There’s a lot of productivity guides and self-help advice out there, but if you really want to make a lasting change, you need a mantra or a question that cuts through all of that and helps you focus. I know some people like Does This Being Me Joy? Is This True To My Inner Self, or What Would Joe Do?
I think whatever it is, it has to be yours. Mine is “What are you doing nw that your future self will thank you for?”, and was forged out of “write your code as if the next person to read it is an axe wielding maniac who knows where you live” with the footnote “everyone can become an axe wielding maniac at 3am in the morning when nothing is working”.
Be kind to yourself. In the moment, of course. But to really find peace and satisfaction, you need to be kind to your future self.
- Write a test suite for your future self so they just need to add one more test for that error condition you didn’t think of, instead of having to write the entire harness.
- Be smart enough to write dumb code. 3am you is not as smart as now you, and has forgotten the context you currently have.
- Do the dishes. Especially the porridge bowls.
- Embrace Mise En Place. Prepare your space, lay things out beforehand. Even the night before. Tomorrow you will be happy not to search for things before morning coffee.
- Get some rest. Tired you doesn’t like Doomscrolling you.
- Switch off from work. Future you didn’t want to be an always-on stress bunny. Future you would much rather know tourist French or the 4 Seasons on guitar.
- Document your decisions. Especially design decisions. You can never have too much context.
- Always be ready for your next holiday. Write things up as you go. Don’t be irreplaceable.
- Share 80% of something ok and get feedback to turn it in to great, instead of trying to release 100% fantastic. Future you likes the conversations the feedback sparks, and that last 20% wasn’t the way you would have done it alone.
- One small step now is far more effective than a possible leap in the future.
- Valuable unfinished tasks pay compound interest. Figure out how to find the valuable ones.
- Check in with your past self once in a while and think about what you would do differently to make today easier. Then do that.