Retirement, changing pace, new routines, losing an old friend.
All the above phrases are in my mind as I write this blog. I retired as a Director of OLT on 31st March, this year. What has changed? How has it affected the way I schedule my working day? I’m confining myself to my working life in this blog; my personal and family life has flourished now I no longer have work commitments to consider.
When OLT began – my computer comprised three separate bits: a CPU (Central Processing Unit to those of you raised on laptops and tablets) with a separate screen and keyboard. They took up a lot of space on my (fortunately discarded) kitchen table. The CPU had to be within the reach of the connecting leads and sat on the floor beside my chair and my printer sat on the table taking up most of the remaining space. The fastest internet speed I could buy was 56K (kilobits per second) and I paid for the internet according to the number of minutes used. With time-limited internet everyone was very careful to switch on and off and we advised the earliest students to download their emails then switch off the internet. Then replying to them all before switching back on to send them.
Within the year I decided (warily) to upgrade my internet to the fastest speed possible and to buy unlimited access to it. That first decision turned into a continuous succession of upgrades to all my technology equipment. I now take upgrade decisions more easily but I do remember taking a deep breath before changing my internet access that first time.
Today I think the biggest change to my routine since OLT first started is that I no longer check my emails first thing every morning. My Inbox has become much emptier since March 31st (that’s an amazing change). This was part helped by the fact that a couple of weeks after retirement, my old olt4c email address retired suddenly too! For a few days it seemed as though the whole of my OLT world had disappeared until I learned what had happened and could rectify things. A few emails went astray but most found their way to me eventually (I’ve added my current email address at the end of this blog in case anyone is still trying to contact me).
So, apart from the sudden online silence, what else has changed? With fewer emails to read, I have time to read other things in my Inbox like newsletters or emails of general professional interest. I used to store this non-urgent but interesting reading in my Inbox in case I found time to read them later but they often got deleted without being opened. I have time to check Facebook page changes that sound interesting even though I remain uninvolved by the whole genre of social networking and rarely update my own page. And I have time to research and read professional articles and books that take my interest. Some of this reading is done using hard copy (eg a current issue of Therapy Today) but more often it is online using computer or iPad. Retirement has brought home to me how much of my time was taken up with business emails and how little time I had for professional reading.
Since retiring, I’ve also updated another part of my professional life which had become neglected. I recently gave an Internet and Me talk to onlinevents (having invented the title and filled the OLT slot with speakers for two years, I had never found time to put myself in the hot seat). My talk was about retirement and in my researches I came across articles about making a professional Will. This reminded me to look again at the Will I had made several years (and computers) ago which had been added to but never completely updated. Now my list of current clients and supervisees is up to date and I have scheduled time in my diary to review and update this once a month. Now I have retired I can also enjoy researching for a book chapter I am writing. With more time to do this I am relaxed about getting it in on time and the writing process is once again an enjoyable task, rather than a chore to be rushed through at the last minute.
This slower pace to my working day, though enjoyable, doesn’t replace being a part of a friendly, working online group like OLT. Retirement includes accepting the loss of such an ‘old friend’. Ever since its beginnings in 2000 with Angela Burian and the group of 12 enthusiasts who first met each other online, OLT has played a big part in my working life and I do (sometimes) miss its hustle, bustle and camaraderie in the regular flow of daily emails, discussions and impromptu skype chats. However, I don’t miss the pressures and deadlines that dictated my working day one little bit. It’s only now I realise the pressure I put myself under to keep up with never-ending stream of emails and online discussions. Even holidays had meant ‘catch up’ email sessions (when I could get online) and the time-consuming nuisance of deleting all the emails I didn’t need to answer on my return. I’m looking forward to a holiday break next month which will be a real break for the first time in years. The only computer will be my phone and the only messages I’ll receive or send will be among family members of our private What’s App group.
I’m enormously proud of what I helped OLT to become and enormously relieved that I no longer have to make emails my first priority every working day. I can choose to open my computer at 4 pm rather than 8.30am if I want to. I can leave emails unanswered for days rather than hours. Best of all, I can switch off the computer whenever I choose.