stop-burnout Future-me needs help

Use this method to get some distance from the day-to-day issues and improve your work/life balance.

We often find ourselves short on time while confronted by a multitude of things that we need to do in our work day. I try to put the focus on the first thirty minutes of my day and use this time in reflection on the most important things I need to accomplish:

  • With whom do I need to meet?
  • What projects are still waiting to get done?
  • Where are we headed, and how do we get there?

At the end of the day, I try to take a few moments to look back on what I’ve accomplished. If you are like me, you may look back on your day and realize you spent much of your time reacting to things rather than planning for them. On days like this, I think ahead to the next day, and prepare myself to hit the ground running.

In this preparation, I say this to myself: “Future-me needs help.” This is an important realization. If past-me lost time to “spinning wheels,” then future-me needs a lot of help. Present-me can see that with certainty; after all, present-me watched past-me spend his first few hours responding to emails, getting stuck in the weeds, responding to tactical problems rather than planning strategic issues.

If future-me is to avoid these mistakes, present-me needs to help him out. I find it helps me to write notes to future-me, such as on my whiteboard, or wherever else I am likely to look first in the morning. I also prepare materials that future-me will need to get the job done. For example, if future-me needs to write a planning document, then I spend five minutes at the end of the day writing a note for future-me and gathering some quick notes so future-me won’t need to spend the first hour of the day getting organized. Or if future-me needs to finalize a budget, I print out budget spend estimates and leave them on my keyboard so future-me can get right to work the next morning.

Then, I take the most important step: I leave the office. Having left notes for future-me, I find that present-me no longer needs to think about the next day; I can truly take a break. The best thing I can do is get some distance from the day-to-day issues, and work/life separation, so future-me can come to the office refreshed and energized.