Writing my way to a retirement plan.

Yesterday, I posted an overview of a process that I had recommended to one of my former colleagues to help get started on the process of finding a possible focus for her retirement. She’s an extremely accomplished woman, with deep expertise in her field, a long record of achievement, and plenty of energy to invest in activities that are personally meaningful to her.

The recommendation was based on the belief that I had for more than a decade that every professional needs a digital home base—that you own—where you can store and share the results of your work with others who share your interests. In many of the courses that I taught over the last 10 years, I’ve encouraged students to use some of the time and energy they are investing in taking a course in establishing their digital identities in ways that will live after them. (For an early discussion of this see this post from 10 years ago.)

I also believe that it’s important that those of us who freely give advice understand the implications when someone actually takes it. In the following section, I’m going to comment on some ways that I hope to follow my own advice in creating my retirement plan.

  • Buy a copy of What Color is Your Parachute, and do the exercises. (This still is the best resource, to my mind, for anyone who wants to engage in systematic career change at any life stage.) ($16 for the paperback.)

I’ve done the exercises in Parachute multiple times including two trips to Bend for Dick Bolle’s two-week workshop. I’ll be using the Kindle version of What Color Is Your Parachute? for Retirement, Second Edition: Planning a Prosperous, Healthy, and Happy Future. Amazon Link

  • Get a domain name and a web hosting service. ($15 for the domain and $12 for a month’s hosting service.)

I already have a couple of domain names (generoche.net and generoche.com.) I use hover.com as my registrar and highly recommend them. From many years I used BlueHost.com as my hosting service, but bailed on them when I got tired of upgrading plugins and trying to figure out what sql call was triggering the throttle for my account. I’ve cut back my hosting to a single WordPress instance on wordpress.com. Every year I look at possibly moving to squarespace.com, and if I were starting from scratch, I’d look at it as a real possibility.

  • Start a WordPress blog. Pick a theme that you can live with for a month, and don’t get bogged down in tinkering with fonts, themes or color palettes. There’ll be plenty of time for that later.

I have a blog with several hundred posts on it that I can use for this project. It really needs updating, and it will be hard for me to keep from tinkering with the appearance to concentrate on the writing. This is a perfect example of the “easier said than done” fallacy of advice-giving.

  • For five days each week for the next month, write a post. The goal is to find something from your work, reading, thinking, social media or other source that seems to you to be worth sharing in a form that is longer, more fleshed out and potentially more useful than a tweet, clicking “like” or adding a comment. For many folks, 350-500 words might be a reasonable target for a post, but adjust your targets as you learn more about your own habits and preferences.

When I was working on my dissertation, my advisor gave some really good advice: “When you’re promising me what you’re going to finish before the next meeting, cut the goal in half and double the time. You’ll come much close to delivering what you promise.” That was good advice then, and it’s just as good now. I’ll try to be more comfortable with shorter posts—hopefully not months (or years) apart.

  • Don’t worry about whether anyone reads your posts or not. If you decide that this is a practice you want to continue, you find lots of advice about how to build your audience.

This is tough. Producing a decent post is hard work, and it’s normal to want to get a visible return on the work you’ve invested. My goal this month is to use the blog to “find my own voice” in writing for a new audience about different topics.

  • At the end of a month, do a content analysis on your site. Who were you writing for? What kinds of posts did you think would help your audience members? What kinds of problems or opportunities did you posts address? What themes emerged that might be explored in more depth?

Richard Saul Wurman said: “My definition of learning is to remember what you are interested in. If you don’t remember something, you haven’t learned it, and you are never going to remember something unless you are interested in it. These words dance together. ‘Interest’ is another holy word and drives ‘memory’. Combine them and you have learning.” ~ Richard Saul Wurman. Post things that pique your interest so that you can remember them a month from now.

  • Don’t beat yourself if you didn’t keep up the discipline of writing every weekday for a month. Most people don’t, and you might be able to cross of one career possibility—being a professional blogger—off your list of potential ways to spend your valuable time during retirement.

If I actually hit the post button on this–never a sure thing–this will be the my second post in using this process in refining my own retirement goals.

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