they won’t go away with a few minor tweaks.
This is the situation in which I find myself today.
So, I’ve decided to change it.
It’s time to tame the Tiger.
I joked with my wife that she caught a tiger by the tail when she launched Freedom For Fido, her 501c3 charity that builds free dog fences for low-income families who need some help.
That joke has turned into a reality, and the tiger has taken off.
Tigers can run fast, and we’re struggling to hold on.
We just completed our 88th fence build, and my wife and I have led 95% of the builds. We both spend a lot of time “working on Fido,” and the tiger isn’t slowing down. We have an additional 38 families in the queue, with a waitlist that’s over a year long. We’re getting tired, but the cry for help from our recipients is getting louder.
We’re not at the point of burnout, but we realize a change needs to be made.
So, my wife and I put a plan into action.
A plan that requires us to run faster for a season, with the realistic prospect that it will allow us to slow down in the days ahead.
The Plan To Tame The Tiger
I wrote in November about our Homestead Expansion, which included the purchase of an adjacent 4-acre property and the construction of a new barn in honor of my Dad. The project is almost completed (see photo above), and I’m planning on giving a full update in my next post. Stay tuned, I’m excited to share it with you.
Our timing couldn’t have been better.
The decision to pursue “The Barn Project” was our catalyst to think bigger. If we were going to make a big investment, we wanted to make sure the result would lead to a better life for my wife and me. An improvement that couldn’t be made with a few minor tweaks.
As the barn progressed, we spent a lot of time thinking about how to leverage its addition to our family.
We settled on a plan.
We decided It’s time to grow, but grow wisely.
Reaching Out For Help
Plan in hand, we sent an email out to our volunteers asking for help. We explained our situation and asked if anyone would be interested in stepping up to become “Team Leaders” for future Fido builds. We also asked if anyone would be willing to take on the role of Warehouse Manager. We scheduled a meeting for all interested volunteers to discuss the requirements in more detail.
In the meeting, we explained our goal of having team leaders in place who could run the entire process. My wife would send them the next application “in the queue”, and they’d run with it from there.
The Team Leader would…
- Become the lead FFF contact for the recipient, handling all aspects of the build.
- Conduct the site visit and determine the fence layout.
- Determine the material requirements for the fence build.
- Schedule the build, which requires two days (“Post Day” and “Freedom Day”)
- Drive the Fido truck and trailer and lead the builds on build day.
Our goal was to develop 3 additional Team Leaders, with Jackie and I being the fourth. If we could achieve that, we’d be able to increase our “Build Rate” to one fence every week (up from 2-3/month, all of which are led by my wife and me), but each team leader would only have to conduct one build a month.
My wife and I would only be responsible for leading one build per month. Slowing down, indeed.
In addition, the Warehouse Manager would be responsible for maintaining inventory of all materials required, including frequent supply runs to the local hardware stores to purchase materials (a task currently done by me). He’d also be responsible for investigating the feasibility of doing larger “factory direct” purchasing. With the increasing Build Rate, we’d burn through inventory faster and needed help keeping up with the demand.
The Solution, And The Catch
With “The Barn” now in place, it was a logical time to implement the change. With all of the inventory and Fido vehicles moved into the barn, the Team Leaders had a base from which to operate. Fortunately, our volunteers agreed and we couldn’t be happier with the response.
We now have 3 additional Team Leaders and a Warehouse Manager.
They all agreed, with one condition.
Given our experience leading builds, they requested we accompany them on as many site visits and builds as it takes for them to be comfortable “going solo.” Knowing the end goal was in sight, we happily agreed to the condition.
Starting in March, we’ve implemented the “training program”.
Jackie and I will are running fast and expect the sprint to last through the month of March.
But…by April, we’ll be able to slow down.
The Joy Of Taming Tigers
Knowing our charity is growing is exhilarating. Even more exciting is knowing we’ve come up with a plan to “scale” our impact while also reducing the amount of effort required directly from my wife and me.
We’re bringing balance back into our lives, and it feels great.
If you’re facing a period where you’re feeling time pressure in retirement, recognize that you have the power to change. Take some time to figure out a plan, and give it a try.
We’ll be adjusting our approach to “Fido Builds” as our training rolls out. That’s fine, and we’re open to making modifications along the way. Our volunteers have already given us some great suggestions and they’ll have more as they learn the ropes.
Together, we’re taming the tiger.
We’re running fast to slow down.
Retirement isn’t as different as you’d expect from the working years. Of course, there are major changes, but there are also a lot of things that stay the same. Things like being over-committed, and feeling the stress that time pressure can bring.
Unlike your working years, however, you have more freedom to adjust your approach to life in retirement.
Embrace that freedom.
Tame your tiger.
Run fast if you must.
Then, slow down.
Your Turn: If you’re retired, do you find yourself over-committed? What steps have you taken to bring balance back into your life? If you’re still working, do you expect you’ll slow down in retirement?
