Organisational Debt

Messy Desk

Organisation Debt is a term that we need to start using.
We understand financial debt. Sometimes you need more money than you have available to you so you go into debt; you eventually have to pay back that money along with some extra money called interest.
Programmers have to deal with technical debt. Technical debt is when making something work well will take more time/energy than you have available – so you make it work ‘kind of okay’ with the resources you have.  The problem is every time you go near that part of the code again you have to spent more time/energy dealing with the downstream problems it causes.
Organisational debt is the debt you set up in your own life.  You’d like a clean kitchen with everything in the right place, all knives sharpened, all broken things repaired, and everything in place.  You haven’t got time to sort all that you (it would take a day).  You’ll eventually spend that day organising, but until you do you pay back 30 seconds interest whenever you are trying to find a particular spice, you pay interest in energy every time you can’t have nice hot chocolate because you’ve failed to put a battery in the frother and you pay interest in a 100 other ways every time you use the kitchen.
This is organisational debt and it’s a very worthwhile thing to think about.
I did some filming recently for a little bit of an AAC video, and I should apologise for the shakiness of the filming.  It’s not like the filming should have been shaky, I have a stand that I bought especially to avoid this some time ago.  The problem was that when I opened my cupboard to get the stand out I was confronted by such an enormous amount of a random objects piled on top of each other and tided together with a bewildering array of wires that it was clear that looking for the stand would take much longer than it was worth.
So my disorganised cupboard makes life slightly less nice and easy, and it does get worse, because I’m falling deeper into organisational debt.  And it gets worse still: because I can’t find something then I’m late for an appointment and so whatever I was working on before just gets thrown haphazardly into the cupboard.

It’s getting nasty in there.

So why is this in any way interesting? Because there are some very sensible things said about technical debt that you should bear in mind when you think about organisation debt.  For starters, software engineers are aware that the proper way of doing things is not just tidying up, it’s refactoring.

Refactoring is (ideally) when you take some code that works, and then to rearrange it so that it is simpler, or easier for other people to understand, or uses more secure approaches, or just so it looks nicer to deal with.  Paying down technical debt is done mostly by refactoring things that currently work, but could work a lot better.

And it’s applicable in your own life.  Paying down your organisational debt is not simply tidying up, it’s thinking about exactly how you ended up in this position and working out how your needs have changed since last time you looked at it.

So my climbing gear is normally stored in various places in the cupboard.  By comparison, since I was at university I’d always had a packed and ready-to-go Judo bag easily accessible from the front door.  Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to judo for various mild injury reasons for the last year. So while the tidying up would be
get my climbing stuff together and make sure it's clean,
the refactoring would be
my climbing pack is packed and stored by the front door.
In the kitchen- the tidying up is
I wash up and put the pans properly away in the drawer
whereas the refactoring should be that
put the sharpener closer to the knives.

Computer games promote better mindsets than the rest of the media.

Nintendo DS

I’ve been spending some time playing Plants verses Zombies with my God-nephew recently.  It’s been quite a fun experience.  Partly, of course, it’s a nice to see generational changes.  Where’s old people used to say to my generation “Why are you playing that stupid video game? it’s wrong!” my generation can say to the next “Why are you playing that video game wrong? it’s stupid!”
So my poor nephew (he’s six)  is swiftly finding that the price for asking me to help on hard levels is that he gets an extensive lecture on resource management (spoiler alert: you aren’t building enough sunflowers).  He’s getting rapidly better ever time I visit but it’s pretty hard for him because it’s invisible to him what I’m doing differently.
When he plays, he sees the zombies eating a lot of his plants and he spends a lot of panicky time getting almost to the end until finally one of the zombies breaks though.  When he watches me play he sees a lot more plants and the zombies being kept at a fair distance away with relatively little panic.  He’d be forgiven for thinking I’ve just sneakily switched the difficulty down.  Actually I’m just recalling the lessons learned in a misspent youth of video gaming and managing the resources differently.  You make ten decisions a second in a video game and the ones that make life easier for me right now are the ones I made three minutes ago and that’s tough for him to appreciate.
I have great hope for video games and the education of the next generation because video games promote strategic thinking particularly compared with TV.
In the very marvellous game Pokemon, you win NOT by playing well in the battles,  you win by having carefully managed your resources for the last couple of days of playtime, grinding your way up the levels until you have a team that successfully solved all of the problems you could possibly come across.  The major message of Pokemon is that winning is about having worked hard before taking the test.  On the other hand the message of the Transformers series of films is that by doing nothing until you are directly threatened, you can just keep being lucky and finding plot-useful things until you are saved by another series of random occurrences.
The message of Grand Theft Auto, which may surprise its detractors, is that success depends on turning up prepared. If you are causal about starting a mission in Grand Theft Auto, then you are going to have a much less fun time than the guy who took the time to explore. That guy found the body armour and the high-powered guns, he turned up in a fast car, and did enough of the bonus missions that his stats are prementenly boosted.  By comparison the message of most of the Marvel films is that success depends on being born a genius/accidentally being turned into a rage monster/randomly being chosen as a medical test subject/being born a god – none of which are quite the same ‘hard work’ message.
Now I’m aware that you can argue the point – Iron Man can be seen as ‘success is having designed a better suit’,  but it’s still a film mostly about impressive tactical solutions to massive strategic disadvantages (the icing issue is the only time I can think of where it’s clear that Stark had a superior testing system to Stane).  I’ve pulled off my share of outrageously lucky driving in GTA, and will happily admit that there is little in the way of wide strategy in Tekken and Street Fighter (although I will contend that the more strategic your approach is in Tekken the better you will do)
So I’m quite optimistic about computer games shaping the thinking of youth. At least compared to their most likely competition.

