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Do You Love Your Future Self? Act Like It!

For the first two months of 2024, I was really mad at December 2023 Sarah. 

With the way Christmas and New Years fell this year, it seemed like the whole world was shut down for the last two weeks of December and the first week of January – my kids were off of school, my clients were taking time away, things were just closed. And I was just tired. 

In preparation, starting towards the end of November, I started pushing things off until January. I started scheduling any meetings for January. Anything that would require thought or creativity moved to January. Anything that didn’t have to be done right now seemed to just be a better fit for January. 

December 2023 Sarah just didn’t want to deal. Those were all things for January 2024 Sarah to tackle.

Jerry Seinfeld has a bit about “night guy” and “morning guy” – “night guy” stays up really late, for example, knowing he’ll be tired in the morning, but that is a problem for “morning guy.” 

December Sarah definitely made a lot of things January Sarah’s problem. 

I had this idea that January Sarah would, somehow, be full of energy and feel totally rejuvenated. Somehow, she’d feel caught up on all of the things and ready to tackle new things. Somehow, she’d (magically) want to take on everything that December Sarah didn’t want to touch. 

And then January hit. And I had a lot of travel. And things to do that I never finished in 2023 in preparation for 2024. And all of those meetings and tasks that I’d pushed off. 

And, shockingly, January Sarah wasn’t all that different from December Sarah. And, a month and a half later, I am only now recovering from the decisions December Sarh made. 

I’d like to say that I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m still working on it..

I am an extreme morning person, so doing anything after the sun goes down is a battle. As such, there are many mornings when “morning Sarah” is really frustrated that “evening Sarah” didn’t have the energy to do the dishes or finish that email or just go to bed when she planned.

And, at the end of every week, I still play this game, looking at what I had planned to get done that week and moving different tasks to next week (fully recognizing that there’s nothing different about next week except that it’s not the problem of my current self). 

And I do the same when planning from month to month and quarter to quarter. I certainly have high hopes for my future self!

And so, partly to hold myself accountable and partly to help your future selves, a few suggestions for our current selves: 

1. Act like you love your future self.

Your future self is you…but sometime in the future. That seems obvious, but it needs to be said because we’re often not very kind to our future selves when we’re outlining calendars and expectations and goals. Love your future self – set your future up for success with tasks and responsibilities that are meaningful and enjoyable, not just all of the things that your current self doesn’t want to do.  If you, as your current self, don’t want to do the thing, don’t push it off to your future self. 

2. Consider why you’re putting off the thing in the present.

It’s almost never simply because you don’t have time. We always have time for the things we want to do and/or deem to be important. James Clear shares, “I have learned that whenever I think ‘I don't have enough time to do that’ what I usually mean is ‘I don't have enough energy’ or ‘I am not actually interested in doing this.’ What I need to do a better job of is not managing my time, but rather caring for myself and identifying my true interests. When I am well rested and working on something I am genuinely excited about, finding time is rarely a problem.” Often, in a work environment, we don’t have the luxury of focusing only on our true interests, and maybe we can identify a skill or area of knowledge we’re lacking that is making us dread this particular thing? Maybe there is a mental reframe we need around the thing? Maybe we just need to convince ourselves of the thing’s importance?

3. Decide whether it’s actually worth doing. 

On any given day, there are a million things that we could (or even “should” do). And, we need to ask, for each thing on our list, is it really worth doing?

  • If yes – do it (now) or delegate to someone else (now) or schedule it (in permanent marker) Sometimes you need to just do the thing. I have learned that about 98% of the time, it takes less bandwidth to actually do the thing I keep putting off (the anxiety and guilt over not doing it, the time it takes to move it from one list/calendar to another, the energy I expend in justifying not doing it right now) than to actually do it. For things that need to happen and just can’t happen right now, schedule them in your calendar and don’t move them. If it truly is important, it needs to be treated that way. Keep promises to your future self (remember, you love your future self)

  • If no – give yourself permission to delete it from your list It’s okay to admit that the thing will never actually happen. And then to take it off of the list (or, if it makes you feel better, to add to a “one day when I have time” list somewhere). Circumstances may have changed since you first put the thing on your list. Priorities may have shifted. Time may have passed. Regardless of the reason, it’s okay to just decide you’re not oging to do it – ever. 

4. Recognize that you will never have more time.

We all get caught up thinking about the magical “one day” when this happens or that happens and suddenly we have the time for all of the things. I started my doctorate during my first year of teaching at a new school when my first child wasn’t even a year old shortly after moving from Israel back to the United States. I had a running joke with people around me about all of the things for which I’d have time when the doctorate was finished. I’m over 10 years out now, and that time has never manifested. And, yet, somehow if there’s an opportunity that really excites me, there’s suddenly time. You have time for what you decide to put into your schedule, and that’s how it will always work. 

5. Accept reality and act accordingly. 

You will never have more time. 

You will never be less tired. 

You will never suddenly want to do the thing that you’ve been putting off for weeks.

You will never suddenly gain that skill or want to talk to that person or be really excited about something you dread now. 

You will, however, always have the power to control aspects of your reality. 

When I work with clients, I build “future self” into our work. I want to make sure that “future self” is supported and equipped to execute, so part of the process we work on together is ensuring that we are doing the things now for which “future self” will thank us, rather than assuming that future version will be better resourced – with more time or money or staff hours. How do we make sure that what we're going to say needs to happen happens? What does the team need to know and be able to do? What will it look like (in reality, not just theory) when these things happen? And what do we need to be doing right now and during our work together to support that "future self" version of the organization?

We’re nearly a quarter of the way into 2024 already. 2023 you is gone, and it serves no purpose to be frustrated about the decisions 2023 you made that are impacting you right now.

But you, right now, get to make the decisions that impact future you – and you love future you.

So act like it!

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