By Leo Babauta

As we continue to train ourselves in our May Dive Into Important Tasks challenge, it’s time to talk about what happens when you want to procrastinate or switch tasks.

This week, it’s time to dive into the training of staying in the uncertainty of meaningful work.

In Week 3 of our challenge, you are asked to:

Pick 2 important tasks each day, and do 3 10-minute sessions. Two sessions can be for the first task, then the third for the second task. Sessions have a 5-minute break in between. Again, we’re further training ourselves to stay on task and not put it off.

So we’re expanding our training. It’s not as small and simple as in Week 1. That might start to feel overwhelming to many, so let’s talk about what to do when you feel overwhelmed.

The Urge to Procrastinate or Switch

When we feel overwhelmed, or feel that a task is too difficult, scary, huge, or full of unknowns … we usually feel an urge to procrastinate or switch to a different task.

This urge to put off or switch stems from a feeling of uncertainty — which comes from doing any kind of meaningful, important task. We get a feeling of uncertainty and it feels like groundlessness or shakiness. We don’t like it. So we want to get away from it.

This wanting to get away from uncertainty is the heart of procrastination and constant task switching.

And we can train ourselves to not run, but to stay with the uncertainty and the meaningful task. If we get more comfortable with this uncertainty, we no longer need to run, to put off, to switch. We can dive deep into focus and meaningful work.

Training to Stay in Uncertainty

It’s important to have the training ground of a focus session for this training. Set yourself to do an important task, set a timer for each of the three 10-minute intervals, and tell yourself you’re not going to switch during the 10-minute focus session.

With those firm guidelines, you’ll be able to see when you have the urge to procrastinate or switch tasks. It’ll be much more obvious, because you’ve clearly said what you’re going to do.

Now when you’re in the focus session, here’s the training method:

  1. Notice when you have the urge to put off starting, or to switch to something else. It should become more and more obvious when these urges come up.
  2. Instead of switching, pause. Stop and be curious about the feeling of uncertainty. Practice with it.
  3. Turn your attention to the physical sensation of uncertainty in your body. Where is it located? What does it feel like? Be curious about it.
  4. Stay with this sensation, with curiosity and openness, for a minute or two. This is a meditation. It’s how we get comfortable with uncertainty. Notice that the sensation is not that bad — it’s nothing to panic about, nothing you need to run from.
  5. Feel free to try giving this sensation some compassion, some love. Some gratitude. Welcome it. Experiment with these techniques.
  6. Now that you’ve grown more comfortable with this sensation, take it along for the ride as you dive into your meaningful task. Go ahead and do the task, allowing the feeling to be there with you. It’s not that bad — in fact, you can learn to see it as a good sign, that you’re doing meaningful work.

This takes practice! Try it for the remainder of this month.