Pleasing future-me

My Twitter friend Jack Schofield linked to a rather interesting article about procrastination yesterday.

Now, as anyone who knows me will attest, I’m a classic procrastinator. I always have been. As a baby, I’m told I didn’t bother breathing for the first few minutes of my life. No reason – just – meh, couldn’t be bothered. As a schoolgirl, homework was put off to such an extent that I once received five detentions for incomplete work in one morning and was eventually asked to visit the school’s educational psychologist to work out what the problem was (not that I ever learned the outcome of that). As an adult I’m one of these people who buys numerous books on the subject and, of course, never gets around to reading any of them, resorting instead to all sorts of weird habits in order to try and trick myself into JFDI mode. Unsurprisingly, then, I clicked on this straight away. Well, all right, I made a coffee first.

The article takes a different approach to the procrastination problem: it’s not about time management, apparently; it’s about ‘thinking about thinking’. So far, so psycho-babbly. But since reading it yesterday morning, something from the piece has really stuck with me. It took a couple of reads – there’s a lot of analogy in there, plus some interesting snippets of research to get you thinking – but have a look at this, the killer quote, right near the end (my emphases):

The now you may see the costs and rewards at stake when it comes time to choose studying for the test instead of going to the club, eating the salad instead of the cupcake, writing the article instead of playing the video game.

The trick is to accept the now-you will not be the person facing those choices, it will be the future-you – a person who can’t be trusted. Future-you will give in, and then you’ll go back to being now-you and feel weak and ashamed. Now-you must trick future-you into doing what is right for both parties.

(From youarenotsosmart.com)

In other words, you need to focus on your future self and decide what that person will want. Then, if now-you commits to something… like, now, that makes it really hard for future-you to get out of it and… stuff will happen.

Some of the tricks I use at work are along these lines; for example having the now do this application open in a bookmark window constantly shows the task I should be finishing and, unlike a paper ‘to do’ list, doesn’t tempt me with other, simpler tasks until I’ve finished. Tricks like this help on a superficial level – I can meet deadlines – but they don’t change my behaviour on any deeper level. I still open Twitter every few minutes, or suddenly decide a coffee would really help.

Thinking of my future self – “future-me” – as a concept, on the other hand, feels important. It’s been niggling at me since I read the piece. And it seems to be working already. Just saying to myself “future-me will really like me for this…” has already led to me clearing out my wardrobe. Normally I’d have just cursed the lack of space in there and vowed to do it at a later date like I usually do, but last night I JF-did-it. Not only that, I finished the job – most unlike me. I sorted all the clothes into summer stuff for storage, stuff I can sell and charity shop stuff, and bagged them up, ready to go. It only took five minutes and I was insanely pleased to realise that future-me (and my husband, granted) would thank me over the next few days for doing that rather than leaving a big pile of clothes to trip over in the spare room.

So there you go. I really hope that this might be a bit of a game changer. Earlier tonight I thought about blogging and instead of writing down the subject line in my ‘potential blog posts’ file (yeah, don’t judge me), I figured “future-me would really like it if I just blogged this right now,” then sat down and, well, you know the rest.

Hmm. Let’s see how long it lasts.

2 thoughts on “Pleasing future-me

  1. Wow, very interesting article, kind of gets me thinking a little about the whole obesity thing, a lot of people think they are healthy but they just plan to be healthy sometime in the future….

    Also, the other thing I noticed about his article was that I might be considered someone who doesnt procrastinate too much, so I have a comfortable life, I have nice things, I’m not in huge debt, but I’ve been too scared just to go and take a risk and do what I really want. Or am I procrastinating? I dont know.

    Very interesting though, I must try and think more of future self when I’m doing all those ‘taste tests’ of my cakes!!!

  2. Just found this as I am currently procrastinating about the work I was supposed to do months ago but really don’t have the motivation. Future me is daring present me to not bother and I don’t want to be that person who wont take a dare…
    It’s a really interesting concept though, in fact you have really inspired me as I’m at a point where my own lethargy is no longer amusing and I need to sort my life out! I owe you many many more lifts home as a thank you x

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