Using text expansion to state things in the positive.

We all know that it stating things positively improves our mood, our approach and the responses we get. It is a hard habit to get into and even harder to stick with.

Today I’d like to share my method for keeping my written language positive (as it turns out I touch many more people with what I write than what I say).

I use an auto expander as part of my productivity setup so that when I type -`address- my address is filled in and when I type -`@- my email address is entered. It’s been a mild gain and I’m glad I did it.

However it became really useful when I decided to use it to remove words from my vocabulary.

I set up my autoexpander (I use aText, other options are available) to consider the following words:

  • no
  • not
  • don’t
  • won’t
  • shouldn’t
  • can’t

as triggers – every time I type one of them aText replaces it with the word “HAPPY” (choose what you want, I just wanted something I’d notice).

positivetyping
…and it’s been excellent. Several times a day the alert triggers and I go back and restate the sentence in the positive; most of the time it turns out I can do it more succinctly. I like to think it has made a big difference to how I write and how I think.

Why you should always ask for feedback after a job rejection…

I was trawling thought my email archives for something recently when I came upon this exchange from 2011.  I think it’s a beautiful illustration of why it’s always worth asking for feedback.
Joseph Reddington <joseph@cs.rhul.ac.uk>
22 February 2011 at 15:11
To: “XXXXX” <XXXXX@imperial.ac.uk>
Dear X,




Thank you for your consideration for the post – I was obviously

disappointed that I was not shortlisted, and wondered if you might

have any feedback for me regarding my application and its


presentation?

Joe

XXXX <XXXXXXXX@imperial.ac.uk>
22 February 2011 at 16:18
To: Joseph Reddington <joseph@cs.rhul.ac.uk>

Dear Joe,



 My sincere apologies for this – you seem to have been subject to an

administrative mishap. Actually, we would like to short-list you. Our

administrator will be in touch with you very shortly.



 My apologies once again.


 X
For what it’s worth, I was offered a (I thought) better job in the meantime and had to cancel the interview – but the point still stands…  HR departments are overworked and so are the people hiring you.  People get lost.

There are stupid questions, until 10 years later when you realise why…

Polar Bear AdF

I didn’t have a good illustration for this post, so here’s a fabulous photo of a polar bear from wikicommons.

When I was a callow PhD student I once walked in on a fellow callow PhD colleague watching a video lecture from MIT on bioinformatics.

The colleague said words to the effect of “This is strange, these are meant to be really smart MIT students in a postgraduate lecture, but they keep asking really stupid questions”.

That question, formed that way,  made me realise something I should have known a decade earlier.

What I realised was that you don’t get into an MIT masters course only because you were a naturally gifted genius. These people asking the questions got there because any time something happened in a lecture that they didn’t understand they damn well stopped the lecture until the understood it. So for every minute of their undergraduate life they had been learning.

By comparison, I asked almost no questions during my undergraduate degree, I would wander in and start thinking about food, or Judo, or the pattern of light on the walls – and I’m mortified by that memory, just like I’m mortified by the fact that I used to think there was something strange about the people asking questions. The stranger thing was that I was turning up just so I could think about other things.

