Well-Being//

Asking Yourself a Simple Question Can Radically Change the Way You Manage Your Time and Make You Happier

Schedule your day according to what will make you happy looking back — and not according to what feels good in the moment.

Prathan Chorruangsak / EyeEm/Getty Images
Prathan Chorruangsak / EyeEm/Getty Images

By Shana Lebowitz 

  • Schedule your day according to what will make you happy looking back — and not according to what feels good in the moment.
  • That’s according to Laura Vanderkam, a time-management expert and the author of “Off the Clock.”
  • Vanderkam says too many of us winding up scrolling through social media posts instead of doing something more meaningful, simply because we prioritize our present needs and wants.

There is a version of me who spends her free time reading books about physics, and does yoga before bed, and bakes banana bread on Sunday afternoons.

There is another version of me who decides that physics is hard, as are yoga and baking, and instead spends her free time browsing social media.

There’s a scientific name for Version 1, and it’s not “you’ve gotta be kidding me.” Instead, it’s the “anticipating self.” Version 2, on the other hand, is the “experiencing self.” And here’s the kicker: With a shift in mindset, it’s possible to replace Version 2 with the ever-virtuous Version 1.

That’s according to Laura Vanderkam, a time-management expert and the author of “Off the Clock: How to Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done.” Vanderkam argues that there are three selves to every individual: anticipating, experiencing, and remembering.

The key to managing your time well (i.e. actually reading those physics books) is to ask yourself: Did my anticipating self want to do this? If so, do it! Your remembering self will be glad to have done it — and remembering lasts a whole lot longer than experiencing.

Somewhat counterintuitively, you should strive to live for the memories you’ll make

Vanderkam’s anticipating/experiencing/remembering framework is an extension of an argument made by Nobel Prize-winning psychologist (and pioneering behavioral economist) Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman argues that everyone is made up of two selves: experiencing, who lives in the moment, and remembering, who lives in the past.

Vanderkam goes so far as to suggest that our remembering self is “the keeper of our identity.” The problem, she writes, is that “the present — the moment occupied by the experiencing self — has a disproportionate effect on our actions, given its fleeting nature.”

Sure, it feels good in the moment to scroll mindlessly through pretty pictures of friends’ beach vacations. But when you look back, you’ll remember that day as much the same as every other lazy day — in fact, you might not even remember it at all.

The goal, then, is not to live in the present, or like there’s no tomorrow, as so many pop songs would have us do. It’s to live for tomorrow, and for the years after that, when you’ll turn back to your memories as an indicator of what your life was like: happy and fulfilling or unsatisfying and boring.

To be sure, this mindset shift takes some effort, specifically resisting the experiencing self’s inertia. It might take a few tries before it kicks in, but at some point you’ll realize that the anticipating self, in cahoots with your remembering self, does indeed have your best interests in mind.

More from Business Insider: 

7 of the best productivity secrets I learned from the woman who wrote the book on not wasting time

Asking yourself these 4 questions will lead to a longer, more meaningful life

A science-backed 21-day program to be happier, healthier, and more successful

Originally published at www.businessinsider.com

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.