How to communicate with your future self

Most people struggle to communicate with others. Sometimes they realize, sometimes they don't. But many would also benefit from better communicating with their future self. Here's why it matters, and how to do it.

How to communicate with your future self
Communicating with others is hard. But most people also fail to communicate with themselves

Most people struggle to communicate with others. Sometimes they realize, sometimes they don't. But many would also benefit from better communicating with their future self.

Why we should communicate with our future self

We spend most of our time communicating with others, and thinking about what we are doing, what we need to do next, etc. We live mostly in the "now" (assuming we are not stuck in the past), looking at the world through a lens, stuck in a narrow tunnel.

I feel like most of us fail to realize that we can (and should?!) also better communicate with our future selves. We are who we are now, but who we are evolves every day. I'm the same person I was 20 years ago, but I have gradually changed. My goals have shifted. My perspective on the world has drastically changed. I have different opinions, tastes, needs/wants, etc. We change gradually, then suddenly realize we're very different.

In a sense, I don't care all that much about what the 20-year-old version of myself thought or even wanted. Still, I am often interested in looking back, searching for meaning, looking to better understand my journey, my mistakes, how I evolved, how my views on the world have shifted, etc. If I didn't care about being able to communicate with my future self, all I could rely on is my memory. And my memory is flaky. It is incomplete. It is biased. It lies to me. It deforms facts and reality all the time. So what can I do?

Leave breadcrumbs for you to follow

The first means I use to communicate with my future self is by leaving breadcrumbs on my path. Journaling is a key part of my organization and productivity systems. Each and every day, I keep my daily note open, and I keep track of my goals, progress, thoughts, discoveries, challenges, etc. Whenever I want to look back at a specific point in time, I can explore those. Looking at my past notes resurfaces the mental context I was in at the time. Of course, it is blurry and incomplete, but it often lets me remember way more than relying solely on my memory can. Needless to say, it all depends on my consistency with journaling and the level of detail I'm keeping (which varies a lot over time!).

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A second means I rely on is the periodic reviews I perform. I do my best to conduct weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly reviews. As part of those, I already look back at specific time periods, and I summarize the information I've collected. Thus, my periodic review notes are condensed versions of my past. It's a sort of progressive summarization process. If I look at a yearly review note, I'll have a high-level overview of how my year went by. And I can dive deeper if I need to.

Periodic reviews can help a great deal to better look back and forward.

Periodic notes are of great importance to me for multiple reasons. First, they let me look somewhat objectively at my past. Unless I'm unconsciously lying to/deceiving myself (which happens!), the information I collect represents my reality at the time. Second, they allow me to be realistic about the progress I've made toward my goals, the challenges I've faced, and my successes and failures. This helps me learn from my mistakes, adjust course, or even change my goals based on experience. Third, during those periodic reviews, I take time to look forward and define goals for the future, taking into account who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. As such, periodic notes are key for goal setting, progress evaluation, vision, and alignment. Last, but not least, I can use periodic reviews to surface and formulate rules and principles for myself. Those evolve over time, together with me. Some appear, others disappear. They don't dictate my behavior, but they can guide my decision-making process.

Interestingly, periodic notes boost our natural ability for autobiographical planning. When we get bored, we get in "default mode", autopilot (e.g., when you're mowing the lawn, doing your laundry or driving). That's actually when our brains get really active. It's also during those times that our mind wanders. We (consciously and/or unconsciously) take note of the big moments, set goals, and identify the steps needed to reach them. That's when we solve our most annoying problems and move forward. With periodic notes, we can do the same, but in a very conscious and methodical way.

An additional approach I'm currently testing is adding personal notes to my periodic reviews, in the form of messages from my current self to my future self. I've taken inspiration from the movie Memento (a must-watch!). I write those notes as if I was writing letters to a friend on the other side of the planet. I don't impose a structure for these. I just capture my thinking, without trying to distort reality. Of course, such notes are biased, incomplete, and only represent a thin slice of my day-to-day reality, but they have the merit to capture a part of my story. I capture feelings, memories, hopes, dreams, and more. Whatever I feel like sending to my future self.

For things that I want to make sure I stumble upon later, I use calendar tasks, events, and reminders. It works great for the short term and for the distant future. I find those useful and fun, as I can use those reminders to point my future self toward specific ideas/information. It works for todos, but also for life advice, remembering rules, principles and past mistakes.