Looking better on Skype

Because I now work from home entirely, I do a lot of my meetings via Skype. I wanted to share a simple thing that made this much better for everyone involved.

So this is what I look like on Skype:   Screen-Shot-2014-11-30-at-22.09.45

I look rough… and mostly blue.  Why is that you ask? Well it’s because this is my desktop (also that’s my mum you can see in the picture… who I was talking to on Skype at the time):

IMG_0068

Blue light makes me look a bit rubbish, so it turns out that I had to find a tone that matched my flesh colour….

IMG_0067

Which is quite a difference….Screen-Shot-2014-11-30-at-22.07.59This is one of those things that surprised me in hindsight, but genuinely turned out to be helpful. It’s obvious to some of you, I’m aware of that.

The always up to date ranking of the top productivity blogs by traffic.

One of the most stealthily popular pages on this blog is my list of the top disability blogs by traffic.  If you are unfamiliar with it – I wrote a script that uses the Alexa Ranking to work out which of a set of about 300 disability websites is the most popular. It automatically updates every 24 hours so you can see if there are new people producing a lot of good content and use it to get a feel for what the bits of the ‘community‘ are underserved.

This past week I decided to tidy up the code and make it work a little more efficiency, and in more of a transferable way. Once I’d done that, it was pretty easy to use it to create an entirely new list: for productivity blogs.

I do a certain amount of writing that ends up on productivity blogs so it was a fairly natural progression.  Here’s the method.

To build up a list of popular productivity blogs I used the following lists:

Each of those provided 50 blogs.  When I put them all together and removed duplicates I found I had a list of about 160 (actually that’s considerably less duplication than I expected.

I put them into my script (and you can, of course, have a look at the git hub repository) and it spat out the ranking. I’ve limited to top 60 for now – if the list expands as quickly as the disability one did then I’ll be able to extend that downwards pretty quickly.

So, without further ado, please go to:  the always up to date list of the top 60 productivity blogs!

Why it’s a good thing to be slaved to your email

This post started as a blog post, and became a talk I gave, after the talk I came back and rewrote the post with the benefit of a year’s hindsight and much better graphics. 

 

This post is part history (it’s about me) and part acknowledgement that change happens in levels.  Lightmatter paperwork

I used to be very disorganised, now I’m organised.

I still feel disorganised. On any given day I screw up as many things as I used to:  the difference is that my bandwidth has increased. I’m screwing things up, but I’m getting more things right, remembering more birthdays, being less of a hassle to work with.

This change happened because I  recognised that I was a slave to my email and  made use of that fact.

I was a Computer Scientist, so almost all of my life (academic, work, and social) came though my email – I checked it obsessively to see if anything had happened.

Permanent To-do List

In early 2008 I discovered that Gmail had an ‘archive’ button (Yes, Computer Scientist… I know). When something was done, I could make it vanish into the ’search place’. Overnight, this changed how I dealt with my correspondence. Things in my inbox were things that I still needed reply to. I could get rid of the junk, reply to the rest, and generally exert some control over my life (to this day, I confused as how I managed to complete a degree and a PhD without having even got a this much of a handle on my organisation).

A few months later, it occurred to me that I could send myself emails: if there was something I had to do (“Buy milk” is the classic) then I could send myself an email. That email would sit in my inbox until I did the thing and then I could archive it. Suddenly I have a permanent to-do list that I’m checking obsessively.

Because I was obsessively checking my email anyway so I could never have that experience of writing out a to-do list and then ignoring it or losing it, or forgetting what was on it. If something went on the to-do list then I saw it eight times a day until I did it.

This was a transformation. I stopped forgetting things: if there was something I committed to, then I did it. Paperwork got done in time, bills were paid. In particular, literal nice things started happening. Before, I might think “Hey, it would be really nice if you sent X one of those sweets she likes” but I’d be dealing with something else when the opportunity arose, now I’d have the thought, send myself an email, and X would actually get the sweets.

I didn’t become a better person, but it  looked like I did to everyone else.

Level 2: Calendar

Three months later I started using Google Calendar to send me tasks.  This included  both forwarding tasks “Submissions are now open so upload your paper” and reoccurring ones “Tidy house”.  They end up in the inbox, so they get done.  I’m now making all of my dentist appointments, avoiding deadline stresses because I’ve done the work, and saving lots of money on train and plane tickets by buying them in advance.  I’m also been reminded when I’m due to give blood so now I really am becoming a better person.

