The peaceful power of good fences

"Good fences make good neighbors." We're all familiar with this proverb. A fence clarifies what belongs to you and what belongs to me, making it easy to resolve any possible conflicts that may arise. Two types of fences are used in creating a peaceful relationship between Now and Next.

Time/task fences

The first type are time/task fences. These are any activities which are allocated a time block or designated as a task. Examples are:

  • spend an hour working on the taxes (time block, Next's property)

  • plan the day before 7:00am (task, Next's property)

  • take a coffee break (task, Now's property)

  • watch TV from 7:00pm-9.30pm (time block, Now's property)

What/how fences

What/how fences allow Next to say what is going to be done and allows Now to say how it's going to get done. Examples are:

  • Drive to the office

    • Next requires that ​we start driving to the office each morning before 8:00am

    • Now controls what route we take, what music we play, how fast we drive, and so on.

  • Exercise

    • Next requires that we exercise for at least 45 minutes​.

    • Now controls the type of exercise, how vigorous it is, whether or not we do it with a partner, and so on.

  • Study Spanish

    • Next requires that we study Spanish for 30 minutes each day.​

    • Now controls all the details of how and how fast we learn Spanish

Fences are only needed for tasks and time blocks likely to be contentious

For example, for myself, I don't need any fences regarding my scheduled coaching sessions with my clients. Both Dwight-Now and Dwight-Next are always happy to cooperate on these tasks.

In contrast, sometimes Dwight-Now will want to blow off (or procrastinate on) Dwight-Next's intentions like planning my day before 7:00am, taking my supplements, and even doing my short intense exercise sessions. While always making sure these intentions are prudent and I've got plenty of time to do them, I place these Dwight-Next intentions on his side of the fence so that Dwight-Next has complete power to ensure they're completed each day. Dwight-Now may make suggestions to Dwight-Next for what he does on his side of the fence, but Dwight-Next is the CEO.

On the other side of the fence are Dwight-Now intentions, which include things like watching a few episodes of my favorite TV series or having a block of time set aside that's only for his indulgence...Dwight-Next is hands off. Dwight-Next may, if he likes, make suggestions on this side of the fence, but Dwight-Now has absolute veto power.

Sit down and design the "Constitution of the United You," creating clear boundaries between what your Next has control over and when your Now is in charge. Both your Next and your Now will be happier for it.


Counterintuitively, you will experience a new sense of ease and freedom after you establish and maintain good fences between your Now and your Next. When Now is in charge, he or she feels free to do whatever without interference from Next. When Next takes the reins, Now doesn't try to interfere with his or her decisions.