Liz comes by my house a couple of times a week to ship book orders that come into EFS. One Sunday she arrived a bit later than usual and apologized by saying, “I’m late because I decided to be kind to my future me, so I did my dinner dishes before I came over.” I asked her to explain this “future me” idea. I am always looking for new ways to talk about the executive function of future thinking. Liz told me this story:
“At work I would always leave just at 5 p.m. when I could officially go home. I would just leave a pile of files and papers I had been working on all over my desk. Of course the next morning I would have to face this mess and I’d say to myself “bad past me.” I begain to realize that I was setting myself up for dreading each morning as I faced the piles on my desk. I’d have to clear it all up before I could start the new day’s work.
So I decided to change my habit and not give in to the “now me” who wanted the satisfaction of leaving on time, not caring about the future me’s experience in the morning. Now I clean my desk off at 5 o’clock before I go home. In the morning I can now say to myself, “Good past me.” So, tonight I did my dishes so I wouldn’t be facing a messy kitchen after I did the book shipping. I can go home now to a clean kitchen because I was kind to my future me.”
I loved her story and loved the awareness of the “future me”. When we procrastinate, avoiding things that we don’t want to do, we are actually being unkind to our future selves. At some point we’re going to suffer the consequences of putting things off. And we don’t seem to care how procrastination often makes a task harder to do. For example, dirty dishes that sit and dry take more time to scrub clean than if you scrape and rinse a fresh dirty plate.
It turns out that researchers are studying this whole phenomena of how we think about our present self versus our future self. It all ties back to our brain. People tend to seek out instant gratification of desires, rather than delay gratification. This inability to imagine the consequences of present behavior is actually the root of serious personal challenges as we age, especially when it comes to our health and finances. You might enjoy this article on the topic.
Ever since Liz shared her story I have found my inner voice saying, “Be kind to your future me and just do this.” I have also shared it with my Seeing My Time families. Many report that by focusing on their “future me” they have gotten more done and are procrastinating less.
What do you need to do to be kind to your future you?
Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program®. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty-five years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.