Monday, July 17, 2017

Introducing Future You

You come home from a long day at work. A busy day - the phone didn't stop ringing. A stressful commute - the platform more crowded than usual, the train ride bumpier and slower. You work hard, and you deserve to put your feed up and chill.

The last thing you feel like doing is prepping for the next day at work. Why start tomorrow's workload before you have to? This is when you always intend to prepare a packed lunch for the next day, or plan the weekly meals, but this window between workdays is precious. You don't want to let the stresses of the world invade, or the to-do list take over your last bit of free time. You'll do it tomorrow - after all, you can get up a bit earlier and make a salad before leaving that will taste that bit fresher. And no one ever finishes their to-do list, do they?

Does this feel familiar?

Current You is about to open a bottle of beer and sink into the comfy sofa. Current You defers the urgent bank transfer/tax return/meal planning/clothes mending/food prep to tomorrow morning, the weekend, next month. In other words, Current You is delegating the task to Future You.

So meet Future You. Future You Tomorrow Morning is tired. Her Past Self Last Night went to bed later than she ought to because Game of Thrones. Future You Tomorrow Morning tries to pull some clothes out of the cupboard, hopefully not too crumpled. She rushes into the kitchen - no time for coffee or making lunch - and grabs a banana as an on-the-go breakfast (it's fruit, it must be healthy). She runs out the door, realises halfway to work that she forgot an essential document and her socks don't match, and soon caves to the need for caffeine and sugar at the cafe in the train station on the way through - after all, a cappucino and a croissant won't make much of a difference to anything.

So before you crack open the beer and sink into that sofa, do Future You Tomorrow Morning a favour. Get your bag ready to go and by the door. Get out clothes and check they are clean and presentable. (And matching). Prep the coffee machine. Put water in the kettle and a teabag in a mug. Future You is stressed - give her a break. Give her a helping hand.

Coffee all ready to go for the morning. Just add heat.

This is a deceptively simple idea. Once I started spotting ways to give Future Me a headstart or a helping hand, I kept finding them. There are two stages I've observed of this mental trick:

At first, you focus on short time gaps, but there's a pretty immediate feedback loop. When Present You this morning finds that Past You Last Night laid out some clothes and got the coffee ready to go, it's a small but awesome feeling. Everything is a bit easier, a bit less stressful. And you're more likely to pay the favour forwards, to make the bed and clear the breakfast things away and check there's something for supper for Future You When You Get Home Tonight. 

The gradually you start visualising yourself further into the future and making better decisions more frequently. Flossing your teeth is boring and annoying, but I think of Future Me in the Dentist Waiting Room in a few months' time - I bet she'll be glad Past Her flossed. (Most of the time).

Where does it end? All the bigger life goals I have for Future Me Twenty Years Down The Line - a life focused on producing rather than consuming, with time and space and energy to dedicate to people and projects and causes I care about - start to feel more real with this trick. I'm not completing a boring chore or crossing something off the to-do list - I'm giving all these Future Mes a gift, and I can't wait to see what they do with it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Weather 0 - Me 1

Today was the first time I've been tempted to take the bus home instead of walking. For reasons that will I think be mostly self-evident, but I should add that my 'to and from work' clothes today were jeans and a thin t-shirt as the morning was so warm and sunny.

To mitigate the wet and the cold, I jogged part of the way home. I felt like I'd really won a battle - haha! Yes! The weather thought it had me beat, but no! Not even the British weather can stop me getting my walks.

(It's strangely addictive, this walking to work stuff. I promise I'm not normally like this!)

Monday, July 10, 2017

The value of being able to say no

I've been reminded this week of the importace of something referred to on some blogs as "FU money". It's pretty self-explanatory - it's about not living paycheck to paycheck, but having an emergency fund that means you are able to step back from a job when you need to.

A friend of mine is struggling at work. The long hours and unreasonable demands are pushing them to their limits, leaving them stressed, sleep deprived and utterly drained. It's a vaguely familiar spectre, reminding me of my time in consultancy where - however interesting the work and fun the colleagues - I felt like work had to take precedence over everything else. This is not ideal. Work is good for us, but no job is worth getting burn out.

I am extremely lucky to work where I do. I adore my job - I wake up and I look forward to getting into the office. Some of that is because the work I do is so interesting, varied and challenging - but a lot is because I work for a supportive employer who wants me to do well. My boss tells me to go home when I'm in late, instead of reprimanding me for coming in late. My extra hours are logged and I can take them as time off in lieu. I get a good day's work done and then I go home, and then I repeat the cycle. When something happens - my mother's surgery, for instance - my team recognise that anyone can answer the email, but only I can sit in A&E, so they tell me to be where I need to be, and not to worry about papers and deadlines. This is worth more than a top-drawer salary to me.

But I do remember - and see - what it is like to work somewhere that has to squeeze you like a lemon for the business model to function. I don't want to take my current circumstances for granted - I want the choice to be able to say "FU" if I find myself there again. I already have the comfort of a good savings cushion, and the confidence of being able to live on a low income. This gives me a peace of mind, and today I am really valuing that.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Walking the long way around

For a while, I've been trying to psych myself up to cycling to work. It ticks so many boxes - being physically active, reducing emissions, saving money. But cycling in London is TERRIFYING. There are loads more bikes than a couple of years ago, but I'm a wuss.

After a while of feeling bad for lazily resorting to the bus, it finally occurred to me that there's another way for me to get to work under my own steam - walking.

It's about an hour's walk each way. It's a walk that takes me across and along the River Thames for part of my walk, and I feel connected with this city in a totally new way. Yes, it's a longer travel time than the bus - but I arrive at work feeling energised and fully awake, ready to start the day. I've already achieved something and I haven't even switched on my laptop. 

It's a really good feeling, and it's kind of surprised me. I thought the long walks would feel like a chore, but they are a real joy, especially compared to the bus. It's time to think, time to listen to music or to podcasts, time to breathe and look around me. I pass through different faces of this city - through areas of great wealth and areas of social housing, through areas of business and areas of luxury residence, through parks and along busy roads.

I'm trying to walk more travelling to other parts of the city too - a hospital appointment this week became an unexpected joy when I realised I could take a train part of the way, and then have a 45-minute walk along the Southbank - possibly the best walk in London. Shakespeare's Globe, St Paul's Cathedral, the Golden Hines ship, the Tate Modern, Southwark Cathedral...

But my favourite bit is definitely the river. I always knew the Thames was tidal, but never quite realised that meant you can hear the wash of the tides lapping against sand, the croak of seagulls... Guys, it's like walking by the beach. But, y'know, not.


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