Capture more of what you're going through, so that your future self can benefit from the lessons learned. Image generated using DALL-E

Writing my blog articles and newsletters is also a way for me to leave breadcrumbs along my path. Each article has a backstory, and ideas that touched me in some way. Sometimes personally, sometimes professionally. Those ideas have moved or influenced me. They are part of who I am. And within my newsletters, I share bits of my journey. Souvenirs and milestones.

All of those elements are breadcrumbs. Little pieces I capture, and collect. Put together, they capture elements of my past, and messages that could be useful to me in the future. Thanks to those, I can look back at my past whenever I want or need. I can remind myself about my past, the difficulties I've encountered, my successes and failures. I can get back into my "old shoes", so to say. They could help me be more positive, more realistic, prouder of my progress, etc. They have value because they capture what my memory cannot. They're as detailed as I want them to be, which is in stark contrast with my memory, which feels much fuzzier/unreliable than I would like. After all, since we forget so much, why not help ourselves remember more of what matters?

Those breadcrumbs are not only useful to me, but actually also to those around me. My partner, my kids, and whoever could be interested in my life. Not to say that all of that information is nor should be public/freely accessible to everyone. But for instance, once I die, I'd be glad to let my family consult my notes.

My current approach

Currently, my process for communicating with my future self mostly relies on my Personal Knowledge Management system, and thus on my note-taking application. I use Obsidian for this purpose, along with a set of plugins, templates and a methodology that I've bundled together, and that I am selling as a whole as the Obsidian Starter Kit.

