This is not the first time I’ve talked about “future you”. 

But I heard some new research about this concept recently when listening to the TED Radio Hour podcast that added to my understanding of WHY this concept is so powerful.

And I want to share that with you.

If you’ve ever heard someone talk about “prioritizing your future self” and thought “BS!  That doesn’t work.”, then I want to share a few things I learned with you. 

Because I think they might help.

When you think about your future self, you’re thinking about a different person, literally, than the person you are right this second.

So it’s difficult to prioritize your future self because that person is literally not you.

When you think: “I should save this money so that future me can live a comfortable life in retirement instead of spending it on this delicious and delightful tasting menu experience”, that future you is a fictional person. 

That person doesn’t have anything to do with YOU right now.  And that’s why it’s so hard.

(And let me just say that I am not, in any way, knocking fine dining.  I LOVE a good meal.  But I also know I need to save for retirement.  I have to hold both of these things at the same time.)

But, there are a couple of simple ways to trick yourself into believing that future-you is actually you and this knowledge can help you make decisions that set yourself up for success:

1) Make the recipient (aka your future self) more vivid

When you’re making decisions that will affect yourself, look at a picture of yourself.  (Weird, yes, but it’ll make it more real, more concrete.)

  • Take a selfie and favorite it on your phone.
  • Keep a photo of yourself on your desk (you can hide it before people come over so you don’t look like a narcissist!)
  • Put a small picture of yourself on your laptop background
  • Take a Polaroid of yourself and put it in your wallet (Uh oh, I think I just aged myself!)

2) Try talking to yourself in the 3rd person

  • Instead of saying “me/I”, or you, say “Alexis”.  (Well, don’t say Alexis unless that’s your name, too.   But you know what I mean.)
  • This helps you to make that future you real in your own mind.

Still a little murky on the concept of “future you” and why it makes a difference? 

Here’s how I invoke this concept for myself:

  • Daily planning/notes
    • My least favorite daily activity is to transfer my notes and action items into my task system.  Yes, I know I could do this directly in the moment, but (shock!) I’m a paper notetaker, through and through.  I’ve tried every electronic notetaking system on the planet and I just prefer paper.  But I also KNOW that my actual system of record needs to be digital.  So I transfer these notes.  And I don’t like it.  I may even dread it.
    • But I do it.
    • Every day, when I consider not doing it, I say to myself “Alexis, give yourself this gift. tomorrow-morning-Alexis will appreciate it so much if you just do this one little thing for her.  It’ll only take 5 minutes.  Just do it.”
    • And so I do it.  And I thank myself for it because, you know what, yesterday-Alexis was right.  I really do appreciate the work she put in.  And I appreciate her more for it because I know she didn’t want to do it and did it anyway.
  • Stop eating at 80% full
    • I’m not always 100% at this one (Indian food, I’m looking at you and your very addictive ways!), but for the most part, I try to follow the Japanese adage of eating until I’m only 80% full.
    • When things taste good, I don’t want to stop.  
    • But I know that if I stop before I’m uncomfortably full, future-Alexis will really appreciate me.
  • Identify the lesser of 2 evils
    • Sometimes Often, it’s about the lesser of 2 evils.
    • Is the pain of doing something now less than the pain of having not done it later?
    • Usually, the answer is yes, because I don’t know about you, but I don’t like pain.  I’d like to minimize it to the extent possible. 
  • Gift myself
    • Is gift-giving your love language?
    • How about giving future-you a gift?
    • If you love the look on other people’s faces when they open up a gift you’ve selected just for them, give yourself a gift, a gift of service. The gift of doing something now, that will make future you swoon.

Got any tricks up YOUR sleeve?

Let me know in the comments if there are ways that you’ve been able to trick yourself into prioritizing your future self!

And if this is something you’d like help with my program Time Well Spent: Time Management for Real People is open for enrollment from 1/23/24 – 2/1/24. Check it out!

And if you have questions about whether it’s the right next step for you, please feel free to reach out.