Let’s say you want to tackle a really tough task on your Most Important Tasks (MIT) list … but the task causes you some anxieties or fears.

How can you cope with the anxiety/fears and get to work on the task?

Actually, the Unprocrastination Session is a great way to practice dealing with anxieties and fears in general. As it’s a short session, and definitely won’t be overwhelming … you can take one bite out of the scary task without worries that it’ll kill you.

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Build awareness. Pick out this Most Important Task to focus on for your next session, and sit still for a few seconds. Is there any fear or anxiety around the thought of doing this task? Notice how the anxiety feels … where in your body does it reside? What is the intensity, the quality, the color of this feeling? Does it build up and then fade away, or just go away after a minute?
  2. Accept the feeling. This feeling is just a phenomena happening in the world, not a part of you but happening in your vicinity. Let yourself feel it, and allow it to happen without wishing the feeling weren’t there. This feeling isn’t “bad” or something you need to avoid, just discomfort that comes with life. You can get through it. Note: It’s the wanting to avoid this discomfort that causes even more discomfort and anxiety.
  3. Examine the feeling. What fear about this task is making you feel anxious? Are you afraid you’re not good enough? Now think rationally for a minute about the worst thing that could happen — what would you do if that happened? Would the world fall apart, or would life go on? This isn’t meant to be condescending, but to show that we can see that these fears aren’t as true as we might think, if we think about them for a minute. If the worst thing happens, can you deal with it? If there are potential downsides, what are the potential upsides? Are the benefits much greater and worth the risks? In the bigger picture, how big of a danger is this really? (Often it’s not as big a deal as we’re making it out to be, if we take a larger perspective.)
  4. Just start. As you allow the feeling of fear/anxiety to be in your body, start your body in motion despite the discomfort. Just as you can exercise when you’re a little tired (which is discomfort), you can do this task when you have a bit of anxiety. You don’t need to do the whole task, just start.
  5. See that doing isn’t that bad. As you do this task, just see it as action, not as some horrible thing. See it as moving your fingers as you type, as moving your hands as you clean. It’s just motion, not the end of the world. It’s not hellbound torture, it’s just a simple action. Be in the moment with the action, and practice paying mindful attention to your body and your surroundings as you act. Focus on the process, not the horrible outcome that you imagine.

Do this for a few minutes, maybe even 5-10 minutes if you feel like it, then allow yourself to take a break.