Why is it that when we have an important task (MIT) to do we try everything in our power to not do that task? Before we can start, there are a million other things that need to be done first.
We are constantly looking for the perfect conditions before we can find focus. Those meaningless tasks we take on instead of our most important ones are our solutions to find control and avoid our fear. Within that MIT, we have lost comfort, certainty, and security. We crave to regain control of our distractions, meaningless tasks, and procrastination.
What is it about that craving that makes us avoid the task at hand?
It’s easy to turn to the little, meaningless tasks when we feel overwhelmed by our list. When there are a million things to do, all we crave is control over our task list. To narrow that list down, we turn to our smaller tasks. It gives us a sense of accomplishment and control because we continue to cross off the meaningless items.
Though we can continue to make our list shorter, our MITs remain unfinished. The longer we put it off, the more we struggle to start the task.
We can also feel overwhelmed by the task itself. It could be big, difficult, or scary, and that leads to our fear of uncertainty. We want to shut down and not deal with our fear, and thus we never attack our MIT. The longer we can sit in certainty and not break out of our comfort zones, the longer we will put off our MIT.
Other tasks need to be done
Those tasks are on your list for a reason — at some point, they need to be done. But how much of your list is actually needed? Are there time constraints for some of the smaller tasks? Or are these tasks not really important? Sometimes we convince ourselves that a task is relevant to our progress or we assign higher importance than necessary. Often these tasks really aren’t time-sensitive and we are just using them as easy procrastination tools.
We often have a routine set up around our habits. We have to do A, B, and C before we can start on our MIT. All that happens with this routine is a mess of alphabet soup. In reality, this routine is prioritizing the wrong things or it’s just an excuse to put off our MIT. There’s nothing wrong with incorporating your MIT in a routine, putting it first, or changing your routine to better suit your priorities.
When we understand the root of our procrastination, we can truly understand how to deep dive into our task. It requires focus and attention by determining our highest impact task that we designate as our MIT. Once we’ve acknowledged and accepted our fear, it’s time to mindfully enter the task.
You’ve started the task, but this requires complete focus. If we want to immerse ourselves in our work — truly deep dive into the MIT — we have to eliminate our distractions. If you need help finding focus, test out these five tips, but don’t let them become procrastination tools.
Shut your door, turn off your phone, mute notifications and sounds on your computer, and start with 15 minutes of focus work.
When you’re mindfully present with the task, it’s not often that our attention can be pulled away. For example, I sat down to write this article with a 15 minute minimum focus time. I’m currently afraid to look at the clock because that might be a distraction, but I know what I’m producing is focused work.
If you find yourself looking around for a means to distract yourself, CONGRATS. You’ve been mindful and you’ve noticed the distraction. Don’t worry, this isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually really awesome that you’ve noticed your distraction and your pull away from the task.
Like in meditation, note the distraction for what it is. To do that, understand what uncertainty caused the distraction. Was it a fear listed above? You might be able to name it from one of these fears on the unprocrastination cheat sheet at Zen Habits. Being able to identify the distraction is the first step.
As I said above, noticing the distraction is actually quite helpful. And when we can name our distraction honestly, we are able to find the root cause. From that root cause, forgive yourself. A distraction is not the end of the world. Accept that it happened, forgive yourself, free yourself from the guilt, and return to the task at hand.
By the time you return to your task, you will feel lighter. Often, those fifteen minutes are only needed to get you started. After that, you’ll start to find your flow, lose track of time, and find the task much more simple to accomplish. There are amazing benefits to mindfully deep diving into a task.
Learn to start
When you fight against procrastination, you improve yourself. Often we just need that initial fifteen minutes before we find ourselves no longer bothered by distractions. When you understand how to start a task by accepting your fears and breaking through, you’re able to tackle multiple challenges that come your way.
Train in uncertainty
It’s not fun to live in uncertainty, but just like any skill that requires practice to develop, we can learn to stay in the uncertainty and complete our tasks. The more we train this habit, the better we are at naming it, accepting it, and moving forward despite it.
Create meaningful work
While some of our most important tasks revolve around work, you can apply this deep dive to your personal projects, work, and missions. If there is a project you’ve been afraid to start, something you’ve been putting off for some time, or just general fear of a personal task, practice a deep dive with this work as well.
Sit down and focus for fifteen minutes by eliminating distractions. Notice any fears that pop up, understand their root, and accept them and yourself. Fears are natural, and practicing performance during times of uncertainty will help you work through this. Finally, free yourself from the guilt and turn your attention back to your work.