Something that I didn’t notice at the time but I realised after reading Getting Things Done was that I’d taken my brain out of the process.

At any time of the day I used to be thinking a half dozen things like ‘must pay that bill’, ‘must talk to Steve’, ‘must buy milk’ – as soon as I had a trusted place to put these thoughts that I knew I’d check, these thoughts all disappeared and with them much of a base level of stress that I didn’t realise I was carrying around.

Level 3: Gamification

The masterstroke was yet to come: Gamification.  Because the size of my inbox became the size of my todo list, reducing the size was the main focus of each day.  I started to play little games “Can I half the whole list today?” “How much can I make it shrink in an hour?”.

As soon as you start to play those games you start wanting some form of proper way of tracking, so that you can play them over a little more than I couple of hours.  So I wrote some code to chart the size of my inbox/to-do list.   It started basic, but I’d poke it every few months and, as it refined, so did how quickly I got into a flow state.  You can see a selection of the images that evolved into my stress chart below.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.28.16Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.28.48 Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.29.08 Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.30.01

Winning rather than working

Getting gamification right means that you are processing things faster, dealing with things, getting more free time, making more of an impact, mostly because you are looking at how you are scoring on a chart a few times a day…  It’s embarrassing to admit, but it worked wonders.  Many of the things that I’ve achieved in my life look like they were selfless or served some higher power. In reality they were caused by a borderline obsession on getting a purple line to get closer to the bottom of the screen.

Summary

There are two things that I want you to take away from this.

The first one is that if you are a slave to your email, maybe that’s okay. Maybe you can make use of it. If I hadn’t have been a slave to my email I wouldn’t have been able to free up nearly enough of my time to do the first prototype TooManyCooks book (there are now 13!) I wouldn’t have been able to commit to building the Domesday Dataset, which I think has made more of a difference than anything I’ve ever done in academia.

The second thing is that this process happened in layers. I got the hang of emails, then of open tasks, then of calendar events. There was NO way I could have put all this together in one leap. It had to be stage by stage. Sometimes I tried something new and it didn’t work, that’s okay, because I was still at a level above where I had been.  There are a lot of things that you can do to make sure that you juggle more plates without dropping them, but you have to have to do things one at a time.

iPhone to Mac clipboard

As a bit of a change of pace from the heavily political/disability focus I’ve had recently, I thought I’d share this tip about transferring URLS and lumps of text between your iPhone and mac.

Like many people with both a macBook and an iPhone I’ve struggled to find a way to share a clipboard between them. Regularly I’ll want to text friends a link, or put a long “This is where you need to be and when” email into a text message.  Equally I want to pull URLs out of WhatsApp or deal with photos in the couple of hours before iPhoto works out that they have arrived.  
Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 14.00.43
I’m aware of, and Lifehacker has featured, a range of ‘try to get this to work’ solutions, but most of the ones I’ve tried have been expensive, or horrific for battery life (and my battery life has quite enough pounding going on).

So I use iMessage as my Mule and take advantage of the fact that the iPhone has NO problem with texting itself and receiving the same message back.  

I have a contact in my phone book called Clipboard.  Clipboard’s phone number is my phone number (I know this because Tyler knows this…)

When I want to text a friend with a link I use iMessage to text  Clipboard.  Instantly, my phone picks up the message and I can copy and paste from ‘Clipboard’ to my text messages. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it requires NO battery strain, NO extra effort and NO apps.  

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 09.29.52 IMG_2756

Either talk about money or don’t.

Either talk about money or don’t.  

I was once at a BBQ with three friends.  One of us had recently got a new job and was quite proud of it. The conversation proceeded thusly. 

Alice: It’s interesting actually, because even by the industry average, we are very comfortable at X
Bob: oh I don’t know, over at Y we have a really excellent package. 
Alice: oh I’m sure it’s very good for your sector, but obviously our benefits are honestly very good.
Bob: -no, really we do have excellent
Alice -and particularly when you count signing bonus
Bob: actually when you include the pension deal it’s really quite superb…

 

…and the conversation continued for some time.  Unhelpfully, the other people were: me, who as a relatively impoverished academic doesn’t compete on salary but does reap the many rewards of doing what I love, and another friend who works for a hedge fund, and who thus could comfortably buy all our houses and covert them into a selection of private ping pong rooms…

(EDIT an early version of this post missed the word ‘relatively’ from the sentence above, for which I received no small amount of abuse.  The sentence is intended to reflect that I earned less than half of what anyone else in the conversation did.  Not that I think I’m poor. I’d also like to point out that as a result of this post – my annual income is £0).