Obsidian Starter Kit and community
Who is this for?You are just getting started with note-taking or you’ve recently switched to ObsidianYou wonder how to take smart notesYou want to know how to properly organize your notes and avoid creating an overwhelming messYou want a solid system that scalesYou wonder what Zettelkasten, the PARA method, and the Johnny decimal system areGetting started with Obsidian is not the hardest thing in the world, but it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out how to structure and organize your knowledge base. You have a busy life, and you don’t want to spend weeks or even months figuring out the “right” approach.What is this?I’ve been passionate about information, knowledge management, and PKM for more than 20 years. As an author, blogger, knowledge worker, and entrepreneur, I needed solutions to store and organize an enormous amount of information.Over the years, I’ve explored, used, and advocated many tools but have been using Obsidian extensively since 2020. With the Obsidian Starter Kit, I offer you the result of my own research and experimentation. It’s like a cheat code to jump straight to stress-free note-making.I’ve spent months refining and perfecting my Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) system, and have spent countless hours tweaking my system. I’ve published a few articles to share some ideas about this. My system combines the Zettelkasten approach, the PARA method, the Johnny decimal system, and other ideas to create a solid basis for my work as an author, blogger, and content creator.The Obsidian Starter Kit is a ready-made Obsidian vault that includes my recommended organization system and plugins, as well as example notes to help you get started. It also comes along with a user-friendly guide.What’s included?If you buy access to the Obsidian Starter Kit, you’ll get:The Obsidian vaultA comprehensive and solid structure with support for Journaling and ZettelkastenLeveraging the PARA method and the Johnny Decimal systemMany recommended plugins to boost productivity and automate actionsA clear system for Journaling, Meeting Notes, Periodic reviews, etcMany templates to improve consistency and productivityA powerful dashboardMaintenance notes (e.g., find duplicate and orphaned notes)Automation rulesMany examplesThe user guideLifetime access to the Personal Knowledge Management community for support and knowledge sharingIn addition, you’ll also get free access to all future updates. Over time, I’ll expand it step by step to include tutorials about the various aspects; from exploration/curation to summarization and reuse.What’s in the user guide?The user guide is a growing and evergreen knowledge base about how to take smart notes. It includes:Installation instructions.Details about the contents of the Obsidian Starter Kit (i.e., Obsidian vault structure, key design principles, included plugins, etc.)A clear overview of Obsidian and its core concepts (everything you should know and care about)Clear explanations about...The Zettelkasten methodAtomic notesProgressive summarizationThe PARA methodThe LIFT principleThe Johnny Decimal systemJournalingMaps of Content (MoCs)Periodic reviewsWhy and how to tag notesTemplatingThe Markdown syntaxWhy you need a single source of truth for everythingThe collector’s fallacyThe Inbox Zero principleHow to capture informationHow to capture quotesHow to capture information about persons of interestHow to extract knowledge from daily notesHow to save mental contextsObsidian tips and tricksWhat’s in the video course?The Obsidian Starter Course is a video course (~2h20) of content covering:Obsidian: installation, user interface, key features, plugins, automation, tips and tricks, etcThe Markdown syntaxYAML metadataPersonal Knowledge Management techniques and principles: the Johnny Decimal system, the PARA method (e.g., the Zettelkasten method, the LIFT principle, Atomic notes, Maps of Content, knowledge capture & extraction, etc)JournalingPeriodic reviewsTemplatesAutomationTask managementBest practices and recommendationsHands-on explanationsand more!Evergreen contentThe user guide of the Obsidian Starter Kit is expanding day after day, week after week. It will soon include:More theoryDetailed processes (e.g. when to take notes, how to use Zettelkasten in practice, daily notes, periodic reviews, ...)Additional how-to guidesMore tips and tricks...The Obsidian vault also evolves over time:The structure improvesNew templates are addedNew plugins are addedetcRefunds policyIf you’re not 100% satisfied, then just let me know, and I’ll issue a full refund. I’ll only ask you a single question: How can I improve the product?If you think about asking for a refund, then consider reaching out to me with your issues, questions, and remarks. I’m always available and happy to help. My goal is to help you succeed.Testimonials”Finally clickeđ how awesome @Obsidian is! Thanks to your excellent Obsidian Starter Kit!”— Cal Desmond-Pearson (@CalSocialHermit)“Off and running w/ @obsdmd. I’ve installed the app & have @dSebastien Starter Kit & my own fresh start Vault open. Learning from former & putting into practice w/ real content in latter. So far, so good”— Raymond D Sims (@rsims)“Great content - got me up to speed with what I was looking for fast ! Sébastien answered some questions by mail also which was much appreciated ! Thanks”— Sam Gonzales”As someone who has bounced around trying to find the right Knowledge tool, I’ve realized that many of my issues have been related to the complexity of the tools and the processes. The structure, design and explanations provided in the Obsidian Starter Kit have finally given me the foundation I’ve needed. 100% worth it”— Michael Aaron (via e-mail)“I absolutely love your kit and it has been so immensely helpful”— Ashwin Appiah (via e-mail)“Thanks for making the product. I’m making efforts to start using Obsidian more in my daily workflow and having a place to start makes the task much less daunting!”— Liam Weight (via Twitter DM)“I’m very new to PKM, but the Obsidian Starter Kit has been a tremendous help in getting me started”— Fredrik Nordström (via the PKM community Slack)“Sebastien’s Obsidian Starter Kit is a powerful tool for those looking to dive into the world of Obsidian without being overwhelmed. It’s a comprehensive solution that significantly shortens the learning curve, providing an impressively structured way to start capturing notes and facilitating daily journaling. The kit’s integration of automated tasks and pre-designed templates are a boon to beginners, alleviating the initial intimidation of starting from scratch. If you’re new to Obsidian and need a solid starting point, this starter kit comes highly recommended. It doesn’t just help you navigate Obsidian, but also empowers you to harness its full potential right from the get-go.”— Lubos KolouchFredrik (via the PKM community Slack)“Just to thank the work and content that allowed me to discover the background of a custom vault. It was a real boost for me and given the price, it was a real investment of time and learning.”— Trobrillant

Of course, I'm biased, as it is my system and I like it, but maybe it could also be useful to you (at least as a starting point or as inspiration to improve your own). Whenever I dive into something new, I always like following the path of others, as it helps me avoid certain pitfalls, but also prevents me from wasting too much time along the way. That being said, I am sure that your system will differ from mine, and that's alright. We are all different, and that's perfectly fine!

I am a firm believer in the value of note-taking, note-making and Personal Knowledge Management. Many people are missing out. Many believe they can rely on their memory, but it's rarely true. I've learned to trust my systems rather than myself. It's quite intuitive. We humans are not machines. That's why we're special. But it's also why we're unreliable by nature.


In this article, I've shared some ideas about why it is useful to better communicate with our future selves, and why doing so can be beneficial to ourselves, but also to others. I've also shared some ideas about how to approach this in practice. I feel like we all leave so little behind that it's comically sad. Many people fail to capture important parts of their journeys. We keep repeating the same mistakes, forgetting important moments, wins and failures. We fail to help our future selves, and fail to leave enough behind us.

So, how do you plan to communicate with your future self?