I’m writing this blog post on an airplane while flying home from Denver. I’d rather be eating snacks and watching a movie on my laptop, but I already know that there are dozens of essays waiting to be edited and late meetings every night this week. So I have to decide: do I relish the lack of WiFi access on Spirit Airlines and treat myself right now, or do I try to cross a less urgent but important item off my to-do list? Right now, I’m choosing to be nice to future Colleen, and make her Thursday and Friday a little less hectic.
But the lesson is not to always prioritize work over leisure. Every day, I walk for at least an hour. Some days, that means pulling myself out of a good work flow, stepping away from my computer, and letting the emails pile up in my inbox while I walk my dog. Future Colleen might feel a little more stress when she gets back to her desk, but I know future future Colleen is going to be glad that she took a walk, got some sun and some air, and breathed. Sometimes the gift is getting your homework done, and sometimes the gift is taking a beat.
This calibration of what to do now and what to do later is always a work in progress – I’m better at it some days than others. But there’s not a single phase of my life that this principle hasn’t made better. Applying to college as a high school senior? Give a gift to your future self and write those essays weeks (or even months!) before the deadline. Work project that technically isn’t due until the end of the week? Write it on the plane instead of rewatching Friends one more time. I’ve long been an advocate – if not a practitioner – of doing things early, and no one appreciates this more than my future self.