Fritz – your post makes sense and the growth of Fido is a good problem and one yall seem to have a plan for! I’m still working and busy with Fitness and grandkids are starting to play sports and all of the other things that can come up. I suspect retirement will give me about 9 extra hours a day and I hope more grandkids time and Pickleball time but recently I can see that work and new responsibilities are causing added stress so recently I’ve committed to double down on protecting my time for only those things that I want. I’m learning that “no” can become a valuable word when protecting my time !
“…recently I’ve committed to double down on protecting my time for only those things that I want…”
Your a wise man, Dusty. Being intentional with our time is one of the most important lessons to learn as we move towarding living a great life in retirement. If you’re like me, you’ll be amazed at how quickly those extra 9 hours/day get absorbed. Thanks for stopping by.
Not only is “no” a valuable word, it’s a complete sentence!
love this, yet see exactly what it is. You’re in building business mode (which is happily growing of course as all high EQ businesses do) and don’t realize you’ve just added another layer of management complexity from which you will need to move even faster to run from — in the future! I wish you the best in this endeavor my friend, and hope that you will develop that team leader who can ultimately take more of the day-to-day responsibility from you so you can truly enjoy it all. Also– love the barn. My Dad just passed 1/30/22 and I’m still unpacking that one. He and I were cut from the same mould and it’s been wild to process. I planted a star magnolia in my backyard in his honor, a gift from a thoughtful cousin. Best wishes to you and your endeavors. I love your book!!!!!!!! PS: please do not publish my website address, thank you!
“…and don’t realize you’ve just added another layer of management complexity…”
Oh yes, we’ve realized that. We’ll figure that one out in time, but realize every solution provides potentially unintended consequences. We’re fortune in having some amazing volunteers, and we’re confident that those who have “stepped up” are exactly the right ones to assume their new leadership roles.
Your Dad passed within a month of mine, I can empathize with your “unpacking.” I’m pleased that we were able to dedicate the barn to his memory, I love that you planted the magnolia to honor your Dad.
Great insights Fritz, and probably more common than folks think. We retired 7 years ago and discovered our plan of growing Christmas trees on our farm would be predictable and manageable. Not so. Your vitality post proved quite true in that what we thought was energizing 7 years back is now exhausting. Plus as a new farmer I was not aware of the anxiety associated with that endeavor. Lots can go wrong, and some things did. We decided to clean up, sell our acreage and downsize so we could spend more time with grandkids and travel more. We cut back on volunteer activities that had become more work and focused on exercising and health as we approach 70.
I am hoping your volunteers can sustain. I wonder if having some remuneration will help keep team leaders and warehouse managers engaged. Something to help them think their personal time is worth a little something as recognition. That worked for my volunteer program I ran before I retired. Best Wishes
I agree. Having worked with several non-profit organizations, I think as they grow they work best if some of the core staff is paid staff.
Quentin, I can relate to your story about the farm. We have some friends who recently turned 70 and run a fairly extensive “gentleman’s farm.” They’ve found it is a constraint on their freedom to an extent. Good move for you to downsize and focus on the things that matter the most. Good suggestion on renumeration, though to date we’ve been able to commit 100% of our donations directly to fencing materials and are hoping to be able to continue that trend. Something to keep in mind, I appreciate the suggestion.
This is great. What a smart way to simultaneously expand yet slow down.
We’re not retired yet, but it’s getting closer, and I can totally see myself getting too enthusiastic about all the things I’ll then have time for and being overcommitted. I spent most of my working years being overcommitted. I just know what I’m capable of in terms of getting my life out of balance. I’m definitely going to give this more thought—maybe some kind of mission and values statement for the retirement years so that I prioritize time/energy/money toward the things that matter most to me.
“…I’m definitely going to give this more thought…”
As a writer, I could as for nothing more. If you’ve not seen it, you may be interested in my “10 Commandment” post I wrote shortly before I retired. I refer to it often, and it’s been helpful as I prioritize my time. The link is below:
I’ve been involved in animal welfare for many years but completely threw myself into it when I retired over 4 years ago. Then two years later, my husband retired, and while he’s totally onboard with my volunteer passion, he finally told me it’s not exactly what he had in mind for HIS retirement. Talk about not discussing your retirement dreams with your spouse! I have scaled back a bit and do take short breaks between fosters (which is so hard living in Texas there are desperate pleas for help all the time). As I type this my little dog (foster fail from last summer) and my foster doxie are snuggled up in their dog beds at my feet. We have found a balance we can both be happy with and if I was being honest, the slow-down has been nice for me too as my other dogs need my attention more and more as they age.
Mary, thanks for sharing your story. Conflicting priorities is a common reality that many folks face as their spouse moves across “The Starting Line,” pleased to hear you’re making the appropriate compromises to make retirement work for both of you. Had to smile at your “foster fail” comment, we’ve got one of those in our household, as well.