And the problem was that this terrible conversation and general waste of energy (and I have witnessed many similar) was not caused by rudeness but my misplaced politeness.   There are many good reasons not to talk about money in general conversation. They include: 

  • It’s the wrong thing to measure about someone’s life – money is no better a way of measuring someones happiness than resting heart-rate is.
  • Flaunting status (or perceived status) causes anger and ill feelings(helpfully illustrated by reddit’s reaction to this post – a useful lesson for me there…. )Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 17.28.12 Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 17.27.31 Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 17.26.33
  • It’s pretty boring, there are much much more interesting things to talk about.
  • It’s very backward looking – your salary is about who you were and where you were, rather than where you are going.

All of which are true, for varying values of true. 

So society developed this rule of ‘avoid talking about salary in general conversation’, which is perfectly reasonable, if a little old-fashioned.  

The problem comes when you get people who really really want to talk about how much money they make. For some reason they still want to obey the ‘avoid talking about salary’ rule so you get lots of bizarre insertions ‘of course, my salary is now considerable enough that we can afford to…’  or of course ‘yes we have an excellent incentives package’. 

Here’s a solution: if you want to talk about it, talk about it.  if your salary is that important to you then JUST SAY THE DAMN NUMBER. 

It’s easy, I’ll go first. Here’s my most recent payslip (click on it for full size).  I’ve sometimes been paid much more, and I’ve often been paid much less. For the next year – I expect it to be much less…

Screen-Shot-2014-08-11-at-12.24.42

So there you go, now if you really want to tell me how much you earn, then you can just tell me the number.  I can say ‘Okay, thank you for letting me know’ and we’ll move on to talking about something much more interesting. 

 

Food lifehack: freezing bread.

A quick food hack I thought I’d share with you.

I have toast in the mornings for breakfast and so that the bread doesn’t go off (it takes me a while to get thought a loaf) I freeze the bread and put it in the toaster frozen.  This, judging by the number of tips I’ve seen saying ‘freeze bread’, is fairly normal.

However, everyone who has tried this knows that Freezing sliced bread often leaves you with what appears to be a frozen loaf of unsliced bread.  You start to think that you might need a chisel.

The solution is simple: deal your bread before it goes in the freezer.

1 Take breadIMG_2591

2 Take bread out of wrapper and alternate the slices of the bread, so one faces left and the other right
IMG_2592

3 Put the bread back in the wrapper

IMG_2593

4 Profit!    Or in this case enjoy being able to easily separate bread in the mornings.

The easy-to-seperate bread after freezing.

The easy-to-seperate bread after freezing.

 

Gmail for yesterday’s jobs – a special redirect for searching gmail by date.

Hey, so the recent article I did on extending your gmail search was very well received, so here’s another tip (that I’ve slightly souped up) for this article  – I hope it useful for anyone who finds searching gmail by date a bit of a pain. 

I try and get everything in my inbox out and dealt with within 24 hours. But when I come online in the morning I get distracted by the stuff at the top of my inbox and forget, so things that come in at 10am often catch my eye more easily than the stuff that comes in at 6am.   

Writing a search for ‘inbox NOT including today’ is slightly counterintuitive and somewhat of a pain so I put together a custom redirect of my own that brings up the stuff from yesterday that I need to finish  If I got to 

http://joereddington.com/back/0 

That redirects a user to their inbox with a custom search string that searches gmail by date. The search shows only those emails that turned up before today. It’s parameterisable so 

http://joereddington.com/back/4  

takes you back four days and 

http://joereddington.com/back/10  

takes your back ten days (this has never been useful, I promise).  

The string is left in the search bar

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 18.39.21

so If you wanted to play with it, you can add extra terms and see where you end up.

It’s been useful for me so I thought I’d share to see if it was interesting for anyone else. 

Because it might help people make up their mind, or achieve something similar (or, more likely, point out were I went wrong)  here’s the relevant php (although I’ve also changed it in response to this) : 

<script type="text/javascript"><!--
var d = new Date()
var days=<?
$url = $_SERVER["REQUEST_URI"]; // gives /test/test/ from http://example.org/test/test/
echo substr("$url",6);
echo "\n";
?>-1

d.setTime(d.getTime()-86400*1000*days);
window.location = "https://mail.google.com/mail/?shva=1#search/in%3Ainbox+before%3A"+(d.getYear()+1900)+"%2F"+(d.getMonth()+1)+"%2F"+
d.getDate()
; //--> </script>

….and here’s the relevant bit of the .htaccess file that lets the nice url redirection work.  

