What can you do today, for Future You?

I love learning about other people’s happiness-nudging ideas, so I’m delighted to pass along this one from my good friend Josh, who’s hit on a smart self-care strategy. Over to you, Josh…

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I wanted to share a thought experiment I’ve been trying that I think you’ll enjoy.

It started with my morning coffee.

Sometimes I clean and prepare all my coffee making paraphernalia the night before, rinsing out old grinds, filling the kettle, washing my mug, and placing the scoop in the bin of beans.

Other times I do not.

One day I realized that when I had prepared everything in advance, I was subconsciously saying things to myself like “Damn, you really set Future Josh up today,” or “Past Josh must have been a pretty good guy to think of me!”

But when I had not, I would gently chastise myself for not doing it.

Then the thought occurred to me —I wonder if I can use this to motivate myself to do things I won’t enjoy doing now, but will later appreciate having already been done?

For the past week I’ve been testing out this idea.

For example, I’ll sometimes stop what I’m doing, scan the house for a task that will make Future Josh happy, then do it, taking pleasure in the fact that I’ve set myself up for tomorrow.

The interesting thing is, I’ll often refer to “Future Josh” out loud, then get excited because I know he’ll be happy not having to do the thing I’m doing now.

And since Future Josh will be a little happier for not having to think about or do this, both current and Future Josh are happier.

It truly is a win-win.

Do you ever do anything like this?

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My thanks to Josh.

PS—When I wrote about emotional contagion last week, I began by boasting that I hadn’t had a cold all winter, then suggested I was probably tempting fate by doing so. This week? Yup, first cold for months now coming on fast and furious. Honestly, you can’t win, can you?

25 thoughts on “What can you do today, for Future You?

  1. I love this idea, years ago I worked in an hotel and so had to hoover the restaurants every day, I don’t like hoovering… however I realized on day that I could sing really loudly when hoovering and no one could hear me… so I started singing every day and changed it into an enjoyable task. I will try to think more about present and future me’s appreciation…

  2. I have never thought about it in this way before, but since my teens, I make mornings as easy/smooth-running as possible by preparing – be it which clothes to wear or packing a bag etc. I suppose this is helping my future-self not have to make so many decisions or do too many jobs during the morning routine.
    I like the idea of feeling good about doing something I really don’t fancy doing to aid the future me. It may even motivate me with my business! We use the phrase of ‘dig your well before you’re thirsty’ to help us through doing things today for which our future selves will be eternally grateful.
    Thanks as ever for Moodnudges,
    wishing you all health and happiness, Helen

  3. I do this too! I may not speak to my future self but I enjoy setting things up for a good start the next day! I am an early riser by necessity rather than nature and although I love being up to see the sun rise I am not the most clear minded me at this time of day! Anything I can prepare the night before makes for a much less stressful start to the day and a much more positive outlook. Truly a win win!
    Feel better Jon!

    1. Great to hear that! Yeah, I realize it is pretty common to prepare things in advance. For whatever reason, verbalizing it seemed to make future me more tangible and therefore someone I should consider as “real”.

  4. Really like this idea and wish I had the mental fortitude to do it more. It’s a HABIT isn’t it, and life’s all about subtly rejigging your habits so they’ll prop you up when you’re not so good. Sigh. Keep on keeping on as Alan Bennett says!

    1. I don’t think it needs to be a habit. That’s daunting. I find it useful to do 1 small task whenever I think of it. Maybe I’ll set out my T-shirt for the next day. Or I’ll put my water bottle in my bag. Just little stuff really, and whenever I happen to think of it. The key is to do something, no matter how small and how infrequent.

  5. Yes, I do this. Before I leave my office each evening, everything is set up for the following morning so that whatever state I’m in when I arrive, I’ll feel better.
    Making sure the house is all in order before I go away, even for the shortest time, so that I come back to a place that feels welcoming, and with no jobs to do.
    It’s a gift to one’s future self, as writer Liz Gilbert put it – and such a good thing to learn to do.

  6. Yes, I do this. Before I leave my office each evening, everything is set up for the following morning so that whatever state I’m in when I arrive, I’ll feel ready to go.
    Making sure the house is all in order before I go away, even for the shortest time, so that I come back to a place that feels welcoming, and with no jobs to do.
    It’s a gift to one’s future self, as writer Liz Gilbert put it – and such a good thing to learn to do.

  7. Love this too Jon, Josh and Future Josh! I do this each evening, as I am the first up with the dogs each morning, so I just have to press the switch on for the kettle and whilst I am making a fuss of the dogs, the kettle has boiled.
    I also think of the saying ‘Don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today.’ I always think that if I get the beds changed and the washing done whilst the weather is good today, it might all change the next day and I would have trouble drying the sheets etc.

    I also think that I may not feel like doing a job the next day if the Black Dog is here, so I get some things done earlier….and I am always grateful I have done it when I look back….I must start thanking Past Karen when looking after Future Karen!
    Thank you for passing this on Jon and hope you’re not feeling too miserable with your cold, keep the fluids up!
    Karen

  8. I never really thought of it like that, but I have been doing those things for years. In the morning I make sure all the breakfast dishes and the kitchen are clean thinking to myself “it’ll be nice to come back to a clean kitchen later.” And it is. Happy me now, happy me later.

  9. I like this idea it made me smile. I prepare my breakfast and dinner the night before, but I tend to begrudge the time it takes me in the evening to do it, even though I know it works better for me when I’m rushing around in the morning. Thinking about how I am actually helping out my ‘Future Self’ is a lot better way of thinking about those tasks that I can’t be bothered doing. Thanks

    1. Glad to hear it made you smile. Even when I was writing the email to Jon which turned into this post, I considered the fact that future Josh would be happy to know that past Josh put in the work to write the email. Seeing all the positive comments definitely made writing it worth while. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  10. Most nights I hate having to do the dishes after dinner but decided that 10 minutes of effort before bed will make me smile in the morning, espeacially when I see all the dishes in the rack already done. Of course I am only human so sometimes I say bugger it they can keep until the morning but I always regret it.

  11. Thank you for this, I have already found it very helpful. Brings it right down to helping yourself not some old maxim which is just irritating.

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