Tricking your future self to get things done

Oatmeal ready for my morning self to consume.

I’ve had “eat oatmeal” on my personal “to do” list for awhile.  I have several large containers of oats.  Plain, boring, oats. No sugar added.  No dried fruit or nuts added. Just oats.  I do, however, have nuts and spices separately, that I just need to add to make the oats exciting.

And yet this task remained on my list, week after week.

Eat the oatmeal.

The reasons why I wanted to eat it were clear:

  1. Cheap.  I like saving money and this would be a way to put off buying more kind breakfast bars, which I’ve recently been enjoying for a quick breakfast.  But even when breakfast bars are on sale, they’re not as cheap as eating the stuff sitting in my cupboard.
  2. Don’t waste food. I’ve already got oats.  Let’s eat them.
  3. Good for my heart and body.  I just ate a bunch of buttery stuff for Thanksgiving and also have had too much buttery popcorn.  I want to be healthier and good food choices are a huge part of that.

This isn’t about making myself eat something that I don’t enjoy. No, I do love oatmeal. If I buy that pre-packaged stuff, that comes in single packets and is pre-flavored, I eat it in no time.  I especially like the Better Oats Strawberry & Cream with Flax oatmeal.  But, that’s expensive, and I could buy flax seeds and freeze dried strawberries and make my own.  However, let’s not let myself get side tracked from the item on my to-do list: eat the oatmeal.

And I also enjoy Quaker Oats instant oatmeal (although it has too much sugar in it, still, for me).  So there’s something about having it in packets and just having to add water to it, that makes me eat in in the morning, even if it has too much sugar in it.

This is about me not wanting to think about what I’m eating in the morning.

Breakfast companies have figured this out.  People like me want the quickest possible thing in the morning.

My morning brain doesn’t want to decide how much a serving should be, and doesn’t want to measure out the various ingredients that I would add to make it delicious.

So finally I realized the only way I’m going to eat this oatmeal is if I create single serving packets of it myself.

So, yesterday, I did just that. I prepared 6 ziplock bags with oats + nuts & spices so that in the morning, all I would have to do is add water.

This morning, after writing a blog post and listening to a podcast, I got hungry, and remembered that I had these ziploc bags of prepared oatmeal.

I added water, heated it in the microwave for 1 minute, stirred, heated one more minute, and then added a little maple syrup.


There, I did it.  I ate oatmeal, and will probably eat it every day this week.

This, though, is not a blog post about how to make oatmeal.  This is about how to get things done.  What are you not getting done?  Why?  Can you tackle those why’s?

Why did I care so much about eating the oatmeal?  Why was I not eating it?

At work, we use the principles of scrum to get things done.  I have tried to carry over some of these ideas into my personal life (because it works!).  In scrum, it becomes painfully obvious when a task isn’t getting done, as it carries over from sprint to sprint.  My “to do” list has become my personal sprint.  And I had a problem — I couldn’t get something to done, and I had no one but myself to blame for it.  But we’ll talk more about scrum in another post.

So, I figured out why I wasn’t getting the task done and I overcame that.  I call it “tricking myself” because my current self has to think about my future breakfast time self.  I hesitantly call it a “trick” and will publish this post and recipe.  But… But I’m not sure that’s the best word for it.  Perhaps it’s just about having a plan on how to get an important task done.  Maybe that’s the take away here.  Let me revisit that in the future…

Almond Peanut Cinnamon Oatmeal

My Oatmeal Ingredients – Single serving

  • 1/2 cup oats (quick or old fashioned, not sure it matters which kind)
  • 1 Tb sliced almonds
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 Tb peanut butter powder


Mix and store in a plastic bag.

In the morning: Add 1 cup of water, cook 1 minute in the microwave, stir, cook 1 more minute. Add maple syrup to sweeten.

Do you trick yourself into getting things done?

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