Get-a-Life Tree

When free time is suddenly in abundance after a lifetime of working and keeping to a very strict schedule, many retirees struggle.

I’ve had this intimate discussion with many of you. It’s a very real problem.

This may sound funny to some, but there’s no real recipe on how to do this. For some, it just comes naturally. For many others, however, it’s a significant challenge.

One great solution that I discovered is in Ernie Zelinski’s book How To Retire Happy, Wild, and Free. He calls it his “Get-a-Life Tree”!

What Is A “Get-a-Life Tree”?

A “Get-a-Life Tree” is a variation of what is commonly known as a mind map or a spoke diagram. It allows you to generate a substantial number of activities to pursue that you wouldn’t ordinarily think of.

I’ve shared this with some of you in the past, but thought I’d pass it along to all of you.

Ernie provides an extremely easy process to follow, including 6 pages worth of activities to choose from.

As he points out, lists are good, but lists typically limit the number of ideas you generate. The Get-a-Life Tree is more effective in this regard.

How To Get Started

Your “Get-a-Life Tree” is started at the center of a blank page by recording the goal, theme, or objective. Then, branches or lines are drawn from the center toward the boundary of the page with any principal ideas that relate to the objective of that tree.

Three important “principal” activities should generate retirement activities that you may want to pursue:

  1. Activities that turn you on now

  2. Activities that you stopped doing that turned you on in the past (very important), and
  3. New Activities you’ve thought of doing, but haven’t done yet

Write down these (3) areas of activities and begin listing as many as possible under each category. Don’t limit yourself while you’re doing this, and don’t judge the activity yet. No activity is too frivolous at this point.

Then, begin creating as many sub-branches as possible listing every activity you can think of.

Doing this should really get your mind moving by listing out more things than you can possibly do in a lifetime.

That’s the point. You want more options than you can handle!

The Benefits

There are many benefits to using this approach as opposed to just making a bunch of lists:

  • It’s compact: many ideas can be listed on one page. If you need to extend it to more pages, you can pull off one “spoke” in the wheel and carry it on to another page.

  • Activities are assigned to categories: ideas are easier to group when you assign them to a category.
  • Long Term Tool: you can use it as a long term planning tool. After setting it aside, you can always come back to it with fresh ideas. (strongly recommended)

My recommendation is to get a copy of the book (we have several in our office and would be happy to give you one). Use the list of activities and interests that Ernie provides on pages 85-91 to stimulate your thinking.

Sometimes it’s hard to get moving with a blank sheet of paper. Having this list in front of you gets you into 3rd gear immediately!

After countless discussions over the last 24 years with so many of you, I believe that this might be one of the best exercises you’ve ever been through.

Whether you’ve already stopped working, or you’re getting close, I strongly recommend it.

Committed To Your Relaxing Retirement,

Jack Phelps
The Retirement Coach

P.S.WHO do you know who could benefit from receiving my Retirement Coach “Strategy of the Week”? Please simply provide their name and email address to us at Or they can subscribe at appreciate the trust you place in me. Thank you!