How I Trick Myself Into Doing Things I Don't Want to Do

Every single night, when I’m finishing up at my desk and am about to shut down for the day, there are a few things I always do.

First, I write a to-do list for the following day so that I can be sure to get all of those lingering thoughts and reminders out of my brain and down on paper. Next, I clean off my computer desktop. All of the random documents and images that found a home there during the day either get dropped into the trash or filed accordingly. Lastly, I organize my workspace a bit. I wind up my headphones, toss out the numerous snack wrappers, and carry all of my coffee mugs and glasses to the sink.

Here’s the thing: I actually hate doing this at the end of my workday. I’m burnt out from hours spent crossing off my to-do list, and I’m in that mental state where I’d much rather just shut down my computer, leave the mess, and park myself on the couch for the evening. And I’ll admit there are plenty of times when I’m tempted to do just that.

So, how do I manage to still do these tasks when I’d much rather be doing anything else? I think about tomorrow—and how glad I’ll be that I managed to get these things done.

The idea of using “Future You” as a motivator isn’t anything new, but it’s a topic that actor and writer, Wil Wheaton, eloquently explores in his Medium post.

“Whenever you can, do something kind for Future You,” explains Wheaton in his piece, “Future You is someone you love and care about. Future You is someone who you want to be happy, and you have endless opportunities to make that happen.”

In thinking about it, there are plenty of ways that I lean on Future Me for inspiration to act more responsibly today—even when I don’t feel like it.

I’m never excited to exercise, but I know that I always feel good after I do. I’m usually tempted to stay up later to squeeze in one more episode of my favorite show, but then I think about how tired I’ll feel in the morning. I consider cutting my workday short and finishing that big project tomorrow, but I know I’ll feel stressed and frazzled if I need to start my next day with that loose end looming over my head.

This little mental trick has really helped me think further ahead and do things today that will set me up for success for tomorrow. So, I challenge you to give this a try for yourself. What can you do right now that will significantly benefit you tomorrow? Implement a few of those changes, and I can tell you the very first thing that Future You will do: Give you a big, hearty “thank you!”

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