There will be someone coming into your life in the next little while who badly needs your help. They’re not as clever or as aware as you are, so they could use your guidance and consideration. And there are things you could be doing now that will make life much easier for them when they arrive.
How can I be so sure?
Because it’s You. Your future Self, the You that you will be in the coming days and weeks could use your help.
Why will You need your help? Well, to be frank have you ever noticed that your future Self isn’t as clever as you are?
Your future Self is the you who will look at the notes you took in the meeting today, which seem perfectly clear now, and says, “Huh? what’s this mean?”
It’s also the You who might well forget that cool idea you had about the great holiday destination you’d like to look into for next summer.
Why does your future Self get things so wrong?
The problem is that your future Self is limited in a number of ways. It doesn’t operate in the same context as you, with the same recent events, the things that are fresh in your mind, and the same focus.
So when the future You is faced with something from today’s context, it could use help to make sense of it, to make things as easy as possible.
We often have too much confidence that our future Self is as clever as we are. We ignore their limitations, by operating as though they saw the world through the same eyes and had all of same mental resources that we do now. We expect too much, operating blind to his or her limitations, which stores up stress and confusion for him or her.
By being aware of the limitations of your future Self, you can work smarter today to make it easier on them.
So what can you do? Here are some thoughts:
Assume the next time you see anything you’ve written down, physically or digitally, that you’ll need to have rich context to fully understand it. Don’t just write down the phone number on the post-it, include the person’s name and, if it would be helpful, the topic you’d like to discuss with them.
Also, don’t ask the You of tomorrow to re-think things. When your future self is ready to act, make it as easy as possible for them to get into motion. Identify the very next physical action, including where it happens, and get that on your actions list.
The other day I was guilty of this myself. It had occurred to me that I might want to go to a store to try out the new Surface tablet computer. I came up with a next action: “Try out Surface tablet”.
I suppose I get some credit for getting the thought out of my head and creating a bit of clear mental space, but putting this on my Errands list was a disservice to my future Self. Because that wasn’t truly my next action. I hadn’t decided where I was going to do the trying out, and frankly I wasn’t sure where I even could do that. My next action should have been “browse the web for local stores that carry the Surface.” That would have made it easy, even for my very limited You, to get into productive motion.
Operate with your limited future Self in mind. Make it easier on him or her. You’ll both be happier.