Do you Procrastinate? Here’s a Tip: Think of Your Future Self
“When you put something off or waste time, you are almost always being unfair to your future self.”
– Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project
Do you procrastinate?
If so, I came across this fabulous tip (one of many) in an excellent book I recently read, The Productivity Project; Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, by Chris Bailey:
If you find yourself continually putting off a task that you know needs to get done sooner rather than later, the author suggests you think of your future self and imagine how that future YOU will feel – if you do the task…and if you don’t do the task.
Now, if you do have a tendency to procrastinate, you may have noticed (like me) that the act of putting off a task often feels rather good. As in “Phew! That’s one less thing I have to do today!”
But when this happens day after day – with the same task plus new ones – then you are, of course, putting a great deal more work onto your future self’s shoulders.
Thinking of our not-so-distant future self
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been giving this ‘think of your future self’ tip a test drive, to see if it actually works for me, personally, in the procrastination department.
And here’s what I’m finding: when I think of myself in the near future – say, me one week from now – I do find it of help to think that by doing a task today, I am lightening the load for that future me. And that feels good.
But does it actually motivate me to tackle the task/s I’d planned to tackle today?
Well, yes – but since I may as well be honest, it is actually the negative feelings that I will be avoiding that is the big motivator. As in, “Although I still don’t want to do this task today, if I think of myself one week from now and STILL have to see that damn task sitting there, waiting for me to tackle it, haunting me, taunting me, tormenting me, etc, then I will scream.”
In other words, when I think to next week and imagine the damn task DONE, that feels so flippin’ good that I find I am motivated to do whatever dreaded task needs doing, even if it kills me in the short term (which hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t).
“The dread of doing a task uses up more time and energy than doing the task itself.”
– Emmett’s law, Rita Emmett, The Procrastinator’s Handbook
Thinking of our very-distant self
Now, strange as this might sound, when it comes to checking in with my distant future self on where I’m at with achieving the big stuff in life – purpose, goals, dreams, bucket-list, etc – I suspect I may have a bit of an odd advantage over some.
I was widowed young, so I have been visiting my husband’s grave on a regular basis since I was 32. But here’s the deal: when I go to the cemetery, I’m not just visiting John’s grave, I’m also visiting my future grave.
And let me tell you, for the first few years, visiting said grave was not just a heart-breaking experience, it was a rather eye-opening one as well. For there is nothing quite like spending time at one’s final destination (at least for the physical body) to provide one with the opportunity for a bit of a check-in with one’s future self. As in, “Okay, I may have 50 years left to get done what I want to get done on this planet…or I may only have 5. Am I on track?”
And when the answer is no (which it sometimes is), the first place I look to see where changes could be made to help get me back on course is to ask myself: “What am I procrastinating on?”
Then I go back home and tweak accordingly 🙂
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Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive Maryanne’s weekly blog, please sign up here.