Hmm, this blog title sounds familiar for some reason. It’s as if a conversation between us might have inspired it. 😉
I think what you guys are doing is fantastic – of course, I give Jackie all the credit as it was her idea. I’m just teasing – the whole thing is really amazing and what you’re doing now to scale things is so smart. You’ll be able to pull back soon without affecting the work that needs to be done as a whole. In fact, it could grow even more from here.
Kudos to you guys, Fritz – impressed as always!
Great article, Fritz.
Good for you on understanding when to stop and take a look at what you are doing. You did the one thing that we all walked away from. You gave yourself a great job!! Is that what you wanted? I am pretty sure none of us here are looking for a J-O-B. Yes, I agree that we are all looking for a purpose and a way to give back in our retirment years but when it turns into i have get up to work, then i am not so sure. So glad that you were able to find some help to take care of the dog duties. Now you can just be the CEO. Dont forget to focus on you & your wife. Life is short.
After 10 months in an RV traveling across the US, I still have not found the passion to do anything. Hard to understand that having a nice drink on white beaches in the US gets old. I will contiue my search for purpose in my life. Thank you for always sharing the good and the bad in retirement.
Great article. Congratulations on the success of your organization! You and your wife grew it so rapidly that you became “victims of your own success”. I’m glad you’re implementing a solution that will provide some relief!
Great post Fritz and a very interesting question.
I retired two years ago and in this phase of my life I am over-committed and feeling time pressure too much. This is due to my personal project (writing a book) trying to meet the deadline set by the publisher. I do look forward to completing it but I am behind schedule. Even if I have an agreement with myself to write a certain number of pages a day, time goes by as if I were writing an “unforgettable masterpiece”! The tiger is there and not tamed yet.
I hope that by July I ‘ll be able to slow down!
Thank you for sharing Fido’s stories! You are a fantastic team!
Hi Fritz –
This post really resonates with me. I am definitely in the retiree camp of busy and bordering on too busy.
I need more white space! How does this happen in retirement??? But as you identified, it is a good problem, as long as you control it. Congratulations on the new building and growth of FFF. Glad you were able to expand it without over committing your retirement time. Best wishes in taming the tiger over the next few months. It will be worth it for more of that coveted free time in the long run.
I think some of this comes down to the fact that you are an obvious achiever and doer in life, and those are great things. But achievers and doers from my experience (me possibly being one of them) have a hard time dialing things back. Our volume buttons are familiar with “11” to use a Spinal Tap reference. That was true for our professional careers, and it carriers over to retirement. I think it’s simply a monitoring problem – you have to constantly step back and assess how much you are taking on and adjust the dial as needed, on a regular basis. Kinda similar to balancing a portfolio to stick to your asset allocation plan. Good luck with it!
Great post Fritz! I’m glad to hear that you both recognized the need to slow down and reached out for help!
When I was fresh out of grad school, and was a 20-something project manager, I was full of enthusiasm and energy, and tried to accomplish as much as I could and as fast as I could. One day a 70 year old with tons of experience pulled me aside and said, “Son, if you want to make time, slow down.” This caught me completely off-guard, and I tried to wrap my brain around his point. Well, I’m now a year away from 70, and in looking back at my career, I’ve learned to appreciate his advice. The slow and steady approach often prevents one from doing the same thing two, three or even four times. Often, going slow, and getting it right the first time, is the fastest approach.
Hi Fritz! Jackie and you have discovered a need and found passionate and loyal volunteers to make a difference in this world. Congratulations! The toughest part is not being consumed by the mission. Tina and I evaluate our volunteer situation every year trying to not overextend ourselves. We pulled all of our library events into the first quarter of 2023 to free us up for other passions. Now, we have at least 9 months with only 1 structured volunteer commitment. That move alone really opened some doors and we’re loving the relief. Best wishes to you both. G
Fritz – another thoughtful/introspective post! I really appreciate your angle here. I’m a only 1 year in, but am slowly building the next chapter of life. Personally, I have guarded some margin for the very reasons you have discussed. That said, I can see how one’s calendar/agenda can easily fill up in retirement and taking the time to focus the lens can take some experimentation. You definitely have a calling in the blog-esphere… if that’s a word.
I feel you Fritz. I stay busy with chairing a college board and chairing a large foundation board but for the last few months our foundation has been buying an 8 figure priced hospital that I am now also chairing the board of. It’s a lot of meetings, contracts and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent so far with consultants. Millions before we are through. It’s not that different than my old paid job, except no pay! But there is no handing this off any time soon. I can’t figure out a ramp down yet for me. I’m glad you have though! You are giving me food for thought.
Congratulations to you and Jackie on the success of Freedom for Fido! You have no doubt delivered joy and happiness to many dogs and their owners.
It’s great to hear that you have developed a plan to continue to grow this important cause while also freeing up time for you and Jackie to enjoy many other things that you like to do in retirement. Now that’s a great example of a Win – Win!
Hey Fritz, Y’all are doing great work, and it appears you have some dedicated team members, that is great to see. Keep up the great work, and do what you can do, the rest will fall into place.
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