RewriteEngineon

RewriteRule ^back/([0-9]+) redirect.php [PT]

I screwed up.

I screwed something up recently. It was one of those silly things which rolled on and got harder and harder to deal with until I just ran out of time.

There where different things I should have done, and had I done any of them I wouldn’t have had a problem. All were simple: chase someone about their approval; remind a different person to book something in advance; explain to someone in detail some requirements; and ask someone else to get back to me as soon as they knew something was amiss.

I didn’t do any of those and by the time I found out there was a problem there wasn’t a simple solution. I spend an afternoon and evening and the next morning running around, ringing, cajoling, being polite, leaving messages, being angry, attempting to call in favours and trying to throw money at the problem.

It didn’t work. I ended up not being able to deliver something I’d promised and disappointing (and creating much more work for) someone I look up to very much.

I now lose my weekend because all the running around took me away from my day job.

But there is a positive to come out of this.  I’ve actually not screwed something up this badly for a while – it’s been years since I had to make a call where I said “that thing I promised you, I can’t deliver”.  But the process did feel familiar. I spent a lot of my university (particularly my undergraduate and the earlier parts of my PhD) doing exactly that – running around on tight deadlines, getting things lashed together by force of personality and hope, getting many of them to work and getting frustrated when things failed.

As you might have guessed from this, this or this, I’ve very much invested in personal organisation in the last few years. Some habits I’ve adopted have been sea-changes that made a difference over night, and some have been ideas that took a year to show the benefit, but I do occasionally find myself wondering if it’s all worthwhile – if the effort I put I to making sure everything is running smoothly would be better spent throwing myself wholeheartedly into a project like I used to.

But honestly. It’s having to make the phone call that says “I screwed up, I broke my promise” and remembering that this is how you used to feel *all the time*. That’s what makes me realise that it’s worthwhile.

Your past self is on your side. So do nice things for your future self.

Theatrical release poster of the film 'momento'
(Image from wikipedia, from a suggestion by this person on reddit)

My Google Calendar emails me. It’s incredibility good for the soul.

When I am ill with a cold, I put a event in my Google Calendar saying “Take a moment to really enjoy being able to breath though your nose”.  A couple of months later my email goes ‘ping’ and I do.  I really do take a moment to enjoy being able to breath though my nose, it’s wonderful – you should try it now.  These sort of emails pop up every so often.  “Enjoy being able to move your shoulder”,  “Isn’t it great not having a mouth ulcer?”.

It’s even better when you get into the habit, because the great thing about a trusted habit it that once you take the action, you forget about it.  I got an email recently saying “Do something nice for Sam”.  I have no idea why I put this in, or when I put this in, but I do know that I like Sam and so I sent him a present.

It’s an interesting thought experiment to consider your past self another person. Because there is a big difference between your past self as they were and the past self as you remember them.

If you were asked to think back to a particular year (pick one) and remember what you were like, you’d probably remember a bunch of embarrassing things you did and/or a bunch of really fun things: wild parties, holidays, jumping off cliffs.  Given those memories, it’s very natural to think of your past self as stupid, hedonistic, and irresponsible. But you should be aware of the filtering that memory does. *Everyone* remembers the embarrassing and fun events because that’s the kind of thing that is easy to remember.  You tend to bias yourself into remembering only the bad parts of your previous self, and that’s probably not good for you. You don’t remember you past self setting up saving accounts that you are keeping you out of debt, or forcing themselves to adopt the good eating habits that mean that you are 15kg lighter than you would be.

The thing with the calendar is the opposite. It puts you in mind of only the good thoughts of your past self.  I don’t ever get emails saying “Steve is a bad person, don’t send him a birthday card”, or “Sorry you can’t afford your rent, but I really needed this iPad”.

All I’m suggesting is that it’s an interesting thought experiment to consider your future self as another person (that you like), because then find yourself doing nice things for them… and shortly afterwards you find your past self is doing more and more nice things for you.

 

EDIT: Somewhat unusually – reddit really liked this:

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 11.13.51

It’s very strange when all of the reddit posts are positive – you feel like you’ve broken some sort of universal law… :s

EDIT2:

…and a little while after I wrote it… the wonderful xkcd came up with this angle…XKCD cartoon.