The Question That Frees Up a Schedule

Raise the chances that when you do whatever you agreed to do, you’ll actually want to do it

Laura Vanderkam
Forge
Published in
4 min readMar 29, 2022

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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Perhaps you’ve faced a dilemma like this. You’re in the middle of a busy week. You’re barely keeping your head above water. You need more hours, yet somehow, on Thursday morning, you see that you’ll be traveling downtown to your local conference center to participate in a panel on a topic that you’ve been moving away from in your career. At this point, canceling would be embarrassing. But you’re kicking yourself on the drive there. What happened?

What happened is that when you said yes to this commitment a year earlier, your schedule seemed completely open. It’s hard to say no, and how were you supposed to know that Future You would be slammed? But asking one simple question before taking on any commitment can raise the chances that when you do whatever you agreed to do, you’ll actually want to do it.

Humans aren’t naturally good at considering our future selves. There’s some research finding that we view our future selves almost as strangers. We’re not sure what our future selves will be thinking, doing, or feeling.

That’s a problem — and not just for questions like whether we’re saving enough for retirement. When we are asked to do things far in the…

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Laura Vanderkam
Forge
Writer for

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management books including Off the Clock and 168 Hours. She blogs at LauraVanderkam.com.