Based on my research thus far into the psychology of “gettin’ stuff done” it seems that one way to do this is to commit your future self to something she cannot avoid doing. We have this idea in our heads that the future us will be more motivated and more able (time-wise, money-wise, etc) to achieve certain things that so far we have relocated to the back burner. We also tend to think that the future us will be living in a future that is much better and therefore more conducive to “gettin’ stuff done” than the one we live in now. This is probably not the case, and if anything, the future may actually be tougher and much worse that the present. But I suppose the majority of us are optimists at the end of the day.
So, how can we fool the future selves into committing to stuff? One example comes from the world of diet regimens. Ones where participants are forced to shell out a large amount of money at the very beginning for equipment, supplements, or food tend to have better success rates (although I would imagine this is probably only in the short-term). The idea is that if the present me forked out all this money now, the future me has to deal with the consequences, ie: eating the bought food, taking the supplements, or using the equipment.
One thing that I have done in the financial sector of “gettin’ stuff done” is set up numerous savings accounts that automatically withdraw money from my checking account every time I get paid. I can certainly fantasize that the future me will be responsible enough to transfer money to savings every two weeks (which she is not) or I can give the future me no choice. In addition, all of these accounts are “frozen”, which means that future me cannot stumble to an ATM at 2am and take money out of them. She will have to wait until the bank is open and go in personally to retrieve the funds…and chances are she would have wisened up by then anyway.
The important thing about setting up commitments and obligations for your future self is that the commitment made has to be large or inflexible enough as to not let the future you flake out of it. For example, a small monthly fee at a gym is probably not enough of a financial commitment to motivate the future you to continue to go, but pre-paid sessions with a personal trainer (especially if scheduled ahead of time) will be much harder to justify missing. I often shop at a discount grocery store by my house because it is convenient, but I end up leaving with tons of unhealthy and frozen food because it is so cheap. What I am thinking of trying in the new year is allocating most of my food funds from each pay check to a pre-paid gift card at a health food store near my house. This way, even if the future me is feeling lazy, she will have to walk the extra 15 minutes to the health food store for groceries. She will have no choice.
Bottom line: It is hard to change and the future will not necessarily be any brighter or more conducive to change than the present. Write cheques out now that the future you will have no choice but to cash.