Some of you have chosen, as your morning habit, to work on your Most Important Task (MIT). That’s commendable — it’s a great habit!

But what you also might find is that you’re procrastinating on it.

One of our members, Amy, asked:

“My morning habit this month is doing my MITs, but I find that I’m rushing to finish them in the evening before midnight after the whole day is through! I know this is a form of procrastination, but if I’m getting them done before the day is over, is that such a bad thing? I probably have other factors influencing my morning time availability–such as sleeping late the night before, fear of failing at the tasks, and feeling rushed in the morning to go to work. What’s your advice here? Does it really defeat the purpose of an MIT to do it in the evening?”

So let’s talk about the different issues Amy brings up, because they’re very common. I’m going to deal with these issues in a series of recommendations:

  1. Focus on the trigger-habit sequence. It’s not bad that Amy is getting her MITs done by the end of the day, but in all honesty she’s not really forming the habit. She’s just putting the MITs on her to-do list. What we want to focus on here, and with all these morning habits, is creating an actual habit. That means focus on the trigger-habit sequence, and make it automatic. You first need to pick a trigger — something that you already do every morning, like waking up, brushing your teeth, drinking your first cup of coffee, turning on your computer, taking a shower, etc. Then commit to doing the MIT (or other habit) as soon as the trigger happens. Don’t leave a gap of a minute, do it exactly after the trigger. It should be trigger-habit, ba-boom, one-two! Do this every day and you’ll soon form an automatic habit sequence.
  2. Focus on only one MIT. I know, you might have a goal of doing three MITs every morning, and that’s great. For now, I highly recommend you just pick one, and focus on that. It’s hard to do three really important tasks, and if you make your habit too hard, you won’t really form it. You can’t do three MITs right after your trigger, in all honesty — you can only do one. You can still do the other two later, but for now, just focus on one.
  3. Focus only on starting. OK, you’ve picked on MIT … now just focus on the start. If the MIT is “write report” then just focus on “write first sentence of report” for now. Yes, you can try to do the whole report, but your habit isn’t “do entire report” but “get started on MIT.” If you focus on starting, the rest can flow from there, but don’t think about that until after you start. When your trigger happens, think only of starting.
  4. Clear the decks. If you’re going to work on your computer, close the browser or hide your browser window with all your open tabs, and open a new browser window. Or just open a simple text document to write, and close everything else. Don’t take long on this step, just get everything quickly out of the way, and get started.
  5. Pause at the urge. You’ll have the urge to go to your email, or check Facebook, or read the news, or do some chores around the house first. That’s natural. When you notice this urge (you’ll notice because you’re not actually starting the MIT) … just pause. Sit there for a few seconds, and feel what that urge feels like. Really look at it, really feel it. And then notice that it’s just a feeling, not an imperative command. You can sit with the feeling until it fades a bit, then turn to your MIT and focus all your energy on getting started. You might get the urge several times — practice this pause each time.
  6. Plunge headfirst. You’ve picked the MIT, you’ve cleared the decks, you’ve paused with your urge … and now your staring your task right in the face, and it’s frightening. It’s like looking out the plane when you’re about to sky dive. You can stand there at the edge of the plane, gripping the side and contemplating your fear … or you can just take the plunge. Once you do, it’ll be thrilling and exhilarating, but it takes a bit of letting go. Take the plunge, and start on your MIT, no matter how much fear you might have.
  7. Find gratitude. As you’re starting your MIT, as you’re plunging … try to find gratitude for what you’re doing. This is amazing, this starting. This is wonderful, what you’re doing for yourself. This MIT is worth doing, and you have the unique opportunity of working on this right now. Smile, and feel the love.