I think about my future self a lot. Sometimes I think Future Gyan will be someone who runs in Central Park every morning (just for fun!), is a fun-but-stern-when-she-needs-to-be mom (why not?!), and speaks another language (I currently live in fear of the Duolingo owl). But most of the time, when I think about my future self, it’s because I need motivation to get boring shit done.
In the age of commodified self-care, conversations about the way we look after ourselves have become overwhelmed by sheet masks, essential oils, and bath bombs that go viral on Instagram. And while those are all Very Good Things, in my adult experience, the best way to care for yourself is a lot more practical. To me, self-care means doing all the things I used to leave for future-me to worry about (paying bills, sewing missing buttons back on, going to the dentist) as soon as they need to be done.
Before I started employing this mind trick, regularly ignoring my chores, errands, and other life admin meant that I was constantly playing catchup with boring tasks while new ones piled on. But when I started thinking of this mountain of to-dos as potential favors to my future self — who will surely have enough spare time to practice her Spanish one of these days — something in me unlocked. Suddenly I had a motivation outside of some boring sense of duty: selfishness. The good kind!
Without further ado, a non-exhaustive list of my favorite things to do for future-me:
1. Put fresh sheets on my bed before I go on vacation.
Whenever I leave the city for a weekend away, I return feeling like my internal batteries have been recharged. The fastest way to undo those feelings of restorativeness is returning to a messy apartment — specifically, a crumpled and slept-in bed. It takes approximately three minutes to make my bed before I leave, but it’s an action that’s always appreciated. It’s a tiny reminder that my home is also a lovely place to be.
2. Top up my subway card as I’m leaving the station when I know my balance is low.
I did this for the first time last week and holy shit I felt smug. Refilling my empty MetroCard as I got off the train meant I had a full balance the following morning when I would inevitably be running late. If you’re grown enough to care about future-you, but not quite grown enough to opt for a card that auto-refills, this is a great life hack.
3. Dry-clean my coats at the end of winter.
Shoving my bulky winter coats into the suitcase that lives under my bed is one of my favorite activities of the year. My coat rack is clear and summer is en route. But I have learned this joyous action should not be rushed, lest the first cold day of the season arrives a few months later and I’m left only with musty coats to keep me warm.
4. Buy a new umbrella as soon as my old one starts flipping inside-out.
Until recently, it was as if I thought every storm was the last one I’d ever experience. I’d arrive home with a broken umbrella and toss it into the back of my cupboard only to curse myself a few weeks later when the rain returned. If you’ve ever tried to buy an umbrella on a rainy day, you’ll know that it’s a price-inflated nightmare. If you love yourself, buy an umbrella on a dry day. (This is my all-time favorite umbrella, by the way.)
5. Do the dishes before I go to bed.
How can an act so simple feel so damn sweet? Waking up to a clean kitchen is a gift I’d love to receive every day, so I stack the dishwasher before bed, even when it’s the last thing I feel like doing.
6. Buy toilet paper, toothpaste, and olive oil in bulk like the Costco Mom I’m destined to become.
Running out of toilet paper is bad, but I’ll gladly argue that running out of olive oil is worse. Tissues, napkins — paper towels in an emergency — can replace a roll of TP, but what can replace a drizzle of olive oil on my salad or favorite chickpea pasta? NOTHING. Whatever your irreplaceable staple is, the lesson here is to buy your essentials before they run out — not after.
Believe me, the fastest way to go from feeling like your life is spinning out of control to living with an overwhelming sense of calm is thinking of your future-self as an innocent being who deserves to be given the best chance at success possible. Do it for
What’s your favorite thing to do for future-you?
Photo by Horst P. Horst via Getty Images.