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.

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